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Canine inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a rather common autoimmune disease that actually is an umbrella term for a group of conditions (e.g. ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease), and is one of the most common causes of gastrointestinal problems in dogs.
IBD is the result of the infiltration of inflammatory cells into the mucous lining of the intestines.
The cause of IBD in dogs is unclear.
For some dogs, it may be because of their diet - some unidentified dietary protein may cause an immune response in the gastrointestinal tract.
Other factors, such as genetics, chronic stress or anxiety, overuse of antibiotics, bacterial or fungal infections, food allergies, and abnormalities of the immune system, may be responsible. Most commonly in dogs, IBD is "idiopathic" (cause unknown).
Older dogs (those 8 years of age or older) are more susceptible to canine IBD, although younger dogs can develop this problem as well.
As mentioned above, IBD is an autoimmune disease. The immune response causes the dog's immune system to literally invade and attack its own digestive organs.
Specifically, certain inflammatory cells (e.g. Lymphocytes and Plasmacytes) and various chemicals accumulate, infiltrate, and damage the stomach, small intestine, and/or large intestine.
Chronic diarrhea and/or vomiting.
Note that inflammatory bowel disease is NOT the same as irritable bowel syndrome (although the two are often incorrectly referred to as one and the same). Irritable bowel syndrome is extremely rare in pets but very common in humans.
Symptoms of this condition depend on the location of the GI system that is responding to the immune attacks. When the stomach and small intestines are involved, vomiting is more common.
When the colon is involved, the dog will have painful bowel movements and diarrhea. The stools sometimes contain blood and may or may not contain mucus.
In severe cases, some dogs with IBD may also suffer from:
In addition to a complete physical examination, your vet will also have blood and fecal tests done on your dog to rule out other possible causes that can result in similar symptoms (e.g. giardia, poisoning, bacterial infections, worms).
If other possible causes are ruled out, your vet may suggest an endoscopic biopsy to determine if your dog indeed has IBD.
In this procedure, a sedative or light anesthetic is given to the dog. An endoscope is then inserted into the pet's gastrointestinal tract and tiny pieces of tissue are removed for a microscopic examination.
Canine inflammatory bowel disease is usually treated with medications (e.g. corticosteroids such as prednisone; antibiotics such as Metronidazole; immunosuppressive agents such as Azathioprine).
Antidiarrheal drugs and/or antispasmodic drugs are also sometimes used to suppress diarrhea and/or vomiting.
In addition, dietary change is very often part of the treatment. This is done in two ways.
First, the dog is given a food that contains a protein source that the dog has never had before. If that is not effective, a high-fiber diet is tried.
Multiple diets may have to be tried before the dog's condition improves. This means a lot of time and patience on the part of the owner is required.
If diagnosed at its early stage, canine inflammatory bowel disease can be treated by using natural remedies such as supplements and herbs. Even in severe cases, natural remedies can still be used in conjunction with conventional medications.
The natural remedies can speed up recovery, enabling lower dosage of harsh medications to be used, thus limiting the seriousness of side-effects.
The following natural supplements are effective in supporting digestion and moderating immune system activities:
Adding probiotics to the dog's diet can help replenish the friendly bacteria and help the GI tract to heal.
Recommended dosages for pets are 250 to 3000 mg daily, depending on the size and condition of the pet.
Herbs can be used to reduce inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Anti-inflammatory and demulcent herbs (herbs that soothe the mucous membranes) are especially effective. For example:
Herbs that can strengthen the immune system are also helpful, such as:
Dogs suffering from IBD often have painful intestinal cramps and spasms. Essential oils that have antispasmodic properties such as chamomile and peppermint can be used in a diffuser. Let the dog breathe in the scent for 30 minutes or so, a few times a day, to relieve his discomfort caused by spasms.
You can also dilute 2 drops of Peppermint oil, 2 drops of Lavender oil, and 1 drop of Roman Chamomile oil in 30 ml of a carrier oil (e.g. Sweet Almond or Jojoba oil). Use the oil blend to massage gently your dog's tummy, 2-3 times a day.
This herbal formula contains anti-inflammatory and demulcent herbs marshmallow root, licorice root, plantain, and slippery elm, and is very effective in alleviating IBD symptoms.
This formula contains a lot of good herbs such as licorice root, slippery elm, and alfalfa, as well as supplements such as L-glutamine, Quercetin Chalcone, probiotics, and enzymes. It is excellent for dogs (and cats) suffering from chronic or recurrent GI problems, such as poor digestion, stomach ulcers, food allergies, or IBD.