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Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Dogs


Chronic Irritation in the Lining of the Bowels of Dogs


It is not always known what causes irritable bowel syndrome, but some of the suspected factors are thought to be related to diet intolerances, possibly due to allergies, the ability of the food to effectively pass through the gastrointestinal tract, and mental distress. Irritable bowel syndrome in dogs is commonly associated with chronic inflammation and discomfort of an animal's bowels; however, it is not linked with any type of gastrointestinal disease.


Symptoms and Types


The most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndromes is chronic, occasional large bowel diarrhea, including frequent passage of small amounts of feces and mucus, and constipation (dyschezia). Abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, and nausea may also occur. Some abdominal pain may be present upon touching the dog's abdominal area as well.




Some potential causes of irritable bowel syndrome include:


  • Abnormal colonic myoelectrical activity and motility
  • Dietary fiber deficiency
  • Dietary intolerances
  • Stress, although not in all cases
  • Changes in neural or neurochemical regulation of colonic function




You will need to give a thorough history of your dog's health, onset of symptoms, and recent activities, after which your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. This will help him or her rule out all other potential causes of large bowel diarrhea, including:


  • Whipworms
  • Inflammation of the colon (inflammatory colitis)
  • Clostridium perfringens (bacterial infection)
  • Fiber-responsive large bowel diarrhea
  • Dietary indiscretion or intolerance
  • Giardiasis
  • Histoplasmosis (systemic fungal infection)
  • Pythiosis
  • Colonic neoplasia (mass or tumor of the colon)
  • Cecal inversion (abnormal turning of the intestine)






Outpatient medical management is the most common method of treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. It is highly recommended that dogs that have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome be fed a diet that is highly digestible and has a high volume of fiber in order to help restore and maintain the normal bodily function of the digestive tract. If there are signs of highly stressful elements within your dog's environment, it is also recommended that you make attempts to remove these elements.


Living and Management


Following initial treatment, you will need to monitor your dog's stool consistency and watch for signs of constipation and abdominal discomfort.




Minimize any stressful factors in your dog's environment that might precipitate an episode of irritable bowel syndrome and work to maintain a healthy, highly digestible diet if it is known that your dog has a medically diagnosed condition of irritable bowel syndrome. Your veterinarian will be able to guide you in planning a diet that is highest in nutrition and is in accordance with your dog's breed, age, and activity level.



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