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American Maltese Association

A National Breed and Member club of the American Kennel Club

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Written by: 
Mary Ann Archuleta

The cause of inflammatory bowel disease is unknown. Genetics, nutrition, infectious agents, and abnormalities of the immune system may all play a role. Inflammatory bowel disease may not be an actual disease unto itself, but a characteristic response of the body to certain conditions caused by a variety of factors.

The most common signs of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs are diarrhea and vomiting. The signs may vary depending upon the portion of the gastrointestinal involved, i.e., vomiting is more common when the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine are involved and diarrhea is more common when the colon is involved. There is often increased mucous or some blood in the stool. Sometimes stools become loose. Many times the diarrhea and vomiting may come and go. If severe, some animals become depressed, will not eat, have a fever and lose weight.

Your veterinarian might want to take a biopsy (tissue sample) of the affected bowel. Most biopsies are obtained by abdominal surgery or by endoscopy if available. Biopsies are important to rule out other causes such as: dietary hypersensitivity, lymphoma, histoplasmosis (a fungus). Bacterial infection or overgrowth, and malassimilation problems

The protocol to treat, prevent, and control IBD begins with an immune system friendly diet, diets low in fat are generally better tolerated. Carbohydrates low in gluten may also be helpful; avoid wheat, oats, rye, and barley. Homemade diets are sometimes used, however, they often are not completely balanced and commercial diets are preferred for the long term. In some cases, some dogs will require a long term lose dose of steroids such a prednisone or an antibiotic such as metronidazole to find relief.

IBD involves a great deal of patience by the dog owner but most dogs will gain relief with some variation of therapies. The disease is life long and will require regular attention.

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