Answers For YOUR Health

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Pets and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

It would seem that pets can suffer from some of the same ailments as their owners. Since they can't talk you have to read the signs they leave you.

A painful bowel movement for a dog might include snapping or biting at their anus/poop. The vet says that is because it feels to the dog as if something were biting him or her.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and
Other Gastrointestinal Issues

by Dr. Larry Siegler

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a condition resulting from an inflammatory condition and an infiltration of the gut wall with inflammatory cells. The lining of the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract may become thickened, nutrient absorption is compromised, and the passage of food and waste material through the gastrointestinal tract is affected.

The symptoms include:

  • chronic diarrhea or loose stools (when the large intestine or colon are involved)
  • difficult or painful bowel movements
  • distended or tender abdomen
  • possibly blood or mucous in the stool (often termed colitis)
  • vomiting (when the stomach or upper small intestine are involved)
  • loss of appetite and lower energy level

While there can be other, more acute and short term causes of these symptoms, when they become more frequent and chronic then the diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) needs to be explored.

For the occasional bout of diarrhea, adding some canned pumpkin and probiotics to the food and feeding a bland diet for several meals may be all that is required. For occasional vomiting, a short fast, bland diet and some slippery elm bark (readily available at health food stores) can do the trick.

The causes of IBD are not always clear but may include poor diet, food allergies and sensitivities, parasitic infections, or adverse drug reactions. Some veterinarians suspect the overuse of antibiotics and steroids can lead to Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Leaky Gut Syndrome (excessive permeability of the gastrointestinal lining). Over-vaccination is also suspected in contributing to chronic gastrointestinal problems.

Diagnosis begins with blood and urine tests to rule out more serious conditions such as liver or kidney disease, and a fecal exam to rule out parasites, giardia and bacterial infections. More advanced diagnostic tools such as x-rays or ultrasound may be suggested to rule out growths or tumors. If a definitive diagnosis is desired, then a biopsy (obtaining tissue samples) of the intestinal lining is required.

Conventional treatment will often include prescription diets that are frequently bland and not very palatable. Conventional care may also include the use of pharmaceuticals to inhibit the immune response (most commonly steroids) and suppress symptoms.

Alternative treatment always begins with diet. At a minimum a dog or cat with IBD needs a very high quality canned food with no fillers or artificial preservatives. If you feed some kibble try a hypo-allergenic one (Wellness, Natural Balance, Solid Gold and Wysong make foods with alternative protein and carbohydrate sources that work well).

Better yet would be the addition of raw or home prepared foods (properly balanced by following a recipe). Please see our article What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food for a more detailed discussion of a healthy diet. Dogs and cats with gastrointestinal difficulties often respond VERY well to a raw food diet, and once transitioned need no other supplements to stay healthy and symptom free. You can learn more about raw food in our article

When the large intestine and colon are involved, then added fiber in the diet can be helpful. When the stomach and small intestine are involved, a lower fiber diet may be best. Eliminating grains, especially for cats, can also be helpful. For dogs grains such as rice, quinoa, millet or other lower gluten or gluten-free grains may be tolerated.

In addition to raw food or a very high quality canned food and hypoallergenic kibble, a good digestive enzyme and probiotic supplement is important to aid digestion and help repopulate the GI tract with healthy bacteria (see Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics).

For immediate control of diarrhea Fast Balance by Vetri-Science is very useful. It is a paste that can be dosed directly into the cat or dog's mouth and generally works quickly.

For additional support in healing the GI tract a supplement containing beneficial nutrients, amino acids, enzymes, and herbs is often necessary, such as Only Natural Pet GI Support.

A Chinese Herbal remedy such as Gastrigen by Thorne Research can also be beneficial in alleviating symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea and soothing the digestive tract. A holistically trained veterinarian can prescribe further Chinese Herbal remedies that have been shown to be very effective.

For more severe cases extra L-Glutamine and probiotics (in addition to the amounts in the Only Natural Pet GI Support formula) may be needed in the beginning of treatment. Seacure by Proper Nutrition can also be very helpful in healing the GI tract and is especially useful in animals that have lost weight or at risk of poor nutrition as a result of IBD or other gastrointestinal issues.

Always make any diet change very slowly to allow your animal's system to adjust, and start with half the recommended dose of each supplement and build up over the course of 3-5 days. It is wise to stagger the introduction of each supplement by 2-3 days, introducing only one at a time and adding gradually.

Acupuncture can be helpful for many gastrointestinal conditions including IBD. For a list of practitioners in your area see the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association referral directory:

article courtesy Only Natural Pet





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