It can be heartbreaking to watch your dog struggle with a very basic biological function like eating.
Without adequate food intake, your playful puppy can quickly turn into a sickly, lethargic, temperamental dog.
If your dog seems unable to muster the energy to play, or his bathroom habits seem worrisome, or he is bothered by his body moving certain ways, he may have IBS.
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also called IBS or spastic colon, is a chronic health condition involving intestinal upset. It can cause pain in the abdomen, gas, and irregularities in bowel movements (including frequent diarrhea or constipation).
The causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are not well understood and a diagnosis is commonly based solely on symptoms your dog is displaying. There is currently no cure, and treatments are primarily focused on avoiding flare ups and discomfort.
The symptoms of IBS are very similar in both pets and humans.
Your dog may have a spastic colon if:
- He struggles with frequent, uncontrollable diarrhea
- There is mucus or blood in his feces
- You notice his energy levels are always low or he often seems lethargic and unwilling to move
- Your dog seems nauseated or vomits on a regular basis
- He seems uncomfortable lying on his belly, or he gets agitated when you apply pressure to his abdomen
- He loses his appetite for long periods of time and begins to lose weight (or is severely underweight due to malnutrition)
- He regularly appears to be constipated or struggling to pass stool. When it passes it may be an incomplete bowel movement consisting of tiny hard pellets.
- His abdomen is distended and bloated
It is unknown why some dogs develop IBS and others do not.
The apparent causes of irritable bowel syndrome change from case to case (and occasion to occasion) and can include:
- Untreated chronic stress and anxiety. Digestive upset can occasionally be the only visible symptom of anxiety!
- Physical abnormalities in the muscle of the digestive tract resulting in contractions in the colon
- Nutritional deficiency, especially lack of fiber. Fiber can add bulk to stools and help alleviate diarrhea and can help sweep the colon clean, eliminating constipation.
- Undiagnosed food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities
- Bacterial infection, especially if treated long-term with strong antibiotics or certain homeopathic remedies (such as colloidal silver taken internally)
- Tumors or cancer in the digestive tract, or treatments for these conditions
- Frequently eating very quickly, and until he is engorged and uncomfortably full
- Bowel obstructions and impactions
- Any major change in eating habits or prescription medicine intake
Some symptoms of IBS in dogs can also be symptoms of potentially more dangerous conditions. Any abrupt change in your dog’s behavior, temperament, or physical appearance or ability should warrant a call or visit to your vet.
Irritable bowel syndrome can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for you and your pet, but there can also be more serious consequences of IBS if it is left untreated. Chronic malnutrition can cause a decline in the quality of your dog’s life, eventually resulting in disease, pain, disability, and even death.
How Do You Treat IBS In Dogs?
An irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis in dogs is based almost entirely on visible signs you can be on watch for.
When you bring up the possibility of IBS at your pets regular checkup, the first thing he will do is ask about symptoms. Then a thorough physical examination will be conducted. An exam will include gently palpating your dog’s abdomen, looking at his teeth and throat, and doing an internal rectal check.
If IBS is suspected, your vet may be able to diagnose definitively based on your dog’s initial exam.
There are a few additional clinical tests your vet may request, such as:
- Stool samples
- Blood work, including a complete blood count (CBC)
- Food allergy or intolerance tests
- Endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy
- X-rays or CT scans of the abdomen
Because the causes and symptoms of IBS range from patient to patient, it is impossible to prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach to management and control.
Your veterinarian can guide you on your dog’s specific needs, but in general a treatment plan may include:
- Treating any underlying anxiety or depression
- Treating underlying infections or illnesses
- Ensuring there is no evidence of cancer or tumors that require treatment first
- Avoiding trigger foods
- Making permanent changes to your dog’s diet to include less fat and more fiber
- Drinking plenty of fluids to encourage proper bowel consistency. Make sure to offer your dog plenty of cold, clean water throughout the day.
- Electrolyte or mineral supplements
Medication can be used to alleviate the painful symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. These include antispasmodics (to relieve the inflammation and muscle spasms in the digestive tract) and an anti-diarrheal. There are also many choices for relieving pain associated with trapped gas and bloating.
There are some studies that suggest certain high-quality vitamin supplements could help his body regulate digestion. The most common choices are vitamins D, C, and B complex.
