Ulcerative colitis, also known as large-bowel diarrhea, is an incredibly troubling problem for dogs and the owners who love them. No one wants to see their dog experiencing stomach problems. You know how painful and debilitating they can be, so you know what your dog is going through. You want to know the cause and do whatever you can to stop it.
What exactly is canine colitis, and what causes it? And what can you, as an owner, do to help your pooch? For one, stress can play a role in the ailment. But there’s good news: there are safe, natural ways you can help relieve your dog’s discomfort. Read on…
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
In a nutshell, colitis is the word used for the diarrhea that can occur when a dog’s colon or large intestine become inflamed.1 Dogs will usually strain when pooping, only to produce small amounts of soft stool. In many cases, small amounts of blood will be visible after defecation.2
Dogs with ulcerative colitis may also have a great deal of fat or mucus in their bowel movements. They will usually have to “go” quite often, and with great urgency. Vomiting is another potential sign of ulcerative colitis.3
What Role Does Stress Play?
Stress can have a lot to do with colitis. In fact, there’s a condition specifically named “stress colitis.” It will typically develop after a dog experiences some sort of traumatic event. It could be moving to a new home or being abandoned and put in a kennel. Some dogs develop colitis when there’s a new addition to the family, or when a pet owner leaves the home. For example, a person the dog has grown up with may leave to go to college or to enter the military.4
How a Veterinarian Diagnoses Colitis
If your dog has diarrhea accompanied by weight loss or a lack of appetite, take them to the vet. The veterinarian will typically check your pet’s stool sample for parasites first. In some cases, however, a colonoscopy may be performed in order to determine the cause of your dog’s discomfort.5
Canine colitis will usually clear up on it’s own in a few days. However, if it doesn’t, then there could be some other condition present, including colitis. Your dog could have a food allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, or some sort of abnormality in the colon.6
Ways to Ease Canine Colitis
Your vet may recommend changing your dog’s diet to one that’s high in fiber to help remedy colitis. Fiber helps to protect your dog’s “gut,” or gastrointestinal tract, from the accumulation of toxins. It also helps support healthy microbes, such as bacteria, that reside in the gut. It also helps to ensure that food moves through the large intestine properly, and helps make stools firm. This, in turn, can help ease symptoms of colitis or other ailments, including inflammatory bowel disease.7,8
Some dog owners choose to give their pups probiotics.
These beneficial bacteria help to bolster the numbers of good microbes in your dog’s small intestine and large intestine. Researchers conducted a study involving dogs in an animal shelter to determine the effectiveness of probiotics in treating diarrhea. They compared probiotics to an antibiotic typically prescribed for the condition.
A total of 50 dogs were selected to participate in the study. All of them were experiencing severe diarrhea. Half of them received probiotics, while the other half received the drug. The researchers found that the fecal samples of the dogs given probiotics improved just as much as those on the antibiotic. They concluded that probiotics are just as effective as antibiotics in treating diarrhea.9
Reducing Your Dog’s Stress
There are many things you can do to help limit the amount of stress your dog experiences, and possibly help ease colitis. If your dog is scared or anxious, do what you can to comfort them. Also, socialize your dog as much as you can. A well-socialized dog is far less likely to get stressed when meeting a new dog, or a new person. And just like people, dogs can benefit from regular exercise. It’s a natural stress reducer! Finally, try to identify stress triggers in your dog, and eliminate them. If your dog is afraid or anxious around other dogs, don’t take them to a dog park.10
A Final Note
Colitis is a painful experience for your dog, but there are things you can do to help reduce their discomfort. Try to reduce your dog’s stress levels, make sure they’re eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise, and consider probiotics. Talk to your veterinarian, too. They can help you put together an effective plan to help your pup feel better as soon as possible.
9. http://www.cpe.vt.edu/accforum/ACC_abstractsALL.pdf (pages 57-58)