Inflammatory bowel disease in dogs can make life painful and dangerous for your dog as well as very upsetting for you. Treatments can be stressful for both of you, and they can potentially make matters worse. IBD in dogs can be managed and prevented, depending on the cause, and CBD oil can help with both the managing and aid in preventing. Read on to inflammatory bowel disease in dogs and make life much better for you and your dog.
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs
Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is an overgrowth of inflammatory cells in the bowel. This can be caused by several gastrointestinal diseases.
It is a serious illness, potentially resulting in malabsorption, chronic vomiting, diarrhea, blood or mucus in stools, gas, excessive abdominal sounds, and less often, loss of appetite, weight loss, depressed mood, and fever.
The condition may vary from better to worse to better over time, a sort of ebb and flow. So, don't rule it out or delay treatment just because it's not constant.
IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, is largely a human condition. It shares symptoms with IBD, so it is understandable to be confused, but the cause is different. IBS is a mental condition that affects the digestive system and does not involve inflammation. IBD is a physical disease at the root.
Colitis in Dogs
Colitis is a common intestinal disease in dogs that consists of inflammation of the intestines and/or colon.
Its primary symptom is frequent, watery stools. The dog will likely seem to need to go very badly and need to go often. They will likely strain to go. It is not uncommon for there to be blood, mucus, or fat in the feces. Vomiting is less common, but not unusual. Weight loss doesn't normally occur.
Thankfully, the prognosis for colitis is very good.
Gastritis in Dogs
Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach, and it may be acute or chronic.
Symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dehydration, increased thirst, lethargy, depression, blood in the vomit, blood in the feces, and/or weight loss.
Acute varieties may heal themselves. Chronic conditions fair better or worse depending on the cause.
Enteritis in Dogs
Enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine that may be caused by parasites, allergies, bacteria, or viruses. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, abdominal pain, fever, dehydration, and tarry stools.
Treatment depends on the cause and severity of the condition. They may be treated for dehydration and/or given anti-diarrhea medications. Food may be withheld for a short time and then slowly reintroduced.
What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs?
If your dog shows symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, prepare to answer certain questions for the vet. They will want to know about the dog's diet, allergies, potential exposure to toxins, medications, signs the dog has a weakened immune system and the dog's stress level. Vets are not 100% sure what all causes inflammatory bowel disease, but research and experience connect it to problems with the immune system along with exposure to threats such as bacteria, mold, fungi, parasites, toxins, antibiotics, and substances the dog is allergic to. It can also be genetic. Stress is a factor.
Sometimes injuries and swallowing foreign objects can cause inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. Be sure to tell the vet if you are aware of either of these things happening, or there is reason to think it likely it did, such as a toy is missing.
Dogs can get enteritis after having radiation treatments. It would be considerate of the licensed vet to give you a heads up about that potential while giving the radiation treatments.
Which dogs get IBD
Any dog can get IBD, but some dogs are more prone to developing it than others.
The risk increases with age, and middle-aged and senior dogs develop the condition most frequently.
Some breeds are genetically more disposed to get it: Basenjis, French Bulldogs, Irish Setters, and Lundehunds.
Dogs with a weakened immune system and/or high-stress level have an increased chance of developing inflammatory bowel disease.
None of these things means a dog is guaranteed to get inflammatory bowel disease, just that they are more likely to than your average dog, and taking precautions could ward it off.
Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The vet will ask about the dog's symptoms and discuss the questions mentioned above to see if there is an easily definable cause for the dog to have inflammatory bowel disease.
They will perform a fecal examination and run a complete blood count.
Secondary testing may be performed if they believe parasites, a bacterial infection, or poisoning may be to blame.
Sometimes an endoscopic biopsy is necessary to prove inflammatory bowel disease. If this happens, the vet will run a small tube equipped with a camera to get a sample of tissue. This is an invasive procedure and should be done when there is sufficient need. If you feel the vet is being too hasty to perform this procedure, you can get a second opinion before subjecting your dog to it. An already sick dog doesn't need their body poked and prodded unless it is indeed necessary.
