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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Flare-Up in Dogs


An inflammatory bowel disease flare-up in dogs is something distressing for dog owners to witness as dogs acts sickly and develop digestive issues. Another disconcerting issue is that irritable bowel disease flare-up in dogs seem to happen at times for no particular reason or the reason may be something as innocent such as feeding the dog a monthly heartworm pill or anything the dog's digestive system doesn't tolerate well. Following is some information about inflammatory bowel disease and the associated inflammatory bowel disease flare-up in dogs by veterinarian Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic.

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases in Dogs

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Seniors are prone to inflammatory bowel disease flare-up in dogs.

Inflammatory bowel diseases in dogs (IBD) constitute several idiopathic disorders of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by inflammation of the intestine and chronic symptoms of the digestive system.

All enteropathies lasting more than three weeks with an unusually high number of inflammatory cells- either persistent or recurring - can be included under this diagnosis. It is believed that IBD is not technically a disease – rather a response to some other condition.

Any dog at any age can develop inflammatory bowel diseases in dogs, but it’s more common in senior dogs and some breeds are more predisposed including basenjis, French bulldogs, German shepherds, soft-coated wheaten terriers, and Chinese shar-pei.

The exact cause of inflammatory bowel diseases in dogs is not yet known, but it is believed that abnormal immune response is responsible, triggered by the normal bacterial flora of the intestine. Many other variables may influence the development of the inflammatory bowel diseases in dogs – genetics, food allergies, parasites, bacteria, etc.

It is important to rule out every other possible reason that may cause symptoms similar to IBD before diagnosis. After ruling out every other differential diagnosis, intestinal biopsy is the gold standard for confirming IBD.

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Different forms of IBD are classified both by the anatomic location of the intestine affected (large intestine, small intestine, colon, or all of the above) and cell type infiltrate involved. A mixed pattern is the most common type, followed by lymphocytic enteritis and eosinophilic inflammation.

"Certain unique IBD syndromes occur more often in some breeds, such as the protein-losing enteropathy/nephropathy complex in Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers, immunoproliferative enteropathy of Basenjis, IBD in Norwegian Lundehunds, and histiocytic ulcerative colitis in Boxers."~American Journal of Animal and Veterinary Sciences 

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs 


Inflammatory bowel disease flare-up in dogs can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Inflammatory cells (leukocytes) or infiltrates - change the normal lining of the gastrointestinal tract which affects normal functions, absorption, and digestion, in general, causing all the symptoms of the disorder.

The clinical signs of inflammatory bowel diseases in dogs are usually chronic diarrhea or chronic vomiting, depending on the part of the intestinal tract affected (upper or lower).

Upper gastrointestinal involvement cases often show signs of vomiting and diarrhea normal in volume (rarely increased) with a dark stool, flatulence and rumbling abdominal sounds (borborygmus) and slight weight loss as a result of the loss of appetite.

Lower GI disease is a little different; diarrhea is more frequent with a smaller volume, troubles to defecate and overall anxiety over the process itself. Vomiting may be present as well. Other common symptoms include lethargy, depression, dull coat, fever, and anemia.

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Inflammatory bowel disease flare-up in dogs

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Flare-up in Dogs 

Definition of a flare-up is an exacerbation of chronic disease and its symptoms. Inflammatory bowel disease flare-up in dogs occurs when already present symptoms get worse or, the condition itself deteriorates.

An inflammatory bowel disease flare-up in dogs is therefore a recurrence of symptoms in a dormant chronic disease or worsening of already present symptoms.

During an inflammatory bowel disease flare-up in dogs, all the abovementioned symptoms start showing if not already present and medications are often necessary.

If your dog is yet undiagnosed, the veterinarian will do the tests necessary to exclude any other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

These tests will include urinalysis and blood panel ( for ruling out kidney and liver problems), parasite testing by stool samples (giardia parasite is a differential diagnosis of IBD because symptoms are very similar), ultrasound and X-ray (to rule out tumors, abnormalities or obstructions) and biopsy as the last step after ruling out all other possible causes with simpler methods.

Diet and Treatment Plans

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Inflammatory bowel diseases in dogs is treatable but not curable. The goal of treatment is to get canine IBD symptoms under control and healing the occasional inflammatory bowel disease flare-up in dogs

Treatment plan often involves dietary changes as well as medication. Combination of these two is usually very individual and it takes time to find the right combination which will suit the animal. Treatment is in the form of trials with careful examination of all the clinical signs.

The first course of treatment often involves anthelmintic/antiparasitic medication (fenbendazole) accompanied by dietary changes for a few weeks; next step of treatment trials should involve antibiotic treatment (metronidazole) for few more weeks, and at the end of therapy cycle, – immunosuppressive therapy in the form of corticosteroids.

When it comes to the changes in diet, classic dog food usually involves few most common protein sources – beef, chicken, or lamb. Once the IBD has been diagnosed, the new diet should include fewer fats and a novel protein source such as fish, turkey, and venison.

The second option would be hypoallergenic or ‘sensitive’ labeled foods, and next level would be hydrolyzed protein diet with protein particles too small to provoke an immune response as IBD is probably an immune-mediated disorder. In many cases, pets experience weight loss due to inability to absorb nutrients, therefore supplementation (like vitamin B12) is also very important.

IBD is still an incompletely explained disorder; diagnosing and treating IBD is a long process but with a good maintenance plan, all the symptoms can subside to almost zero levels.

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  • Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XIV - E-Book John D. Bonagura, David C. Twedt
  • American Journal of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Current Treatment Options in Dogs, Handan Hilal Arslan

About the Author

DVM Ivana Vukasinovic is a veterinarian in Belgrade, capital city of Serbia.


She received her B.S from University of Belgrade in 2012, and her master’s degree from Veterinary University, Belgrade.

Before eventually becoming director of Vetanima Doo, a company that sells animal food, medicine and supplements, she has worked in many different fields of sales.

After finishing college, she started working as sales person in the biggest Serbian bookshop chain, and being passionate about books, she had reached the position of publisher.

After leaving this field, she started working as a veterinary commercialist, and then landing a job as veterinarian at a veterinary pharmacy, in the same company in which she is now acting as director.

When she is not working, she is either glued to some fantasy book or cooking for friends. She currently resides in Belgrade with her cat Mile.

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