Most of us experience an upset stomach every once in a while. And the same is true for our dogs. But irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is more than the occasional stomach cramp. IBS in dogs is an inflammation and irritation of their gastrointestinal system, which includes the intestines, stomach, and colon. 

It's important to understand that irritable bowel syndrome isn't the same thing as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD involves the GI tract being infiltrated by inflammatory cells, which results in a thickening of the intestinal lining and can even affect the absorption of nutrients in the gut. 

IBD is a physical disease, while IBS is considered psychosomatic. This means that the symptoms of IBS in dogs are related to your dog's mind, rather than a physical cause. (As we'll learn, the precise cause of IBS is poorly understood.) In the same way that you might develop abdominal pain and stomach cramping when you're worried about something, your dog can experience it, too. 

Read on for a closer look at the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for IBS in dogs.

Symptoms of IBS in Dogs

Knowing what to look for is the first step when it comes to diagnosing a case of irritable bowel syndrome. The symptoms of IBS occur primarily in the lower digestive tract and intestines. 

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in dogs include:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mucus in the feces
  • Bloating
  • Strained elimination
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flatulence
  • Lethargy

Typically, you won't see blood in the stool during a case of IBS. If you see fresh blood in your dog's fecal matter, or if your dog is producing dark, tarry stools (meaning blood has been digested), something else is probably wrong. It's time to give your vet a call to get your dog examined.

Causes of IBS in Dogs

IBS in dogs: scared puppy lying down on the floor

The precise cause of IBS in dogs is still not well understood, even by veterinary medicine professionals. The characteristic inflammation of the intestinal wall seems to be brought on by a variety of factors. They include:

Stress

Stress and anxiety are believed to be the main causes of IBS in our canine friends. Just like you, your dog can experience stomach cramps, diarrhea, or constipation when they're anxious. And plenty of things can cause your dog stress — a new pet in the house, a loud noise, or a dietary change, for example.

Allergies

It's also possible that allergies play a role in the development of IBS. Environmental allergies (when your dog responds to allergens like pollen, dust, dirt, or mold) or food allergies to substances in your dog's diet like soy, dairy, beef, chicken, or wheat, could both be to blame. 

Does your dog suffer from allergies? Native Pet's Allergy Chicken Chews may be able to help. Our chews can help build your dog's natural defense against allergens and even boost long-term immune system support.

Dietary Indiscretion

If you eat too much at once, or eat something that doesn't agree with you, your stomach will probably protest. The same is true for Fido. An IBS flare-up might occur when your dog overeats or eats something they're not supposed to, like garbage or fatty table scraps. IBS can also be triggered when a dog ingests a foreign substance, like a toxic chemical — since this could be life-threatening, you'll want to take your dog to the vet's office immediately for treatment. 

Improper Antibiotic Use

It's thought that using antibiotics improperly is another possible cause of IBS in dogs. The microbiome in your dog's intestinal tract is a delicate balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria, and too much of an antibiotic can upset that balance. If you're giving your dog this medication improperly or in the wrong dosage, it could lead to digestive system problems, including IBS. 

Giving your dog a probiotic supplement is a good way to maintain the proper microbial balance in the gut. Native Pet's all-natural Probiotic for Dogs is a great choice. It can help address acute and chronic diarrhea and create a thriving environment for healthy flora in your pup's gut.

Diagnosis of IBS in Dogs

If you notice the symptoms described above — diarrhea and vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, constipation, strained elimination, lethargy, etc. — you'll want to notify your veterinarian. As you might imagine, these symptoms could be side effects of a wide variety of ailments, including other digestive system problems like colitis, intestinal worms like roundworm or hookworm, or bacterial infection.

Your vet may take various steps to diagnose a case of IBS, including blood work, X-rays, and even an intestinal biopsy in some cases. You'll also want to be prepared to give a thorough health history, including your dog's recent symptoms. 

If another cause of your dog's symptoms can't be found, your vet will most likely diagnose a case of irritable bowel syndrome. From there, you can work together to start helping your dog feel more comfortable. 

Treatment of IBS in Dogs

White dog with a vet

If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, and other immediate symptoms of IBS, take them to the vet's office for treatment. Your vet may prescribe antispasmodic medications that help to calm the stomach and intestinal tract. Anti-diarrheal drugs like metronidazole can help bind the stool, and anti-inflammatory drugs might be given as well to lower the inflammation in the intestines. 

Your vet will also work to combat dehydration, which can happen easily if your dog is experiencing chronic diarrhea or vomiting. IV fluids might be necessary in more severe cases. 

While many dogs who experience IBS will deal with flare-ups throughout their life, the condition is manageable. Management options include:

  • Stress reduction: Since stress and anxiety are leading causes of IBS in dogs, reducing it whenever possible is a great preventative measure. Try to get rid of stress factors at home — loud noise, changes in the household, etc. — or try a calming product like Native Pet's Calm Chews, which can help your dog feel less stressed day-to-day.
  • Diet change: What kind of dog food your pet eats can help with IBS, too. This is especially true if your dog has a food allergy, but it can help dogs without allergies as well. Ask your vet about a high-fiber, well-balanced pet food that can support a healthy digestive tract. 
  • Dietary supplementation: Supplementing your dog's diet might also help to prevent or reduce the symptoms associated with IBS. Adding something like air-dried Pumpkin Powder can help relieve constipation and regulate digestive function.

Ask your veterinarian for more information about these treatment and management options. Working together, you'll be able to help regulate your dog's IBS and keep them feeling as comfortable as possible. 

IBS in Dogs: What Dog Owners Should Remember

Irritable bowel syndrome in dogs is characterized by an inflamed, irritated gastrointestinal tract. It's mainly brought on by stress, although things like dietary indiscretion, allergies, and improper use of antibiotics can also play a role. 

Symptoms of IBS in dogs include chronic diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and depression, appetite loss, abdominal pain, strained elimination, and flatulence. If you spot these symptoms in your pooch, it's time to see the vet. 

After the initial bout of IBS is dealt with at the vet's office, you might try stress-reduction techniques, dietary change, and supplementation at home to keep your dog's IBS symptoms at bay. You'll want to connect with your vet to find the best course of treatment and management for your pet. 

Want to learn more about your dog's health and wellness? Visit the Native Pet blog.


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