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Does Your Dog Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome Or Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Written by: Scott H
Scott Haiduc is the Director of Publishing for iHeartDogs, iHeartCats and The Hero Company. When not working, Scott spends his time on the farm, taking care of his animals and crops.Read more
| Published on August 3, 2014

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are quite common in humans, but can also affect dogs. If your pup frequently has trouble going to the bathroom or has constant diarrhea, she may have IBS or IBD.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is IBD? Is it different from IBS?

Like the human version, canine IBD is a gastrointestinal disorder where the intestine is consistently inflamed for long periods of time.

According to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation:

“IBD occurs when cells involved in inflammation and immune response are called into the lining of the GI tract. This causes the bowel lining to thicken and interferes with absorption or motility, or the ability of the bowel to contract and move food.”

It is different from IBS, which is mainly stress-induced and often treated by relieving the source of the stress. IBS can also be caused by dietary fiber deficiencies or something in the diet causing upset (allergies or sensitivities). The AKC Canine Health Foundation said it is often confused with IBD, which is a disease treated with medication.

Which Dogs Are at Risk For IBD & IBS?

The AKC Canine Health Foundation says that IBD is more common in dogs over 5 years old, though it can be seen at any age. In addition, certain breeds are more prone to the disease than others, including:

  • German Shepherds
  • Boxers
  • Shar-Peis
  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
  • Rottweilers

IBS can be found in any dog that is under a lot stress: a move, a new pet or human in the house, a long trip, etc. Additionally, certain breeds are predisposed to anxiety and may be more likely to develop IBS:

  • German & Australian Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Chihuahuas
  • Vizslas
  • Border Collies
  • Shorthair Pointers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Bichon Frises
  • King Charles Spaniels

How The Symptoms Differ Between IBD & IBS

The symptoms of IBD include:

  • Persistent loose stools
  • Frequent, smaller stools
  • Straining and diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Low grade fevers
  • Lethargy

The Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Chronic, occasional diarrhea
  • Small amounts of feces with mucus
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting

Diagnosing & Treating IBD/IBS

Since IBD is a potentially serious disease, your dog must see the vet for an official diagnosis (blood panels, biopsy, etc.). From there, treatment options often include:

  • Suppressing the immune system
  • Slowing down intestinal motility
  • Coating and protecting the lining of the intestine
  • Killing bacteria
  • Limiting specific diet ingredients that may be irritating

For dogs with IBS, dietary management and stress relief are the most common treatments. According to,

“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.”

Dietary Recommendations For Dogs With IBS

Many vets suggest a prescription diet while others may recommend a home cooked bland diet. With the recent influx of home-delivered fresh quality dog foods, finding a perfect recipe balance is easier than ever before. As for commercially available dry and canned foods:

“Canned food is much better than extruded dry kibble for dogs with IBS because canned foods are generally cooked between 150-170 degrees which helps keep digestive enzymes in the can. (ie. more bioavailable and easier to digest),” Peggy Lange from Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company says.

Remember, every dog is different, so be sure to follow up frequently with your veterinarian to ensure the best outcome.

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