Colitis in dogs - a common cause of diarrhoea

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Colitis in dogs means that the patient is suffering from inflammation of the large intestine (colon). Many dogs will suffer from colitis at one stage in their lives and this is also a common puppy problem. There are some characteristic symptoms of colitis and it can be a condition which appears suddenly and resolves quickly (acute) or, for some pets, this can be an ongoing issue, which takes some time to resolve (chronic).

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Causes of colitis in dogs

The main causes of colitis in dogs include:

  • Stress

  • Dietary indiscretion

  • Diet changes

  • Medications

  • Parasites

  • Bacterial overgrowths

  • Irritable bowel disease

  • Allergies

Signs of colitis in dogs

Colitis usually leads to diarrhoea or loose stools, but it can also manifest as stools which initially look normal, then become soft as they are being passed. The diarrhoea can be intermittent throughout the day. Usually, a dog with colitis will pass stools more frequently than expected, this includes passing stools overnight. You may notice your dog straining or having trouble passing stools, there may be some mucus or a jelly mucus in the stool and even spots or streaks of fresh red blood in the stool. Another common symptom of colitis is the increased production of gas (flatulence). Despite all this, the dog will usually be bright and active and continue to eat and drink normally.

Treatment of colitis in dogs

Most uncomplicated cases of colitis will respond to three simple steps:

1) Feed a bland diet: either a gastrointestinal homemade dog food (such as chicken and rice) or a commercially available gastrointestinal diet.

2) Feed little and often.This prevents stimulation of the large intestine and allows the intestinal tract to rest. An adult dog should be fed at least 4-6 times a day and a puppy may require to be fed up to 8 times a day. These little meals really make a difference to recovery.

3) Add in a probiotic. Probiotics can help to support the good bacteria in the dog’s gut and this will help them to get better more quickly.

Prevention of colitis in dogs

Colitis can be prevented by:

  • Making any dietary changes slowly - over around 5 days

  • Minimise scavenging when out and about

  • Consider giving a probiotic alongside some medications, especially those that are prone to causing colitis, such as worming tablets and antibiotics

When to see a vet

  • If the colitis is severe with watery, bloody diarrhoea present
  • If your dog is lethargic
  • If there is loss of appetite or pain
  • If your dog is vomiting
  • If the problem is persistent and doesn’t respond to management within 4-5 days, attention should be sought, particularly if spots of blood are present.

Read more

Diarrhoea and vomiting in dogs
Gastrointestinal diets

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