Written by Dominique Martin
At some point in their lives, almost all dogs will face an episode of Colitis or digestive upset.
There are many causes of Colitis, but all of them result in digestive upset due to inflammation of the colon. Although a case of Colitis is always worrisome, it is common and often easily treated by a veterinarian.
Colitis is a broad term used to describe the side effects of digestive upset. Colitis occurs when there is inflammation of the large intestine, also referred to as the colon.
The term Colitis is used when referring to loose stool or diarrhea associated with inflammation of the colon. Colitis is also synonymous with large bowel diarrhea.
Colitis can be acute (suddenly occurring), chronic (lasting several weeks or more), or reoccurring.
Many different things can cause Colitis in dogs including:
• Bacterial infections or bacterial overgrowth
• Viral infections
• Foreign bodies
• Bowel cancer
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Dietary indiscretion
• Ingestion of toxins
• Dietary change
• Adverse reaction to medications
Bacterial infections can come from the environment, other dogs, or from eating contaminated foods.
Common bacterial infections include Salmonella, Clostridium, and E. Coli. Similarly, dogs exposed to parasites such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium, roundworms, hookworms, or whipworms may develop Colitis.
Although there are many sources of Colitis in dogs, stress is the leading cause of large bowel diarrhea.
There are many causes of Colitis in canines, so it is important to monitor and keep track of symptoms and your dog’s history.
No matter the cause, Colitis results from inflammation of the colon leading to decreased water absorption and decreased ability to store feces in the large intestine.
The most common sign of Colitis is frequent, small volumes of diarrhea, semi-formed feces, or liquid feces. Other signs include straining during or after defecation. Additionally, frequent defecation and having a sense of urgency to use the bathroom is common.
Nausea and vomiting can occur with Colitis but only occurs in about one-third of the cases.
Other signs of Colitis include small amounts of blood and or mucus in the stool. Weight loss or lethargy may also occur in chronic cases.
Colitis may be contagious depending on the source. Some infections or parasites such as Giardia can be passed from dog to dog or picked up from the environment.
Infections leading to Colitis are usually passed via a fecal/ oral route.
Common places to pick up infections or parasites include dog parks, doggy daycares, kennels, or other areas with large numbers of canines.
A veterinarian can help you diagnose the root cause of Colitis and also prescribe the best treatment for this disease.
Since Colitis can result from many sources so it important to provide your veterinarian with:
• Duration of symptoms
• Travel history
• Exposure to other dogs
• If your dog is allowed to roam free/ unsupervised
• Ingesting something they should not have such as people food
• A new food introduced in your pup’s diet
After reviewing this information, your veterinarian will try to uncover the root cause of the Colitis. In order to do this, they might perform different diagnostic tests such as:
•Fecal evaluation to test for parasites
• Rectal exam
• Complete blood count (CBC) to look for signs of infection or anemia
• Chemistry tests to look for organ dysfunction, electrolyte balance, and sugar levels
• X-rays, endoscopies, or ultrasounds of the digestive tract to look for obstructions or abnormalities
Depending on the severity of the Colitis and your dog’s history, your vet may perform some of these tests or just prescribe treatment.
In more severe cases, the dog may require hospitalization until they are healthier. In less severe cases, your veterinarian may prescribe at home treatments and medications.
No matter the diagnosis and treatment, it is important that you fully follow the veterinarian’s instructions to ensure that your dog makes a full recovery.
The treatment of Colitis is very dependent on the source of digestive upset.
Medical treatment can include antibiotics if dealing with an infection. Anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive drugs may be needed if dealing with immune-mediated or inflammatory Colitis.
There are also medications that modify the colon’s motility which can provide symptom relief.
If the Colitis is not severe, your vet may instruct you on ways to treat Colitis without medication. This may include dietary changes such as food restriction for 24 hours, feeding a hypoallergenic or low-residue diet, feeding small meals, changing the food source, or altering the amount of fiber in the diet.
Many vets may recommend feeding a bland diet of cooked rice and boiled chicken or ground beef for a few days.
Another alternative to this is canned pumpkin and cooked turkey since this combination has fewer carbohydrates and sugar for abnormal gut microbes to use as a food source.
Another option is adding a probiotic to the diet in order to help balance your dog’s gut flora.
Making sure your pet is healthy is a top priority for pet owners. Therefore, it can be concerning if your dog suddenly comes down with a case of Colitis.
In order to properly resolve this digestive upset, it is important to monitor symptoms and be aware of any food changes or new situations that could result in Colitis.
Additionally, if your pet displays symptoms such as diarrhea for more than 48 hours, it is important to contact your vet so that they can diagnose and treat the root cause of the Colitis.