Colitis in dogs is a condition that affects the large intestine, or the colon. When the colon becomes inflamed, it can cause loose stools or diarrhea which is why the condition is also sometimes referred to as large bowel diarrhea. The condition can either be acute, meaning that it comes on very suddenly and disappears just as quickly; or it can be chronic, meaning that it can last for several weeks and can even develop into a recurring condition. When a bout of colitis hits, the colon is unable to absorb and retain water, and it’s also harder for it to store feces, which is why diarrhea is the result.
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Symptoms of colitis in Dogs
The appearance of wet, runny stools, particularly if there are traces of mucus or blood within it, is the main symptom of colitis. However, there are other signs and symptoms that dog owners should also be watchful for.
- Frequent attempts to defecate
- Painful defecation
- Straining during defecation
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent gas
- Weight loss (this is rare but can happen, especially during a particularly aggressive bout of colitis)
- Exaggerated hunching or squatting during defecation
- Pain in the lower portion of the body
- Cramps that can be quite painful
Causes of Colitis in Dogs
Colitis is a fairly common condition in dogs, particularly because it can have so many underlying causes.
- Infections such as salmonella, clostridium, and E.coli
- Parasites such as giardia, cryptosporidium, and whipworms
- An allergic reaction
- Trauma to the area
- IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
- Consuming contaminated food
- Constantly being in a wet environment
- Coming into contact with other dogs that are infected
- Reactions to antibiotics or other medications
- Viral infections
- Bowel cancer, especially in older dogs
- Fungal infections
- Consuming food that the dog is allergic to
Diagnosing Colitis in Dogs
In the most extreme cases, a vet will take a biopsy of the colon or perform a colonoscopy to treat the colitis in your dog, but this is very rare. Most often vets will perform procedures that are much less invasive to treat the condition. Just like any other exam, they’ll begin by reviewing the dog’s medical history with you and performing a physical examination of the dog, paying particular attention to the stomach area where the colon is located.
The vet may also ask you to bring in a stool sample so it can be sent to a lab and tested for parasites and worms. X-rays and ultrasounds may also be done so the vet can actually look at the colon itself and check for signs of inflammation.
Treating Colitis in Dogs
In the case of colitis, vets will typically have to treat the underlying condition or cause before the colitis can begin to clear up. This could mean treating an infection, tending to the area if it’s been traumatized or injured, or administering a treatment for worms that will remove whipworms and other parasites. In addition to treating the underlying condition, the vet can also provide you with antibiotics to administer to your pet to clear up the colitis and get your pet back on the track to good health.
Most dogs with colitis will have to fast for up to two days in order to help clean out their system and to prevent the colitis from becoming exacerbated by other elements. Once food is re-introduced, it will most likely be food that is high in fiber and that has been proven to be non-allergenic, or food that is gentle on most systems.
After seeing a vet about the condition, most dogs can continue to be treated right at home, usually through simple antibiotics. However, if the colitis has severely dehydrated your dog due to the fluids they lost during the outbreak, fluid therapy administered intravenously may be required. If the colitis is really severe, or the colon has suffered a lot of damage due to the inflammation, surgery may be required to remove, and possibly even rebuild, sections of the colon.
It’s important for pet owners to know that while this could be a required treatment in the most severe colitis cases, it’s also extremely rare.
It’s true that colitis is a condition that can be recurring and that some dogs may battle with over and over again. However, there are some things you can do to try and keep colitis at bay so your dog never has to worry about it again. These are:
- Keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date
- Provide monthly preventative medicine for parasites
- Keep your dog away from unfamiliar or contaminated items, such as garbage
- Do not give your dog food meant for humans
- Don’t let your dog associate with sick or unhealthy dogs
- Keep your dog as happy and relaxed as possible; try to avoid them becoming stressed out
- Give your dog a nutritious, well-balanced diet
- Do not make sudden changes in your dog’s diet
- Regularly provide your vet with your dog’s stool samples so they can be tested and checked for any abnormalities
The prognosis for colitis in dogs is usually very good, with a quick recovery that doesn’t typically require any invasive treatment. Even for dogs that suffer from chronic or recurring colitis, medication given on a regular basis should be enough to maintain it and keep it under control.