Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
For dogs and their owners, IBD is one of the most frustrating conditions. IBD is a group of disorders that result in chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The inflammation causes frequent episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, but diagnosing it is difficult.
Chronic diarrhea and vomiting are hard on a dog's system and upsetting to the family. In severe cases, dogs can become depressed, refuse to eat, develop fever, and lose weight. And just when you think you've found the solution to the problem, it flares up again.
IBD is not an actual disease; it is a group of gastrointestinal diseases, all of which involve inflammation of the intestinal wall. There are many causes, including serious food allergies and over-vaccination. Some veterinary researchers believe IBD is an autoimmune response that causes the body to react inappropriately to antigens or proteins in food.
The reason why some dogs develop IBD is unknown, although genetics, nutrition, infection, parasitic infestation, hypersensitivity or intolerance to dietary ingredients, and an impaired immune system may all be responsible.
Chronic and intermittent diarrhea and vomiting are the most common signs of IBD. When the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine are involved, vomiting is more common. When the colon is involved, the dog is more apt to have diarrhea. Weight loss, increased mucus in the stool, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, rumbling stomach, and flatulence are additional hints.
To diagnose IBD, the veterinarian will do blood work to rule out other problems, such as pancreatitis, Addison's disease, kidney disease, or a malignancy. She will examine a fecal sample for parasites or giardia and bacteria. Ultrasound and X-rays will check for obstructions. An intestinal biopsy will reveal the amount of white blood cells found in the intestinal lining. This is obtained through an endoscopy of the stomach or a colonos-copy of the lower gastrointestinal tract.
The first step in treatment for IBD is an elimination diet. All foods and treats are discontinued and a new diet is given, composed of novel and simple ingredients: one protein, one fat, one carbohydrate source with appropriate vitamin supplementation, or a commercial hypoallergenic diet with hydrolyzed proteins. If symptoms resolve, a diagnosis of dietary allergy or intolerance is likely and no further treatment is necessary.
Some supplements have been found to help in some cases. Probiotics have been proven to help reduce inflammation in the intestines by providing a source of “good” bacteria. If your dog is on a hypoallergenic diet, be sure to find a probiotic that contains no wheat, dairy, corn, or animal products.
Why do dogs eat their own poop?
There are many reasons for coprophagia that involve behavior and/or nutrition. Puppies investigate and play with feces if it's around. Stress or inadequate nutrition or nutrient absorption are other factors. Some dogs will stop as they age, but adding digestive enzymes to your dog's food and cleaning up stools promptly are the best deterrents.
Fish oil has also been recommended for treatment, but it should be avoided if any fish allergy might exist. N-acetylglucosamine seems to help by altering inflammatory pathways in the cells. And adding yams or sweet potatoes to the diet can help solidify the stools.
Some holistic veterinarians might recommend the use of western herbs or Chinese herbs to calm the intestines. Peppermint has been shown to relax the intestines and reduce intestinal motility. Boswellia is an herb that seems to reduce clinical signs in some cases. And some vets might suggest trying chamomile, slippery elm, or licorice to reduce the symptoms. There are a number of Chinese herbal formulations that might be appropriate for your dog. It is best to consult with a vet versed in TCM for this therapy. Add antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin A, and selenium. Add vitamin B complex, zinc, and some trace minerals, as well as fish oil, a probiotic and N-acetyglucosamine to heal inflammation in the bowels. The goal is to control IBD through the right diet, although a permanent cure might not be possible.