Treatment Options for Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs
Treatment options vary depending on the cause of inflammatory bowel disease.
Parasites and infections could be treated directly, and the symptoms of the disease should subside. Anti-parasitic or antibiotic medications may be given. Probiotics are a natural way to treat bacterial infections and may be good for dogs with a mild case or who can't use other treatment options. CBD oil might work for both parasites and infections, but consult your licensed vet about trying it and be prepared to take a more aggressive approach if the dog doesn't rapidly improve.
Depending on how sick the dog is, they may need additional help treating the symptoms while the cause is eradicated. A very dehydrated dog may need to stay with the vet to get rehydrated or they may be given anti-diarrheal medications to reduce this symptom while the inflammation and the cause of it are addressed.
If a dog has had inflammatory bowel disease, it can easily come back or may never fully go away, but it can usually be managed so the dog can live a normal life. Most dogs live a long and relatively rich life after being treated for inflammatory bowel disease. They should be treated early though to ensure their health doesn't decline so much that an individual bout of dehydration, weight loss, nutrient deficiency, or infection kills them or causes permanent damage. You also need to know the cause in case there is an underlying condition that needs to be treated, such as an infection of some kind.
For mild cases, and/or ones that seem to be caused by food allergies, the vet may start the dog on a special diet as the only treatment. They may recommend a certain store-bought or homemade dog food. The best dog food for inflammatory bowel disease will be part of a hypoallergenic, low-reside, or a high-fiber diet. It may take eight to twelve weeks to see results.
Sometimes anti-inflammatory drugs are given, but vets try to limit their use because they have considerable side effects which can exacerbate symptoms of the disease, such as diarrhea, or cause ulcers, kidney disease, liver disease, or death.
Because the dog's digestive system is inflamed due to an immune response, vets may suggest for the most serious cases that the dog take immunosuppressive drugs. This of course, will be weighed out by the concerns of your dog running around with a suppressed immune system.
A bit of trial and error may be necessary to determine what treatment works for your dog. It may take several treatments used in tandem to get the inflammatory bowel disease under control.
Preventing the Development of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
It may be possible to prevent inflammatory bowel disease in dogs by eliminating potential causes. Using fewer cleaning chemicals and pesticides can reduce their contact with toxins, checking their diet for potential allergens and toxins also limits contact, and helping your dog maintain a strong immune system and lower stress level will make them better able to fight off triggers.
How CBD Oil Helps IBD
CBD oil can help dogs manage their IBD when no traditional treatment methods help them or can be used. It makes a great addition to help a dog deal with the side effects of medications.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical extracted from the hemp plant that boasts similar results to medical marijuana. It has not been as widely tested as marijuana, but it is showing great promise at not only doing the same things but doing them better. You see, marijuana has cannabidiol in it, but it also has a lot of THC, the "high" causing chemical, and it can make one feel powerfully better, but often in the short term and can leave the user with a crash. Cannabidiol doesn't do that. It is more of a subtle enhancer for the body's own natural functions.
This works because humans and dogs have an endocannabinoid system that makes its own cannabinoids. Yes, right now, you and Fido are generating your own cannabinoids, and their balance plays a huge role in your health and well-being. These cannabinoids are not always functioning as they should, and external cannabinoids like CBD can boost their functionality.
CBD boasts a staggering number of health benefits, but here are the ones for IBD:
- powerful anti-inflammatory properties
- maintaining a healthy appetite
- relieving stress
- alleviating pain
- supporting a healthy immune system
- promoting healthy bowel movements
- providing additional nutrients
As you might have noticed, CBD's list of benefits may tackle inflammatory bowel disease both where it begins, how it works, and in what it causes.
