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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in Dogs

By: Dr. Erika de Papp

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disease of humans that involves diarrhea and abdominal cramping of unknown cause. It is not a well-defined disease process in veterinary medicine, but is believed to be associated with some sort of functional disorder of intestinal motility or movement, rather than an infectious, inflammatory, or cancerous problem.

It is a chronic (long term) problem with intermittent clinical signs and is primarily a disorder of dogs. There are no breed or sex predilections. Some authors suggest that stress plays a role in the disease process, because IBS has been noted in high strung dogs and performance and working dogs.

What to Watch For

  • Intermittent bouts of diarrhea or soft stool
  • Increased frequency of defecation
  • Passage of small volumes of stool
  • Straining to defecate
  • Abdominal distension/bloating
  • Excessive gas
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Occasional nausea and vomiting

    Diagnosis

  • History and physical exam
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal tests for parasites, protozoa and bacteria
  • Fecal cytology
  • Tests for bacterial overgrowth in the intestine
  • Food trial
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopy and intestinal biopsy

    Treatment

  • Dietary modification
  • Anti-diarrheal drugs
  • Anti spasmodic/tranquilizer combinations for abdominal bloating and pain
  • Drugs to minimize gastrointestinal gas

    Home Care and Prevention

    Give all medications as prescribed by your veterinarian. Careful adherence to dietary recommendations is crucial. Feed only the prescribed diet. Do not feed table scraps or other foods, including natural chew toys (rawhides).

    Observe for inappropriate response to treatment or worsening of clinical signs at home. Persistent diarrhea, lack of appetite, abdominal discomfort, and lethargy should prompt a call to your veterinarian.

    Because of the possible role that stress may play in this disease process, potential stressors in the home environment should be identified and minimized when possible.

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