Fish oil is also almost always a solid choice for your dog.
Calcium and magnesium together can help eliminate muscle cramps and aches and increase your dog’s energy and stamina, but be aware that they may cause diarrhea.
There are also digestive enzymes that can help. These generally come from papaya, a tropical fruit. Probiotics can replenish the stores of good bacteria in his gut. Giving your dog human yogurt can easily get probiotics in him.
Food is an extremely important part of treating IBS. Ensure you are including lots of fiber (from produce and complex carbohydrates) and nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits. Lean protein and healthy fats complete a balanced meal.
Increase your dog’s fiber intake slowly. Too much fiber too quickly can make his IBS worse. Blueberries, sweet potatoes, and spinach are all great easily-digestible human food choices.
There are also commercially produced dry dog foods specifically for various food allergies or digestive disorders. Your vet may be able to recommend a good place to start searching. Make sure to change your dog’s food over slowly, watching for signs his IBS may be worsening.
Feeding your dog smaller amounts at a time - more frequently throughout the day - may relieve the stress put on his digestive system. Strain during digestion (whether due to eating large amounts at one time or eating very quickly) may be a huge factor in his IBS.
In the event of serious bowel obstruction, your vet may recommend you administer an enema, which is a warm saline solution gently injected into the rectum by way of soft rubber tubing. It can help immediately relieve severe constipation. Enemas for humans may be used and are available (at a relatively low cost) over the counter at your local pharmacy.
If these treatments do not help your dog long-term, your veterinarian may suggest any of a number of surgeries, depending on the cause of his IBS. A laparoscopic surgery called an endarterectomy (or bowel resection, the removal of a portion of the intestine), for example, may be one option.
What Is CBD Oil?
You may have heard about CBD oil, especially if you belong to social media groups focused on holistic pet health. It seems like everywhere you look someone is discussing its benefits!
You may even use CBD products yourself!
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a complex chemical compound found in hemp. Hemp is not marijuana. The two are closely related, but hemp does not contain enough THC to induce a psychoactive high.
Hemp is grown around the world. It grows quickly, with a fast replanting turnover rate. It is drought resistant and grows in poor soil. Hemp is harvested to make building material, clothing and textiles, paper goods, and bio plastics. It is also used as a renewable food source full of fiber and protein.
Hemp also contains about 80 known compounds called cannabinoids. The CBD is extracted from the stems and leaves, separated from impurities, and distilled in alcohol.
In our bodies, CBD interacts with a unique network of cell membrane receptors called the ECS, or the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are primarily located in our nervous and digestive systems.
All animals have an endocannabinoid system and respond to CBD the same way.
The ECS plays a role in allowing our bodies to maintain homeostasis, or internal equilibrium, despite changes in the external environment.
CBD is safe to use. There is no risk of accidental overdose. Very few side effects have been reported with CBD use and include sleepiness, nausea, and mild anxiety.
Cannabidiol is manufactured into a huge range of products, each with its own set of benefits.
Some of these products include:
- Tinctures. These are pure CBD suspended in alcohol. They are usually taken sublingually (held under the tongue before swallowing) or sprayed inside the cheek. This is the fastest, most efficient method of ingestion.
- Oils. These can be taken as-is or poured into food or drinks. CBD is suspended in carrier oils like coconut, hemp, and avocado oil.
- Pills and gel capsules. These are often the easiest way to ensure the same dosage repeatedly.
- Vape pen cartridges. Some may include nicotine or THC. These are not suitable for pets.
- Treats and snacks. Some are pet-specific and can include additives for flavor. Be aware these may negatively affect your dog’s IBS. Some snacks meant for humans contain additives (like essential oils) are not pet safe.
- Topical supplements like massage oil can help minimize localized pain. Arthritis sufferers, for example, may want immediate relief at a specific joint.
Thanks to its popularity, you may be able to find quality CBD oil in stores local to you. A quick Google search may help you find one. An in-person visit can also help answer any questions as well as introduce you to the array of products available.
Many shops selling CBD can be found online. The most important thing to remember is that not every business on the internet is secure! Scams abound online.
If you do decide that buying online is the best option for you, there are a few general guidelines to stick to in order to ensure the best experience.
