Pet Wellness Guides > Signs of IBD in Dogs - Pet Insurance Review

Signs of IBD in Dogs

Posted: 11/03/2022 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, is a condition where a dog’s digestive tract (intestines) becomes chronically inflamed and irritated. As time goes on, the continuing inflammation damages the lining of the digestive tract, ultimately preventing the proper absorption of food and nutrients. Other health issues may also arise due to improper nutrition.

IBD in dogs

Though symptoms of IBD are similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the two conditions are significantly different. IBD is considered a physical abnormality because there is a presence of an overgrowth of abnormal inflammatory cells. IBS, on the other hand, is typically caused by stress, infection, or a sudden change in diet that primarily affects the large intestine.

Causes of IBD in Dogs

To date, science has not discovered the exact cause of IBD. Veterinarians suspect the condition may be the body’s response to other underlying conditions. Some causes include:

  • Genetic markers
  • Food allergies
  • Parasites
  • Bacteria
  • A weakened immune system

IBD Symptoms

There are several symptoms that present as IBD in dogs, depending on the location within the digestive tract and the severity of the inflammation:

Chronic Vomiting

When a dog’s stomach is inflamed, it can result in chronic vomiting. You may not always be able to identify the exact cause of this vomiting. Still, there may be a pattern of certain foods or treats that exacerbate the condition.

Chronic Diarrhea

When the inflammation is located primarily in the small intestine, dogs typically will have diarrhea or the presence of blood and mucus in their feces. It is not uncommon for a dog to have occasional diarrhea and even have mucus present. But blood in the stool is always a cause for concern and requires immediate treatment.

signs of IBD in dogs

Weight Loss

When a dog has chronic inflammation in the digestive tract, they will often feel unwell and not have much of an appetite. This can then lead to weight loss.
On the flip side, you may notice your dog has an increased appetite and is begging you for food all the time. This is because their intestines are unable to absorb nutrients. This can also lead to weight loss.
If you have noticed any changes in appetite, accompanied by weight loss, you’ll want to bring your pup in to see the vet.

How Is IBD in Dogs Diagnosed?

Unfortunately, IBD is not easily diagnosed. To fully detect the condition, a biopsy must be taken of the intestine lining. A biopsy will confirm the presence of inflammatory cells and show how severe the situation is. This means your dog may have to go under general anesthesia for surgery.

Understandably, this is not a procedure to take lightly. Depending on your dog’s age, they may not be a good candidate for invasive surgery. Older dogs often have trouble going under general anesthesia and recuperating from surgery. Your vet can guide you and tell you whether a biopsy is an option.

Should a biopsy not be an option, your vet will most likely recommend performing an ultrasound on your dog’s abdomen. This diagnostic tool will help rule out cancer as the cause of your dog’s symptoms.

Your vet will likely ask for a stool sample to rule out parasites. They may also check B12 levels in the blood to see whether there is a decreased ability to absorb nutrients. They may also check folate levels in the blood to see if there is an imbalance of normal bacterial populations in the digestive tract.

Are Some Dog Breeds More Prone to IBD?

While any dog can develop IBD, there do seem to be some breeds that receive a diagnosis more than others, including:

  • Weimaraner
  • Basenji
  • Soft-coated wheaten terriers
  • Irish setters
  • Yorkshire terriers
  • Rottweilers
  • German shepherds
  • Norweigian lundehunds
  • Border collies
  • Boxers

How Is IBD Treated?

treatment for IBD in dogs

There is no cure for IBD, but the condition can be successfully managed through diet and prescription medications like antibiotics and steroids. No two dogs are alike, and no two cases of IBD will be exactly alike. You and your vet will have to work together and do some trial-and-error before finding the right treatment plan.

During this time of trial-and-error, be sure to take detailed notes of how your pup is doing. Do you see improvements? Are they vomiting less or having less diarrhea? Has their appetite changed? Are they gaining some weight? Do they seem happy and playful?

Once you find the treatment plan that works, your dog’s intestines can finally begin to heal. If all goes well, eventually, your pup may no longer rely on daily medications. You may only need to give medicine on those days when they have an IBD flare-up.

What is the Prognosis?

The prognosis is typically good with a confirmed diagnosis of IBD. Once the appropriate treatment is determined, many dogs remain stable, happy, and healthy for years. Again, every dog is different. Some pups may do well for years, while others must alter treatment plans every few months.

The key to successful IBD management is early intervention. The earlier you can detect the condition, the easier it will be to manage it. You’ll also want to pay close attention to signs and symptoms and work closely with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Help Your Pup with a Pet Insurance Plan

It’s not easy seeing your fur baby struggling with a health issue. And when one arises, you want to do everything in your power to make your pup well again.

While veterinary medicine has seen significant advances that help keep our pets healthy for longer, these procedures can come with some pretty heft price tags! Ultrasounds, surgeries, lab testing… before you know it, you are hit with a vet bill that makes you feel a little sick.

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  1. Llera, R., BSc, DVM; Williams, K., BSc, DVM; Ward, E., DVM. “Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs.” Retrieved from:
  2. “Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs,” retrieved from
  3. Waynik, L., (2022) “Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Dogs” retrieved from:





The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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