For the dogs that must take these medications, CBD can also help reduce the side effects from traditional medications, side effects that make them feel weak, have a poor appetite, suffer depressed mood, have diarrhea, and suffer a weakened immune system. These side effects may reduce their quality of life or threaten their ability to keep taking the medication. Giving your dog CBD oil before they are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease could even prevent them from ever getting it. CBD oil treats may also help with reducing stress or improving the immune system in a more palatable form for your pup. And it's natural with hardly any side effects. If you give a dog an excessive amount of CBD, they may become sedated or experience loss of appetite and diarrhea. That's it. Granted, you don't want to exacerbate their diarrhea, but that doesn't happen with regular dosing. And it's a far less scary list of side effects than what comes with most of the prescription medications they can take. You know they're scary when doctors wait until the most serious cases to give them.
Using CBD Oil for Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs
There are several types of CBD oil products to choose from:
- oil tinctures
- extract concentrates
- crunchy treats
- soft treats
Some CBD oil products for dogs will be made for specific dosing, such as with treats and capsules. They are made to have a specific dose for certain sized dogs and you may give one or more depending on your dog's needs. You will usually need to choose between products for small, medium, or large dogs when making the purchase.
Oil tinctures and extract concentrates are more variable. You dispense the amount needed through measuring with a dropper. Drops are the most variable and can give you the exact dosage necessary. Extract concentrates come out in sort of beads and you'll measure the dose by the number of beads.
Regardless of which product you choose, you should always start out with the lowest possible dose and work your way up, in a week to a few weeks increments, to see what dose works best for your dog. CBD oil can take a few weeks to show its full effects, though you should be able to notice some changes immediately.
Also be aware that puppies, senior dogs, and very ill dogs will sometimes require even smaller doses than normal. Unusually large dogs may also need an unusually large dose.
It's wise to discuss CBD oil with your veterinarian so they can help you find the exact starting and effective dosage for your individual pet. It is also helpful to let your vet know so they can take into account that your dog is taking CBD oil and make sure it doesn't impact their treatments.
Purchasing CBD Oil
There are some things you should be aware of when purchasing CBD oil for your dog.
Full-Spectrum versus CBD Isolate
CBD isolate is just CBD oil, but full-spectrum contains other cannabinoids, nutrients, and terpenes found in the "whole" hemp plant that provide additional benefits. Full-spectrum is the most popular choice as people feel it will do more for them because of the additional factors brought on by the entourage effect. It also may be the best first option for your dog with inflammatory bowel disease if they are suffering from a lack of appetite and diarrhea because it may provide them with a little extra nutrition. Should you prefer CBD isolate or find that full-spectrum doesn't work for your dog, feel free to go with it. Some people swear that it works better in their case.
Sadly, all CBD oil manufacturers are not reputable and so it is necessary for you to ensure you are buying real, high-quality CBD oil, in the amount listed on the bottle by checking for third-party testing.
Any reputable manufacturer will provide these test results on their website for each of their products for you to investigate.
Reputable CBD oil manufacturers should also tell you where the hemp was grown or sourced from. Some manufacturers grow it themselves and should say where. Some acquire theirs from someone else and should also tell you where. It is also possible for manufacturers to use a combination of the two. Regardless, you should be able to ensure that the hemp was grown in a country with safe growing regulations.
Not all extraction methods are as good as others. Make sure to find CBD oil that was extracted using the CO2 method as it is the purest and safest.
It's always best to get products for your dog that are natural, at least, and organic, if possible.
You should also check the ingredients list to ensure there are no unnecessary or unsafe ingredients and that there is nothing that your dog is allergic to in the CBD oil. It's not likely, but it's still a good idea to check.
Ensure that the CBD oil product you want to purchase contains no THC. It is a good idea to check the specific Certificate of Analysis for each company and check for the total CBD as well as the THC contents within the document. Most will be labeled pretty conspicuously as containing no THC, but you also want to ensure it was extracted from the hemp plant rather than the marijuana plant.
Innovet supplies CBD oil products for pets and humans meeting and exceeding these qualifications. You can start your CBD oil journey with us.
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Dr. Sara Ochoa
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, St. Georges University
Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.
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