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Intestinal Problems in Dogs

english bulldog not feeling well


Most dogs experience occasional intestinal problems like diarrhea or constipation that don’t require medical intervention. Other intestinal problems in dogs, however, can cause prolonged symptoms that dramatically affect their quality of life. When these issues arise, owners should seek advice and treatments from veterinarians.

Common, But Serious, Intestinal Problems in Dogs

Dogs can experience many of the same intestinal problems as humans and other mammals. It’s nearly impossible to provide a complete list. The following intestinal problems in dogs are fairly common issues that veterinarians see regularly.

Colitis (Large Intestine Inflammation)

Colitis is the scientific name for colon inflammation. Dogs can experience short-term or long-term colitis. Causes of this intestinal problem in dogs include:

  • Parasites
  • Allergies
  • Tissue trauma

Some dogs have a genetic predisposition to colitis. Without treatment, symptoms can worsen over time.

Owners should suspect colitis when they see their dogs strain during defecation or notice mucus in their dogs’ feces.

Diagnosing colitis usually involves a physical examination, blood test, urinalysis, examining fecal samples, ultrasounds of the digestive system, and potentially biopsies of the colon.

Digestive System Cancer

Luckily, digestive system cancer is one of the least common intestinal problems in dogs. Dogs that develop cancer in their intestines usually experience problems later in life. Symptoms include:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloody stools
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Straining to defecate

Veterinarians diagnose cancer in the digestive system by feeling the area for lumps and using x-rays to detect tumors.

Gastrointestinal Obstruction

Gastrointestinal obstructions occur when dogs swallow foreign objects. The intestinal problem in dogs can also happen because of tumors, ulcers, tumors, or hernias that block the small intestine. Depending on the situation, obstructions may partially or completely block the intestine.

Symptoms of gastrointestinal obstruction include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

Veterinarians use imaging technologies to diagnose gastrointestinal obstructions. They may provide intravenous fluid as a form of immediate treatment before performing surgery.

Gastrointestinal Ulcers

Gastrointestinal ulcers can have several causes, including tumors, infections, cancer, and diseases that affect other organs, such as the kidney or liver.

Some dogs with gastrointestinal ulcers never show symptoms. Symptomatic dogs may experience:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Pale gums, which also suggests anemia
  • Dark or bloody stools
  • Vomiting

Veterinarians diagnose gastrointestinal ulcers with a combination of blood tests, urinalysis, and abdominal ultrasounds. They may also look for signs of parasites.

Owners can often manage gastrointestinal ulcers by feeding dogs prescription food. Veterinarians may prescribe antibiotics for dogs with bacterial infections. As long as the dog does not have renal or liver failure, it can live a long, healthy life with gastrointestinal ulcers.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) does not have a known cause. Some dogs, however, develop the condition through food allergies, parasites, and bacterial infections.

Inflammation of the bowels thickens intestinal lining, which can make it difficult for dogs to absorb nutrients from food.

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Discomfort
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark stools
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal swelling

Veterinarians find it challenging to diagnose IBS because the condition often looks like other intestinal problems in dogs.

Treatment options include anti-inflammatory medications, immune-suppressing drugs, and dietary changes.

The Most Symptoms of Intestinal Problems in Dogs

Some of the most common symptoms of intestinal problems in dogs include:

The symptoms of intestinal problems in dogs, however, vary depending on the specific condition. Owners who notice any of the above symptoms should take their pets to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Treatment Options for Canine Intestinal Problems

Treatment options for canine intestinal problems vary depending on the dog’s specific ailment. For example, gastrointestinal obstructions usually require surgical interventions to remove the blockage. Cancer may require a combination of chemotherapy and surgery.

Treatment options for all canine intestinal problems work best when animals get diagnosed early. Owners are encouraged to seek medical advice when they notice strange behaviors or common symptoms in their animals. A diagnosis may show that the dog has a minor ailment that responds quickly to medication. If the diagnosis reveals a more serious canine intestinal problem, early treatment will improve the animal’s chances of recovery and survival.

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