Along with humans, dogs can get irritable bowel syndrome too and it shares several similarities. Irritable bowel syndrome in dogs is a not well-defined condition, comprising several symptoms associated with the dog's intestinal motility. The causes often remain unknown, however, certain dogs appear to be predisposed. Larger breeds of dogs, often working dogs who are in training or dogs who are by nature excitable or nervous, appear to be mostly affected, explain James W. Simpson and Roderick W Else Members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and authors of the book "Digestive Disease in the Dog and Cat." Stress is often a culprit as the condition is often seen in high strung dogs sensitive to changes in their environment.
Because there is no readily diagnostic test for irritable bowel disease in dogs and there are other more common conditions with similar symptoms, it's important for vets to start by first ruling out other possible conditions. A diagnosis for irritable bowel syndrome therefore usually comes through a process of exclusion. Symptoms of irritable bowel disease in dogs are often intermittent and include the presentation of diarrhea or frequent soft stools, dog stomach noises, excessive gas, abdominal distention, abdominal pain and straining to defecate. Occasionally, affected dogs may present with nausea and vomiting.
Dog Irritable Bowel Syndrome versus Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is sometimes confused with "Inflammatory Bowel Disease" in dogs (IBD), a condition that involves an inflammatory or immune mediated response. In inflammatory bowel disease, the dog's intestine is infiltrated by inflammatory cells and the lining of the intestine becomes thickened. According to Holistic Vet Pet Care, inflammatory bowel disease in dogs is a serious disease, that reduces the ability to absorb food or water and that produces watery diarrhea and weight loss.
On a lighter note, in dogs affected by irritable bowel syndrome, there is nothing physically wrong with the dog's intestine, and as the name implies, there is NO inflammation present, explains veterinarian Dr. Z. In irritable bowel syndrome, the symptoms therefore arise because of a nervous response of the innervation to the intestine. It can therefore be called a "psychosomatic disease," explains veterinarian Wendy C. Brooks.
Treatment of IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Dogs
The treatment for irritable bowel syndrome in dogs often requires a multi-faceted approach. In many cases, considering that a culprit cannot be found, more than treated, the condition can be managed to prevent future flare-ups. Dogs may benefit from dietary changes, anti-diarrhea drugs, antispasmodic drugs to relieve dog stomach cramping and abdominal pain and products to reduce gas given under the guidance of a veterinarian. Owners providing a more digestible diet under the guidance of their vet must be careful to adhere to such diet and avoid giving table scraps or potentially irritating bones such as rawhide, recommends veterinarian Dr. Erika de Papp. Often, the addition of fiber to the dog's diet may be helpful. Adding some wheat bran or a commercial fiber supplement helps stop spasms and normalizes the activity of the muscles of the dog's large intestine. Often these dietary changes along with routine use of dog anti-diarrhea medications, the drug Imodium (loperamide) given during flare-ups, help manage the condition, further adds Wendy C. Brooks.
While irritable bowel syndrome is often confused with inflammatory bowel disease, one distinguishing factor is that in irritable bowel syndrome the dog's intestinal tract is in a "hyperactive state" not from irritation, but rather excessive nerve stimulation, explains veterinarian Ron Hines. Stress, fear and nervousness are often the culprits of such stimulation, therefore, reducing stress in affected dogs is important. It's best to minimize changes in the environment that disrupt the dog's routine. The use of calming aids may therefore be helpful.