Canine inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the term used to describe a number of gut disorders that affect dogs. It describes a number of diseases that share similar symptoms however the primary causes can differ slightly – in most cases the exact cause(s) are unknown.
The relationship between the environment, gut bacteria, the immune system and genetics can play a part in causing IBD.
A recent study looked a little deeper into the genetic side of IBD, to see if there was a link between breed and prevalence of IBD. See ‘Breeds at Risk’ below to find out which breeds may be more susceptible to developing IBD.
Breeds at Risk
The study compared over 546 dogs diagnosed with IBD against a control group of over 27,000 (‘healthy’ dogs). Of the 546 IBD dogs, 86 different breeds were accounted for – the same breeds were used in the control group.
The results revealed five breeds of dog that were considered to have a higher risk of developing IBD.
These susceptible breeds were:
- Weinmaraner: 3.7x
- Rottweiler: 3.0x
- German Shepherd: 2.4x
- Border Collie: 2.0x
- Boxer: 1.7x
The number after the breed shows how many more times as likely it is for the breed to develop IBD compared to the average. That means Weimaraners are nearly four times as likely to develop IBD than a typical non-susceptible breed.
These results were obtained from breeds in the Southeast of the UK; the importance of the role that the environment plays in the development of IBD is not fully understood yet however.
What is Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
As mentioned earlier, IBD can essentially be a number of things. What all the diseases that constitute IBD have in common though is that they lead to inflammation of the gut.
An inflamed gut can upset the balance between good and bad bacteria. Good bacteria will find it difficult to survive allowing bad bacteria to take advantage and reproduce to form large numbers.
This change in the bacterial balance and the inflammation of the gut can eventually lead to serious problems. The dog will not be able to absorb nutrients and vitamins from their food as easily – water, fibre and other dietary components will also pass through the intestines faster, meaning less time to be absorbed. This can lead to weight loss, nutritional deficiencies and dehydration.
IBD can also lead to stress and decrease the efficiency of the immune system – if you dog has chronic IBD, you will start to notice signs that their health may be deteriorating including:
- Weight loss
- Lack of energy
- Reduced coat condition
How is Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treated?
There are three main ways to treat IBD:
- Antibiotics to kill bad bacteria, leaving room for good bacteria to repopulate
- Solutions and pharmaceuticals to calm gut inflammation making it a more hospitable environment for good bacteria – and allowing normal digestion to resume
- Correcting the diet and nutritional intake to increase the amount of nutrients that can be absorbed from the gut
Dogs suffering from IBD are often fed diets low in fibre and high in protein. This is because fibre is difficult for dogs to digest and absorb and speeds up the travel of food through the intestine. Protein on the other hand is easy to absorb, as such a dog suffering from IBD should be given more raw meats and fish (steering clear of dog food for while unless specifically formulated and recommended by your vet).
The diet is often supplemented with vitamins and minerals as IBD can cause deficiencies in multiple minerals and vitamins. Vitamins, such as vitamin E, are also powerful antioxidants and can help deal with the increase of free radicals produced by inflamed tissue.
Other dietary supplements and additives include:
- Enzymes – Added enzymes can help break down food so that nutrient absorption is much easier for the dog
- Probiotics – Antibiotics can also kill off good bacteria, so often, probiotics (good bacteria-containing foods/solutions) are given to a dog suffering from IBD to ensure the intestine is repopulated with good bacteria
- L–Glutamine – It is suggested that L-glutamine can help repair the damage done to tissues by inflammation. It is also the precursor of glutathione – an antioxidant
- N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) – IBD can cause an increase in the rate at which protective digestive tract mucus is produced. NAG is an important component of this mucus, so higher levels of NAG are needed. If the body doesn’t get enough NAG, the digestive tract can suffer
It is important to aid the digestive system as much as possible if your dog is diagnosed with IBD. By helping the digestive system, you give your dog a much better chance at recovery.
Adapted from: A. Kathrani, D. Werling, K. Allenspach Canine breeds at high risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease in the south-eastern UK (2011) Veterinary Record Vol. 169, pg. 635