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Colitis in Dogs

colitis in dogs

You’ve probably heard of colitis and while humans get it, so do dogs. There are many potential causes for this condition and thankfully, this is something that your dog can recover from. Here is more about colitis in dogs. Why it happens, how it is treated, and what you can do to make your dog more comfortable.

What is Colitis?

Colitis in general is an inflammation of the colon or large intestine. This inflammation may be acute or chronic depending on the reason the dog got it in the first place. According to Merck Veterinary Manual:

The colon helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance and absorb nutrients; it is also the major site of fecal storage until expulsion and provides an environment for microorganisms. Disruptions to normal colonic function lead to changes in both absorption and motility; clinically, this often manifests as large-bowel diarrhea. Approximately one-third of dogs with a history of chronic diarrhea have colitis. Chronic colitis is defined as inflammation of the colon that is present for ≥ 2 wk. Inflammation of the colon reduces the amount of water and electrolytes absorbed and changes colonic motility by suppressing the normal colonic contractions that mix and knead and by stimulating giant migrating contractions (ie, more powerful contractions that rapidly propel intestinal contents).

There are four main types of colitis: Lymphocytic-plasmacytic, granulomatous, neutrophilic, and eosinophilic, with Lymphocytic-plasmacytic being the most common form.

What Causes Colitis?

There are various potential causes that lead to either acute or chronic colitis. Some of these include the following:

  • Older dogs that have bowel cancer
  • Intestinal parasites – these include giardia, whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms
  • Giardia
  • IBD which is irritable bowel disease or sometimes known as inflammatory bowel disease
  • A reaction to medications that sometimes includes a reaction to antibiotics or other secondary reactions
  • Foreign body in the stomach
  • Stress
  • Viral infection
  • Pancreatitis
  • Bacterial infection
  • Dietary allergies or intolerance
  • Dietary indiscretion such as eating feces, grass, or other things like people food

What Are the Symptoms?

As stated at Pet Health Network:

Dogs with colitis often have fresh, red blood and/or mucus in their feces. They may strain to defecate and go more often than normal. In some cases, your dog may seem constipated and strain without producing any feces. With acute colitis, your dog might show zero signs of being sick except diarrhea or straining to defecate. With chronic colitis, you may see a lack of appetite, tiredness or lethargy, and weight loss.

This is why it is imperative to always keep an eye on your dog’s habits, including their bathroom habits. This allows you to keep up with any abnormalities that may mean there is something going on.

How Is It Diagnosed?

There is a variety of ways that a vet can tell if your dog has colitis. These include tests like:

  • Fecal tests that include PCR testing and cultures
  • Chem tests for sugar levels, kidney functions, liver, and pancreatic dysfunctions
  • A CBC which stands for a complete blood count that looks for things like infection, anemia, or issues with the blood
  • Tests for the pancreas
  • Tests to ensure the dog is not dehydrated via electrolyte tests
  • Viral tests for things like Parvo
  • X-rays of the stomach to ensure there are not any obstructions or foreign objects
  • An endoscopy
  • An ultrasound

Of course, determining colitis doesn’t mean that all of these tests must be ran but this is a sample of some of the tests that may be required in your dog’s treatment. That is why pet insurance is a good idea to ensure that you pay less out of your own pocket while allowing your dog the best treatment possible. These tests are in place to rule out other issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, tumors, polyps, and other conditions not related to colitis.

Treatment Options for Colitis in Dogs

The method of treatment really depends on what the cause is of the colitis. Once the vet performs tests they can tell you what the best treatment method is for your dog. They should know your dog’s medical history and what is going on right now with your dog’s eating habits and general health.

General treatment may include a special diet for one to two days where the dog has a hypoallergenic diet or one that is low-residue. These diets also include high fiber in some cases. Yet in other cases, the dog may need a diet low in fiber. That is why it is imperative to seek a vet’s care so that the determination can be pinpointed.

Medications include antimicrobial drugs, immunosuppressive drugs, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Preventative Measures

While you cannot always prevent certain issues, watching what your dog eats is the first step in colitis prevention. Also, make sure that your dog is on monthly parasite preventative medication and that has all of his vaccines. It is also a good idea to keep your dog away from public places where other sick dogs may be. If your dog does get colitis, follow the vet’s instructions and make sure that your dog has good home care.

In Conclusion

The good news is that this is a very treatable condition and sometimes all it takes is medication and a change in diet to help keep colitis at bay. Most dogs are back to their old selves within a few days – usually three to five days.

Whether your dog has acute or chronic colitis, know that it is treatable and your vet can help you get back on track so that your dog is healthy and comfortable.


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