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When your dog has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it's no fun for your pooch — or for you. Your dog will definitely be uncomfortable, and they'll probably exhibit diarrhea and possibly vomiting as well.

Irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are two different diseases, though they’re sometimes used in very similar situations. Both of them are relatively common digestive issues among our canine companions, and the symptoms of each can mirror each other. But IBD is a persistent, chronic disease, while IBS is more situational and likened to a sensitive stomach in humans.

Pet owners may be able to use the power of diet to help soothe their dogs' symptoms, especially in the case of IBS. 

Ask your vet what to feed a dog with IBS. In addition to prescription diet options, your vet may recommend a particular commercially available dog food. Dietary supplements to support gastrointestinal health may also be useful. Your vet will be able to help you come up with a tailored treatment and management plan for your dog's irritable bowel syndrome. 

Let's take a closer look at what IBS is and what causes it, as well as the symptoms associated with this condition. Then, we'll discuss what you can feed your dog to help control symptoms and even prevent flare-ups before they happen.

What Causes IBS in Dogs?

What to feed a dog with IBS: sad German Shepherd lying on the floor

IBS is typically situational, meaning that something happens in a dog's daily life to trigger a flare-up. Most of the time, that trigger is stress and anxiety. Just as your stomach might turn into knots during a stressful situation, your dog's can, too. 

It's also possible that a deficiency of dietary fiber could cause IBS. Food sensitivities and allergies can lead to IBS symptoms, as well. 

Note that the cause of IBS is different from the cause of IBD. Inflammatory bowel disease involves inflammation, as the name suggests. The lining of your dog's GI tract becomes irritated during a case of IBD, which causes the bowel lining to thicken. This can interfere with the ability of the bowel to move food as well as the absorption of nutrients. The inflammation involved with IBD is not present in a case of IBS.

What Are the Symptoms of IBS?

What to feed a dog with IBS: person hugging a sick dog

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in dogs include:

Often, veterinarians diagnose a case of IBS once other gut-based health conditions have been ruled out. Your vet can run tests for intestinal worms, pancreatitis, colitis, and other digestive conditions. If they come back negative, IBS is the typical diagnosis. 

There are certain dog breeds that, for unknown reasons, seem to be predisposed to anxiety. As a result, these breeds are more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome. They include German Shepherds, Chihuahuas, Border Collies, Shorthair Pointers, Labrador Retrievers, and the Bichon Frise, among others.

How is IBS in Dogs Treated? 

Dog licking a person's hand

If your dog has been experiencing the symptoms described above, you'll want to have them checked out at the vet's office. Your veterinarian may perform a full work-up, including a blood panel, fecal exam, X-ray scans, biopsy, and other tests, in order to rule out other health problems.

If a case of inflammatory bowel disease is diagnosed, anti-inflammatory medications, immune-system suppressants, dietary changes, and other treatments may be needed. A case of IBS, on the other hand, usually involves just two treatment and management options: stress relief and dietary changes. 

Stress Relief

Since IBS is commonly brought on by stress, getting rid of or reducing triggers where you can is often an easy way to help your dog feel better or avoid a flare-up of IBS in the first place. 

Our dogs can be stressed out by loud noises like thunderstorms, changes in lifestyle like a new pet in the house or a move, or something as simple as the mailman approaching your porch. If you can take steps to avoid these situations, do it. Sometimes, situational avoidance is the best way to keep your dog calm and avoid the symptoms associated with IBS. 

For dogs with chronic anxiety issues, anxiety meds might be in order. Check with your vet if you think your dog's anxiety is severe enough to warrant medication. You can also try a calming product like Native Pet's Calming Chicken Chew. They can help to reduce general anxiety, relax your pup's muscles, and even aid in sleep.

Dietary Changes

Aside from stress relief, making changes to your dog's diet is the main treatment and management method for IBS. If you're still wondering what to feed a dog with IBS, here are the most common solutions: 

  • High-fiber kibble or canned food: Plenty of fiber in the diet makes it easier for your dog's digestive system to process food. If your dog isn't getting enough fiber in the diet, switching to a prescription high-fiber dog food might help. Note: Some pet foods are made with artificial flavorings and preservatives that can irritate the digestive tract, so you might need to switch to something that’s more natural or can work with sensitive stomachs.
  • Allergy-sensitive kibble or canned food: Since food intolerances and food allergies can upset your dog's stomach and lead to a case of IBS, feeding them a wet or dry food free of those allergens might be necessary. Work with your veterinarian to conduct a food trial to pinpoint your dog's particular allergens and find a limited-ingredient diet that doesn't contain them. A gluten- or grain-free diet is one example; some dogs are sensitive to gluten and grains, so this type of food might help them feel better. Native Pet’s Allergy Chicken Chews can also help by providing an all-natural antihistamine to build defense against allergens.
  • Probiotic supplement: Keeping a balance of good and bad bacteria in your dog's digestive system is crucial for gut health, and it can help to avoid the symptoms of IBS. Feeding your dog a probiotic supplement like Native Pet's all-natural powdered probiotic mix helps to maintain the proper microbial balance — it can help to address acute and chronic diarrhea, and dogs love the taste. 

Most of the time, a combination of stress management and change in diet can help keep your dog's IBS symptoms to a minimum. If you notice severe symptoms like frequent, serious diarrhea or weight loss, it's time to check with your vet. Your dog might have IBD or another health issue that requires treatment. 

Soothe Your Dog's Stomach: What to Feed a Dog With IBS

Man feeding his happy dog

If your dog displays symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or vomiting, it's possible they have irritable bowel syndrome. But remember: If diarrhea is frequent and chronic or if you see serious symptoms like bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite, or weight loss, see your vet. A case of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, may be to blame.

After getting a definitive diagnosis of IBS from your veterinarian, you'll probably be directed toward two treatment methods: stress reduction and dietary changes. In most cases, a combination of these two approaches is enough to keep your dog's IBS issues to a minimum and even prevent them from flaring up ahead of time.

Still not sure what to feed a dog with IBS? It's always best to call your veterinarian to discuss any changes to your dog's diet. They can help you find the best dog food for your particular pet's needs.

Want to continue reading about your dog's health and wellness needs? Visit the Native Pet blog here for more articles.

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