Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Is Your Dog at Risk?

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
  • Diarrhoea
  • Reduced coat condition
  • Vomiting

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

About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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  1. Hi! Do you have any other info or help you can pass on to me! My beloved 8 yr old staffy (who has been my companion and my almost death bed buddy after a flare up of My IBD almost killed me! I’ve had IBD for over 25 years!!) has just been diagnosed with IBD (Funny if it wasn’t so heartbreaking for me!) He is bringing up only thick sticky Bile about 3 times a day and has been for about 6 weeks! He lost a bit of weight but I was more concerned about the effect of the bile on his gastric system! After quite a few tests and eventually an endoscopy he was DX 3 weeks ago. He’s on Steroids, omeprazole, flgyl and amoxicare but in the last 3 weeks he has gone from beautifully shaped 21kg bear to an emaciated 15kg twig! He still has a shiny healthy coat, gums look good and eyes are bright but he’s lost that spark! You suggest change in diet but we have tried everything good bad and ugly (as long as its not harmful!) just to get him to eat. I was wondering if you could guide me towards more about the minerals, supplements and additives along with any ideas of food that we can get him to eat!
    We have to be careful as we also have a 1 yr old rescue Staff….who eats anything not tied down!!!
    Any help would be greatly appreciated as this is about the 1st report Ive read that I feel I can trust! Most of the others are hear say and housewives, who while they may be right have no merit in my eyes.
    Jojo x

  2. HI JOJO, my dog has the same thing, but also a little different, we had a little PB that had it also, she passed away at 9, but she was on Tylosin almost her whole life, this cannot be taken with any other anti-biotics but us actually a Godsend to many, please read the reviews on Amazon about the sometimes miraculous recoveries that these dogs make when taking this different antibiotic, it works exclusively on the gut and may have to be given for a long time, this is fine as this is probably one of the safest over the counter meds you will ever give your dog, please try it, it is also contained in the product Angel’s eyes, not Angel eyes, and you can get this at Chewys, get a small bottle and try it without the other drugs and just see if your baby will improve on it, my guess is yes. Please read the Amazon reviews, then make your decision, the Angel’s eyes have a flavor in the powder but the main ingredient is tylosin. Please let me know if this helped, I so know what you are going through, I have a 2 yr old pup who is exhibiting the same signs that my Pinky the p.b. showed so I have him on the Tylosin now, it does not take a lot of this med, to make a difference, you can also do some research the Tylosin by asking about it in relation to dog’s with IBD. Dena

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