Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, painful digestive problem in humans that affects the sensitive tissues of the gastrointestinal tract. Like humans, dogs suffer from this digestive issue as well, and IBS in dogs is no exception.

The tissues of the GI tract include the stomach, intestinal lining, and colon, all of which are highly susceptible to inflammation. While there are many causes of irritable bowels in dogs, one of the most common causes is linked to dietary intolerance.

You may not realize it, but today, many conventional pet foods contain not just one, but loads of ingredients well-known to cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal system in dogs. These include cheap vegetable oils high in inflammation-causing omega-6 essential fatty acids like cottonseed, sunflower, and soybean oil, as well as artificial colors and preservatives like Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and propyl gallate.

Other causes of irritable bowels in dogs include:

  • Irregularity
  • Bad gas and bloating
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Loss of immunity
  • Dietary intolerances
  • Stress, or anxiety
  • Environmental changes

There are many contributors to IBS in dogs, however, your pup’s diet has the biggest impact on the development of this painful health concern. So, keep a close eye on your pet for any of these five signs of irritable bowels:

1. Chronic Diarrhea

When you notice changes in your dog’s digestive function such as runny, dark, or dry stools, it shouldn’t be ignored. Your dog’s feces may hold the key to what’s ailing him. If you notice that your dog is suffering with watery stools or diarrhea, or if you spot any blood in your puppy’s poop, know that these are red flags indicating possible inflammation of the colon. This is a very common problem, and it’s one of the main contributors to irritable bowels in dogs.

IBS in dogs | Dr. Marty Pets

2. Inability to Pass Stool

Dry, dehydrated stools may also be a clinical sign that something is wrong in your dog’s GI tract. Because the intestinal tract is responsible for delivering water into stool, dehydrated feces could indicate that there is a problem in the regular functioning of the entire gastrointestinal system – a clear sign of IBS in dogs.

3. Excess Intestinal Mucus

On the other side of the coin is overly-hydrated stools. You will know this type of poop when you see it, and it will look like the stool is covered in a thick cover of goop. If your dog is suffering with irritable bowels, the GI tract will produce more mucus. Any excess mucus will be clearly visible on the stool.

4. Bloating

The discomfort of gas and bloating can trouble even the toughest of tummies. When your dog’s stomach expands with gas and fluid, it usually happens fast. This can cause your pup to act restless, swell in the abdominals, pace, dry vomit, or even drool. If you notice any of these signs, it could be an indicator that your dog is suffering with gas and bloating caused by irritable bowels.

5. Vomiting

This is a clear signal from your dog that something is wrong. If your dog vomits, it could just be that they picked something off the ground or in the backyard that looked delicious, but was in fact inedible, and they are passing it. However, it could also be an indication that your dog is suffering with something much more serious, including inflammation of the bowels. Chronic inflammation of the stomach and/or upper intestines is one of the most common causes of IBS in dogs, and the associated vomiting.1

There are other symptoms of irritable bowels in dogs that may not be as obvious to you. And because your pet is not able to tell you how they feel, you may also want to consider that they could be in pain or feel nauseated. One simple way to check for abdominal pain or nausea is to gently press your fingertips into your dog’s belly, and then make soft, circular motions. If your pet makes any noises or indications that they are in pain, you may need to consider setting a veterinary appointment.

Consulting with a veterinarian will likely involve a detailed history of your dog’s health, and an assessment of various symptoms they may be having, including changes in behavior, mood, or a loss of appetite. By taking your dog to a professional for a health evaluation, you can rule out any other more serious contributing factors for the irritable bowels of your beloved dog. These factors may include a worm infestation of the GI tract, a bacterial or fungal infection, dietary intolerance, polyps, or even an intestinal inversion (abnormal turning).

IBS in dogs | Dr. Marty Pets

A Final Note on IBS in Dogs

Your dog is so much more than just a pet. This tail-wagging, four-legged friend of yours is a family member and as such, they deserve your attention and devotion. So, don’t ignore any of these five signs your dog may have irritable bowels. If you notice they are suffering with one or more of these symptoms of bowel irritability for more than one week, it could be a signal of something more serious.

For more insightful articles about your dog’s health and wellness, keep reading:

Why Does My Dog Burp All The Time? (Causes and Solutions)

Dog Constipation: Causes and How to Fix It?


1. Simpson JW. Diet and large intestinal disease in dogs and cats. J Nutr. 1998 Dec;128(12 Suppl):2717S-2722S.