- Buy products made with hemp grown in the United States. Domestically-grown hemp is subject to much stricter guidelines. These regulations are enforced by a number of federal agencies tasked with overseeing the safety of the products you buy.
- Organic CBD oil products contain only ingredients that are grown without the use of pesticides and other toxins. They are considered safer for pets and humans alike.
- Your CBD product should contain less than .3% THC.
- Make sure you are provided with an independent lab analysis for each product you purchase. This report will tell you the exact concentration of CBD, as well as if the presence of any THC or impurities detected.
- Make sure that the online shop you buy your CBD oil from appears professional. They should have contact information for their customer service department plainly visible on their website. Double check that their payment processing technology is secure.
- The information presented on the product page should match the label on any product you buy.
If you are concerned about dosage, ask your veterinarian for advice. Dosage is generally based on a number of factors including CBD concentration, weight, and age. There are free calculators online that can help.
Can CBD Oil Help Treat IBS?
CBD oil may be a fantastic addition to your dog’s irritable bowel syndrome treatment plan!
Cannabinoids can make an immediate difference in your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. He will have more energy, experience less inflammation and less pain, sleep better, and recover from athletic activity faster.
CBD oil can positively impact your dog’s IBS too! It can:
- Build up the stores of good bacteria in your dog’s gut and eliminate the bad bacteria that could cause digestive upset
- Bolster your dog’s immune system, making him less likely to get sick
- Boost the efficacy of some prescription medications
- Help ease muscle aches and cramps, including internal muscles like the colon and intestine
- Eliminate nausea and stop vomiting and diarrhea altogether
- Calm your dog’s anxiety
- Stabilize his appetite and aid in slowing down digestion, ensuring his body is able to retain as many nutrients from his food as possible (potentially avoiding malnutrition)
- Stabilize his blood sugar and protect him from developing diabetes in response to struggles with adequate nutrition intake
If there is cancer or a tumor responsible for his IBS, CBD can help stop the spread of cancer, shrink a tumor, and repair injured and diseased muscles. It can also make the treatments of these diseases more effective as well as alleviate some of the negative side effects related to chemotherapy and radiation.
When using CBD, your dog may get relief from his worst symptoms immediately. The full effects are felt inside a month of regular use. It is important to give him his dose of CBD every day in order to continue his improvement.
It may make sense for you to keep a journal of your dog’s activities. Write down his food intake for the day, any IBS symptoms evident, and bowel movement details. Also make sure you include any medications he takes and his daily dose of CBD oil. You can look back and discover trends that may help you make better decisions about his treatment.
Be sure to make absolute certain his veterinarian knows you plan to supplement with CBD oil. There are certain liver enzymes CBD can inhibit the function of; these enzymes may be partially responsible for metabolizing prescription medicines.
If you notice ANY abrupt changes in your dog’s behavior, temperament, or physical appearance or ability, call your vet. It is IMPERATIVE that you immediately notify your pet care team of anything unusual. It could be a sign of a more serious health condition that could require immediate lifesaving care.
What Else Can CBD Do For My Dog?
Cannabinidiol is an absolute workhorse for your dog’s health.
There is virtually no system that is not positively affected by CBD. It could:
- Protect him from degenerative neurological disorders
- Completely eliminate seizures and migraines associated with epilepsy
- Alleviate the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis
- Heal torn muscles and tissues all over the body
- Be the solution to painful, irritating skin conditions like acne and eczema. It can also heal rashes.
- Benefit his heart. It can reduce blood pressure, widen the blood vessels around his heart, and help repair damage done by free radicals.
- Protect against the development of diabetes
- Fights oxidative stress (which aids the kidneys, liver, and pancreas in detoxifying the body)
As a loving dog parent, you absolutely want to alleviate as many of the uncomfortable symptoms of IBS as possible.
Using CBD oil in conjunction with any other treatments your vet recommends can quickly and safely restore his health and improve his quality of life.
Your dog is capable of living a full, energetic, amazing life with you. With CBD oil to help, his IBS does not have to stand in the way!
Sources:Therapeutic Use of Cannabis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Cannabidiol in inflammatory bowel diseases
Cannabinoids and the gastrointestinal tract
Irritable bowel syndrome and stabilizes intestinal microbiota