Colitis in dogs: Symptoms and Treatment


Jul 11

Posted by Barkibu editors

At Barkibu, we receive lots of consultations about digestive problems, especially diarrhea and vomiting. It is very common to talk about colitis in dogs when we talk about diarrhea, but there are not synonymous. Colitis causes diarrhea, but not all diarrheas are caused by colitis.

How can I distinguish then between diarrhea and colitis in dogs? Let's clarify a few concepts!

What Is Colitis?

Dog digestive system

Colitis is the inflammation of the colon. The colon is the lower part of the intestines and the one that absorbs most of the water. When it is inflamed, there is watery diarrhea. Colitis in dogs causes dehydration, but not weight loss, because digestion and food absorption are completed in the small intestine.

Colitis in dogs can be:

  • Acute:sudden onset and short duration
  • Chronic: duration of two or three weeks or recurring diarrhea\

Differences Between Diarrhea and Colitis in Dogs

Colitis is the inflammation of the colon, a part of the large intestine. Meanwhile, diarrhea might be related to a problem in the large or small intestine.

We can talk about colitis in dogs as synonymous of large intestine diarrhea, although it is more appropriate to mention the affected areas:

  • Colitis in dogs when it affects the colon
  • Proctitis if it affects the rectum
  • Appendicitis when it affects the cecum

Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs

  • Increases the frequency of defecation
  • Decreases the volume of the stool, spread in different times
  • Mucus in the stool
  • No vomiting
  • Fresh blood in the stool
  • No weight loss

What Causes Colitis in Dogs?

Colitis in dogs may be caused by the following:

  • Infections caused by bacterias or viruses
  • Parasites
  • Immune-mediated diseases, like allergies or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Functional problems such as irritable colon
  • Cancer
  • Mechanical problems like, for example, foreign object aspiration or ingestion\

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Colitis?

Dog with colitis at the vet

Acute colitis in dogs may be resolved by itself. We usually say that they are self-limiting. Dogs don't feel under the weather for long, so we tend to not reach an etiological diagnosis identifying the cause of diarrhea.

This doesn't mean that dogs with acute colitis don't need any treatment. If the dog is a puppy, he is very ill or if there is blood in the stool, they need a symptomatic treatment.

Chronic colitis in dogs is more complicated. We need to follow a strict protocol to rule out suspected causes with the more simple and economic tests. Starting with an interview with the vet and a thorough examination to decide which tests to run:

  • Analysis
  • Blood count
  • Stool analysis
  • Bacterial culture
  • X-rays
  • Ultrasound
  • Endoscopy
  • Laparoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • CT and MRI scan

Treatment of Colitis in Dogs

In acute colitis in dogs we treat the symptoms:

  • Rehydration with an oral rehydration solution or veterinary products
  • Absorption of toxins with minerals such as kaolin
  • Regeneration of intestinal flora
  • Antibiotics to fight bad bacteria
  • Probiotics (good bacteria)
  • Prebiotics: substances to help good bacteria grow
  • Symbiotics (a combination of probiotics and prebiotics)
  • Diet: fasting for 12-24h followed by a low-carb and low-fat diet for a couple of days

In chronic colitis in dogs, we treat the primary cause.

When the inflammatory bowel disease affects the large intestine, it is easier to treat than when it affects the small intestine. In cases of chronic colitis in dogs, it may be necessary:

  • A diet rich in fiber or a hypoallergenic diet
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Antibiotics
  • Probiotics

It is crucial to take your dog to the vet so he or she can recommend the best treatment for each case.