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Inflammatory Bowel Disease


IBD is a condition in which there are high numbers of inflammatory cells present in the lining of the digestive tract which result in poor digestion and absorption of nutrients in food.  The inflammation causes structural changes in the mucosal lining, which interferes with the body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients from food.

The inflamed intestinal lining becomes weakened, increasing permeability and allows toxins from the gut to leak into the bloodstream.  This is a condition known as dysbiosis (aka Leaky Gut) and if the inflammation isn’t resolved, in time it can create a host of other serious health problems for your dog or cat.

Possible Causes

Poor diet (specifically highly processed, grain based foods, food additives and preservatives, the lectin found in un-sprouted grains, sugar, pasteurised dairy)

Drugs and other toxins (steroids, NSAIDs, wormers, flea and tick treatments and antibiotics) 

IBD can also be caused by GI parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, coccidian and giardia, as well as antibiotic and steroid therapy. 

Chronic stress or boredom also influences gut health as stress negatively affects the immune and digestive systems.


Depends on which part(s) of the GI tract are inflamed but the most common are intermittent bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea.  Vomit can contain undigested (or partially digested) food and sometimes a small amount of blood or some pets simply vomit bile or phlegm.

IBD can affect just the stomach (gastritis) and symptoms are lack of appetite and weight loss, or if the small intestine is inflamed (enteritis), symptoms can include vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss and lethargy.

If the small intestine is inflamed, common symptoms are vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss and lethargy.  Inflammation of the small intestine can also result in malabsorption (nutrients are not broken down efficiently and absorbed in the small intestine.  The food ferments and produces gas which can cause bloating, pain and audible GI sounds.

If the large intestine is inflamed (colitis) the primary symptom will be diarrhoea and often blood and mucus will be seen in the stool.  Pets often have no other symptoms and appear in overall good health apart from the diarrhoea.

IBD AND IBS (the difference between the two)

In IBD, there is inflammation of the GI tract.  IBD is not associated with stress. In IBS, the symptoms are the same but the structural tissue changes have not yet occurred.  IBS is linked to stress.

 IBS is an inflammation of the lining of the intestines that has most often the following symptoms: lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea (many times with blood) and sometimes bloating. Many times these symptoms show every few months and the rest of the time the dog acts perfectly fine. The episode when the dog is sick is called a flare up. The most accurate way to diagnose the IBS is by doing an endoscopy with biopsy, an expensive procedure that implies your dog will be put under anesthesia.

Diagnosing IBD

A biopsy can be performed which involves taking a tiny piece of tissue, which is then sent to a lab for testing.  This is an expensive procedure which involves the pet being anaesthetised with the inherent risks that involves.

IBD can be diagnosed using a blood test and according to an article by Dr. Becker, this is the test she prefers. This blood test can be used to test for two types of B-vitamin absorption (folate and Cobalamin).  If the folate levels are low it can mean a pet’s absorption of nutrients is poor, or the small intestine cannot break folate down to an absorbable form which could indicate disease or disorder in the small intestine which in turn can lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

The other blood test is to test for another B-vitamin called Cobalamin, which is bound to protein and released from protein through a complex series of events that starts in the stomach and finishes in the small intestine.  Cobalamin levels are a measure of digestion so if levels are low, we can assume this process is not happening as it should.

This all sounds very technical, but if you suspect your pet has IBD and you would prefer to avoid a biopsy initially, you may wish to ask your vet if he can use blood tests to help determine a diagnosis.  A PLI test which assesses pancreatic function can also be carried out as secondary pancreatitis is a very common condition in IBD patients.


Traditional ways of treating IBD involve prescribing de-wormers, antibiotics and/or steroid therapy, often with little success as the root cause of the problem has not been identified.


Giardia, for example, can be resistant to many of the worm treatments, and it is important to identify which parasites may be present before prescribing.

Antibiotics, with is often the other “go to” remedy prescribed, wipe out all bacteria, both good and bad, which creates its’ own imbalance and can lead to further problems unless steps are taken to re-colonize the gut with the “good” bacteria.

Steroid therapy can often appear to work initially as it suppresses inflammation and the immune system, but symptoms will re-appear when the medication is discontinued, as the underlying cause has not been addressed.

HOLISTIC TREATMENTS involve feeding a bland (raw) diet – plain chicken/turkey  are ideal.  Fatty meats should be avoided.

  • Slippery Elm coats the GI tract and helps with inflammation.

  • L-Glutamine – helps repair the cellular wall of the GI tract and also induces the large intestine to remove excess water which is helpful for dogs prone to diarrhoea.   This should be fed apart from food and the dosage recommended is 500 mg/25 lbs (11.36 kgs) body weight.  L-glutamine does not have an immediate effect, but promotes improvement over a period of weeks.

  • Bone broth – a nutritious addition and helps to hydrate ill animals.

  • Kefir – is an excellent probiotic (see separate file on website for further details)

  • Digestive Enzymes – the very best source of digestive enzymes comes from feeding a species appropriate diet (raw) and by feeding as much variety as possible.

  • Raw honey is also high in naturally occurring enzymes and this can be added to your pet’s diet as a supplement (this may be particularly useful during a period of illness when enzymes are used up at a faster rate.

**Disclaimer-This article is for informational purposes only. Should you have any medical concern speak with your vet.**

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