What to Feed a Dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is considered to be a syndrome, versus a disease. It’s a multi-faceted condition triggered by many underlying conditions. Though there’s no specific cause of IBD in dogs, there are several possible triggers that contribute to the condition. Diet can be a contributing factor to IBD in dogs. Keep reading to learn how you can help your dog and decrease diarrhea symptoms.
What is inflammatory bowel disease?
Most studies say that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) happens as an immune response of the dog’s body against a possible allergen. The intestine is a highly vascularized organ, containing a high concentration of immune tissues. As it comes into contact with potential allergens, either from food or any type of infection, it mounts an immune response and causes intestinal inflammation. The inflammation causes damage to the intestinal lining, leading to leakage of water from the intestinal tissue and blood vessels, causing diarrhea. The inflammation also results in compromised nutrient absorption, worsening diarrhea, and causing weight loss.
What causes inflammatory bowel disease in dogs?
Infectious enteritis, caused by bacterial or parasitic infections, cause inflammatory changes along the intestinal lining and can trigger overstimulation of the immune response, triggering inflammatory bowel disease. There is a high risk of IBD in dogs with intestinal infections that are not treated immediately or properly.
Some studies have shown that genetics also play a role in the development of IBD in dogs. Breeds such as German Shepherds, English Bulldogs, and Shar-peis are more predisposed to developing IBD compared to other breeds. Genetically influenced auto-immune disorders can also increase the risk of IBD in dogs.
Allergic reactions to foods are also possible causes of IBD in dogs. Food allergies happen when a dog ingests a potential allergen and elicits an allergy-like immune response against it. Most food allergy cases in dogs manifest as skin problems but there are cases where gastrointestinal signs develop in affected dogs. Prolonged exposure to a particular food allergen, and persistent allergic reaction against it, can result in inflammatory bowel disease.
How Diet Can Help Control Your Dog’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease, being a multi-faceted health condition, often requires a multi-modal treatment approach. Most cases of IBD in dogs will benefit from the administration of systemic corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive medications. These drugs are highly effective in regulating the immune response and controlling inflammation. However, the use of these types of medications for an extended period can result in serious side effects like liver disease, and as such should be used sparingly.
Part of the treatment and management for inflammatory bowel disease in dogs is dietary change. Though food allergy is not considered a sole cause of IBD in dogs, it has been shown that dietary change can help in controlling the inflammatory processes that result from IBD.
Highly Digestible Diets
There are several diet recommendations for the management of IBD in dogs. The most commonly recommended diet for inflammatory bowel disease is a highly digestible dog food diet. Commercial, highly digestible dog food diets are formulated to control signs of diarrhea and vomiting in dogs and work in managing associated symptoms. These highly digestible diets also ensure proper nutrient absorption despite the ongoing inflammatory processes in the intestine.
Novel Protein Diets
Another popular option is the use of novel protein sources in the dog’s diet. Traditional sources of protein such as pork and chicken have been shown to have an increased risk of intestinal immune response when ingested. It’s believed that through decades of use of these traditional protein sources in dog food diets, the dog’s immune system has been sensitized to these protein molecules and is more at risk of mounting an immune response against it. Novel proteins sources such as venison, kangaroo, alligator, and lamb are believed to have significantly reduced risk of triggering an immune response, thereby improving the chances of successful management of the condition.
Hydrolyzed Protein Diets
Using hydrolyzed protein diets is another way in managing inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. Most cases of food allergy in dogs are due to their body’s immune response against the protein component of the diet. Studies have shown that large protein molecules are sometimes recognized as a foreign substance in the dog’s body, triggering an immune reaction against it. Hydrolyzed proteins are protein molecules that are made smaller in size through chemical or mechanical processes. The reduced size of protein molecules in the diet reduces the risk of the body reacting to it, thereby decreasing the extent of inflammation along the lining of the intestinal tract.
Another alternative diet in managing inflammatory bowel disease in dogs is a high-fiber diet. Dietary fiber works well in controlling signs associated with IBD. The non-fermentable component of fiber helps regulate the transit of food along the intestinal tract. This directly controls diarrhea in dogs with IBD. It also helps bulk up the feces inside the intestine which helps improve the consistency of their stool.
The fermentable component of dietary fiber serves as nourishment for beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. Fermentation of fiber by these bacteria produces volatile fatty acids that play an important role in maintaining ideal gut health. Acetic acid produced from the fermentation of fiber helps reduce bacterial overload and prevents intestinal infection. Butyric acid serves as an energy source of intestinal cells which helps in the repair of the damaged intestinal lining and the control of inflammatory processes.
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