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.
What is the Main Cause of Colitis in Dogs?
Yup, you guessed it! One of the leading causes of colitis is stress (1). While this may not seem intuitive, stress puts strain on the dog’s immune system and can make them more vulnerable to developing this disease (2).
Other potential causes 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 colitis in your pet (3).
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 (1).
In other words, you will know if something bad is going on based on your dog’s poop.
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 (3). 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.
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 (4).
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.
Additionally, it has proven beneficial to provide your pooch with specialized digestive enzymes and probiotics for dogs when they exhibit symptoms of 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.
Additionally, while NSAIDs and antibiotics could be necessary in cases of chronic colitis, these drugs can cause further dysbiosis 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.