Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is characterized by a chronic infiltration of the intestinal mucosa with certain immune cells, which causes persistent irritation.
In dogs the jejunum is the most likely section of the intestines to develop inflammatory bowel disease. The stomach and colon are less commonly affected. The inflammatory cells – mostly lymphocytes and eosinophilic granulocytes – mark the body’s reaction against an irritating cause. The exact causes of IBD are not yet fully understood. A malfunction of the immune system that might have a genetic origin is likely. Also, in the case of dogs, certain ingredients and preservatives found in pet food are known to trigger these reactions.
IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) is usually characterized by varying types of diarrhea or loose stool when these symptoms are seen for an extended period of time ranging from weeks to even months. Intermittent episodes of vomiting due to IBD are also possible. One result of IBD is an impaired ability to intake nutrition due to the inflamation of the bowel wall. Dogs with IBD show a deteriorated body condition, have noticeable weight loss, and a scruffy and unkempt looking coat. Nonetheless, their appetite is normally not impaired and they may even eat more than usual. Also, inflammation of the bowel wall can lead to skin disorders. These disorders are the result of the bowel wall being unable to absorb essential nutrients, and thus general health and well being are at risk.
A definite diagnosis of IBD can also be obtained with a biopsy taken through an endoscope and shows the characteristic infiltration with inflammatory cells. If a tumorous growth can be ruled out, a change in diet might bring improvement. If there is no change from a change in the dogs diet, administration of anti-inflammatory drugs such as prednisolone usually shows good results. Unfortunately, the rate of reoccurrence is high if the underlying cause is not determined. Most dogs who have suffered from this condition will need to continue a sensitivity diet for the remainder of their life. In this case, attention has to be given to anything consumed by the animal.
The condition itself is not an emergency. Yet, the earlier it is detected the better the chances for recovery. If you are suspicious of inflammatory bowel disease, see your vet as soon as possible.