If your dog seems desperate for a poo all the time, and strains a lot when they go, they may have colitis.
Colitis = inflammation of the large intestine (bowel)
It is a common condition of pets of all ages
It can sometimes lead to mucus and small amounts of blood in the poo
There are several different triggers for it, including scavenging, dietary sensitivities, stress, and infections
Your dog may need some tests to find a cause, and the treatment they need may depend on the cause too
Preventing your dog scavenging, making diet changes gradually, and feeding a good quality appropriate diet, can all help to reduce the risk of colitis for your dog
What is colitis?
The term “colitis” refers to an inflammation of the colon (or large intestine).
The normal function of the colon is to absorb water and nutrients, and these functions can be affected when the tissues are inflamed.
It’s a common condition in pets of all ages, which can present as an acute episode (that only lasts for a few days) or one that lasts for longer periods of time or recurs frequently (chronic).
What are the common symptoms of colitis in dogs?
Soft poos, or diarrhoea, sometimes with mucus or a small amount of blood
Needing to poo urgently
Increased frequency of bowel movements
Straining to poo (tenesmus)
Occasionally pain when pooing
NB: colitis is not usually associated with weight loss in dogs
Colitis can be caused by:
Eating something unusual
Certain bacteria and parasites
How is colitis diagnosed?
Your vet may suspect colitis based on your dog’s symptoms, and an exam..
However, they may need to do some tests to find the cause of the problem, especially if the symptoms last for more than a few days.
The most common test is a poo sample, that is sent for analysis to rule out bacteria or parasites.
Some pets might require further investigations, such as an ultrasound exam, endoscopy(where a camera is passed into the intestines) and biopsies (samples of the intestine wall, often taken using the endoscope). For some pets, the vet might recommend a diet trial to rule out diet sensitivity.
How is colitis treated?
The treatment for colitis depends on the cause.
In many cases triggered by dietary changes or stress, your vet will advise feeding a bland home cooked diet (short term only) or a specifically formulated gastrointestinal food.
Adding specific doggy probiotics might help restore the normal gut flora, and help the gut to recover.
Dogs with chronic colitis caused by dietary intolerances are often prescribed special diets that contain proteins that have been broken down (hydrolyzed) already so that the body doesn’t react to them, or that are new to the body..
Some pets will also benefit from adding extra fibre to their diet, which slows the transit time of food in the gut and “soaks up” excess fluid.
Specific medications might be necessary if your pet is diagnosed with a bacterial, parasitic or immune-mediated condition. Your vet may also prescribe a special kind of anti-inflammatory that only works in the large intestine to help relieve cramps
What’s the outlook for dogs with colitis, and can it be prevented?
Many cases of colitis are a one-off, and respond well to supportive treatment. More chronic cases can take several weeks to fully resolve though. It may take some time to discover the underlying cause, and some causes will need ongoing management.
Not all causes of colitis are preventable, but the risk of uncomplicated colitis can be reduced by:
feeding a complete and appropriate diet
avoiding sudden diet changes
monitoring your dog while out on a walk to prevent scavenging
making sure that your dog is wormed regularly - speak to your vet about a preventative health programme
If your dog suffers from colitis and you would like to discuss ways to help them, why not book a consult with a MyDogDoc vet today!