Published: October 2020 | Updated: March 2023
In simple terms, colitis is inflammation of the colon. The colon is part of the large intestine which is responsible for absorption of water, vitamins and minerals. Colitis is a common disease that can occur in both dogs and cats.
Dogs experience stress just like we do, but they tend to show their stress in different ways. Some dogs might lose their appetite or become withdrawn, while others might get sick. One common illness associated with stress is something called "stomach flu" or "stress colitis."
Stress colitis is a digestive condition caused by changes in the body's immune system and can be painful for your dog but don't worry! There are several natural remedies for this condition that will help relieve symptoms and keep your pup healthy.
What is the Main Cause of Colitis in Dogs?
Yup, you guessed it! One of the leading causes of colitis is stress. While this may not seem intuitive, stress puts strain on the dog’s immune system and can make them more vulnerable to developing this condition.
To prevent stress colitis in your dog, it's important to keep your pet away from any potential triggers. This includes other dogs and people (especially children) they are easily stressed with, loud noises, unfamiliar places, and even something as simple as moving furniture.
Of course, life happens and you can’t always avoid all triggers, but do your best to take note of the triggers for your individual pet and reduce them as much as possible.
Other potential causes of stress colitis in dogs include bacterial infection (such as Salmonella and E. Coli), fungal infection, or parasitic infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Furthermore, trauma and food allergies may play a role in causing a dog’s colitis.
Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs
Colitis generally presents as diarrhea in dogs. This diarrhea is often more frequent than normal dog bowel movements would be, is watery, and often contains blood and mucus. Dogs can also be seen straining during and after defecating.
The list of symptoms may appear to be fairly non-threatening, but if they continue for more than 24 hours, or are combined, you may want to take a closer look. The symptoms of stress colitis may include one or more of the following:
- Diarrhea, or frequent bowel movements, especially in the morning
- Bloody stool (red or maroon)
- Lethargy and loss of appetite
- Painful abdomen (tummy)
- Change in urine color
In other words, you will know if something bad is going on based on your dog’s poop.
Unfortunately, diarrhea also leads to dehydration. So, this could develop due to lack of water intake combined with too much water being lost in the body.
If You Suspect Your Dog Has Colitis
If you are concerned about your dog’s GI tract, it is important to visit with your vet to receive a proper diagnosis.
First, your vet will rule out all possible infectious causes of dog diarrhea. Fecal smears, flotations, cultures, and rectal cytology are all important tools a vet can use to help determine the cause of your pet’s diarrhea. If any infections are present, your vet will treat those immediately.
Further diagnostic techniques can be utilized if the tools listed above, in combination with a physical examination and medical history of the dog do not lead to conclusive results.
If there are no infections, it may be beneficial to try dietary interventions before further exploring more serious diagnostics.
How to Treat Colitis in Dogs Naturally
Often, colitis can be treated with a change in diet. To start, your veterinarian may recommend withholding food for 1-2 days to allow the intestinal tract to “rest.” Then, you can begin to reintroduce food to your dog.
During this time, you should see the diarrhea begin to subside. Still, don’t forget to provide your dog with plenty of water.
Proper nutrition is an important component to managing dog colitis. Generally, you will want to look for a high-quality dog food that contains highly digestible protein, low fat, and a good source of dietary fiber to support colon health.
It is also important to make sure you are consistent in feeding this high-quality diet and try to limit large variations in the diet. If inflammation persists after a diet change has been made, anti-inflammatory medication (such as NSAIDs) may be prescribed by your veterinarian. Or, if you have a holistic veterinarian, an anti-inflammatory like CBD may be recommended.
Additionally, it has proven beneficial to provide your pooch with specialized digestive enzymes and probiotics for dogs when they exhibit symptoms of colitis.
Probiotics for Dogs with Stress Colitis
Colitis may cause an imbalance of the microbes found in the GI tract and probiotics for dogs can help to re-establish balance within the gut microbiome.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that have been shown to have positive effects on the body, including promoting healthy digestion and reducing inflammation in the colon.
Additionally, while NSAIDs and antibiotics could be necessary in cases of chronic colitis, these drugs can cause further dysbiosis (imbalance) in the dog large intestine. Supplementing your dog’s diet with high-quality canine probiotics will keep the good bacteria happy and thriving and promote dog gut health.
Keep in mind, most probiotics will be killed with the use of antibiotics if your dog has them prescribed. S. boulardii, the main component of Daily Dog, is a yeast-based strain of probiotic that is resistant to antibiotics and will aid in restoring balance to your dog’s gastrointestinal system. S. boulardii also supports healthy digestion and helps to improve your dog's immune system.
Take Care of Your Dog’s Stress Colitis
While stress colitis can be uncomfortable and downright painful, you can help your dog through it.
Natural remedies for colitis in dogs like herbs, probiotics, and changes in diet can alleviate symptoms and prevent them from coming back. If your dog is prone to developing stress colitis, maintaining a routine is also important to reduce environmental stress.