4 Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs, Its Causes, and How to Manage It

Colitis in dogs is a very painful and uncomfortable problem to have. One way to tell your furry friend is suffering from colitis is to look out for frequent diarrhea or loose stools that are released in small volumes at a time. Some pet owners have observed that their dogs vomit as well, although this reportedly only happens in a third of the cases involving canine colitis. If you think your pet is suffering from colitis, the responsible thing to do is to take it to the vet as soon as possible for a quick checkup. With the right attention and treatment, your pet will be as good as new in no time at all.

What Is Colitis?

Colitis is the inflammation or acute irritation of the colon or large intestine. Also known as large bowel diarrhea, this problem can affect many different animals, humans included. Categorized as a digestive disease, colitis regularly affects canines. This bowel disease causes the lining of the dog’s colon to thicken. This is due to the infiltration of various cells in the layers under the lining. Once the colon becomes inflamed and irritated, its ability to absorb water and store feces is reduced. This will then cause loose bowel movements. Colitis can either be very slow to develop or relatively acute. More often than not, canine colitis is prone to recurrences, causing the dog chronic pain and discomfort. Most dogs exhibit straining during defecation, as though they are constipated. You may also notice blood and mucus in their stool.

What Are the Symptoms of Colitis?

There are many symptoms of canine colitis. Your dog may display one or more of these symptoms, so pay attention to your pet. If it starts displaying unusual behavior that directly links to colitis, head to the vet right away for treatment.

1. Bleeding

You need to pay attention to your dog’s stool. If you spot bright flecks of blood in the stool, then you know you have a problem. This is a clear indication that there is something wrong with your pet’s digestive system. Do not brush it off as a passing phase your dog will get over. Similar to humans, blood in the stool indicates a serious health problem.

2. Loose Stool

Watery diarrhea or loose stool is another sign of colitis. If you notice semi-formed or liquid feces, your dog probably has a problem. Canine colitis, or large bowel diarrhea, is responsible for more than half the cases of chronic diarrhea in dogs, so you can be sure that the symptoms are relatively similar, especially when it comes to defecation. Most of the time, the stool is slimy looking instead of just watery.

3. Frequent Defecation

Another symptom of colitis is your dog’s need to pass motion very frequently. On an average day, your dog will defecate once or twice a day. If it has colitis, this may triple or quadruple. Defecation is usually accompanied by persistent flatulence.

4. Pain & Strain

When your dog defecates, you will notice that it strains a lot while doing the deed. You will also be able to tell that it is inflicted with colitis when every time it squats to defecate it does so with a great sense of urgency. Your dog will also display signs of being very uncomfortable and unhappy. Dogs will also usually display a disinterest in food.

What Causes This Problem?

One way to tell for sure if your dog has colitis is to bring it to the vet and have him or her run some tests on your pet. Colitis is usually diagnosed by a colonoscopy and a colon biopsy. The vet will also take stool samples from your dog and run tests to check for the presence of harmful fungi and parasites. Here are some causes of the problem.

1. Whipworms

Whipworms are threadlike worms that live in the last part of the small intestines and in the beginning portion of the large intestines. They can grow up to three inches long and cause chronic diarrhea and colitis in canines.

2. Infections & Diseases

Inflammatory bowel diseases such as lymphoplasmacytic and granulomatous can be blamed for canine colitis. Other infections such as E. coli and Salmonella are also to blame for this disease. Parasites, bacterial or fungal infections, and even an algae infection can lead to canine colitis.

3. Trauma

Trauma to the intestines and other parts of the digestive tract can cause large bowel diarrhea. For example, your dog may have swallowed something made out of an abrasive material such as a toy or tool, and in the process damaged its innards.

4. Contamination

Be it through spoilt food or a contaminated environment, dogs can easily catch colitis. Pet owners have attributed the sharing of wet and damp spaces as well as constant contact with other infected dogs as possible ways that colitis occurred in their healthy canines. Doggy day cares and dog boarding centers are examples of shared spaces.

How to Treat It

Unless you are a trained veterinarian, there is not much you can do without seeking the help of an animal specialist. Once your dog starts displaying the worrisome symptoms listed above, immediately head to your local vet to get your dog diagnosed. The sooner you treat the problem, the better it will be for your pet. Here are some of the treatment options available to you.

1. Hospitalization

Reserved only for severe cases, some dogs may have to be hospitalized for intravenous hydration and for observation. This is a very good option for your pet, as there is nothing better than being under the watchful eye of a trained professional whose sole mission is to cure it. If massive scar tissue has formed in the colon, your vet may suggest surgery to get rid of the damaged segments. Another cause that may lead to surgery is a fungal infection.

2. Medication

As with most other diseases, medication is a big must when it comes to healing your pet quickly and effectively. Depending on the cause of the colitis, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive medication may be prescribed to your pet.

3. Home Treatment

Once your dog is fine to be taken home, you will have to take control of the situation and nurse it back to health. Your vet will probably recommend a dietary change that will last for several days. Depending on your vet, he or she may recommend a diet high in fiber to increase fecal bulk and improve colonic muscle contractions. Remember to keep your pet away from the trash, other people and animals, and unfamiliar places. No matter what you do, remember never to start any form of home treatment without the green light from your vet. The last thing you want is to make your dog feel worse.

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