Colitis is an inflammation of the colon or lower bowel and is a complicated condition with many possible causes. The symptoms of colitis can also vary widely depending on the severity of the disease. When mild the symptoms of colitis may just be that the first motion of the day is firm but subsequent motions throughout the day or walk get softer. As the condition progresses you may start to see motions covered with mucus, jelly or slime. In moderate colitis the motions have mucus flecked with blood especially toward the end of the motion. The animal often strains unproductively after the passage of the motion. If the colitis is severe then the animal may pass a red to brown diarrhoea which will result in rapid dehydration and collapse. This may also be accompanied by vomiting. This is a life threatening situation and needs urgent attention.

The most common causes of colitis are dietary indiscretion usually involving dairy products, and rich food sauces, fat or liver. A common cause of colitis in nervous animals is stress, this is often seen when such animals are kennelled for their owner's holidays. Less common causes of colitis are dietary intolerance. Sometimes these dietary intolerances are temporary and sometimes they are permanent. The presentation of undigested food in the colon for whatever reason can result in colitis. In these situations it is important to address the cause of the food being undigested, be it a failure of digestion or a hypermotile bowel. Another uncommon cause of colitis like symptoms in the dog are bacterial overgrowths in the bowel, the most likely is a bacteria called Clostridia. If possible your veterinarian should decide what the most likely cause of colitis is in your dog before treating. The initial treatment for colitis is similar to that for vomiting and diarrhoea ie. starvation, water only then bland diets followed by a slow re-introduction of the normal diet. However if the symptoms return then you should repeat the process but re-consider a different normal diet. Diets which tend to protect against colitis fall into two types.

  • Hypoallergenic diets ie. diets with unusual protein and carbohydrate sources that your dog is unlikely to be sensitive to. These diets do not contain the allergens to which dogs are most likely to be sensitive. In the case of dogs these are beef, dairy products and wheat. These diets are usually highly digestible. eg. Hills Canine d/d

  • High fibre/low fat diets that result in an environment in the colon that encourages the growth of "friendly" bacteria. eg. Hills Canine w/d

  • The choice of the diet depends on the individual. Occasionally dietary management alone is not enough to control the colitis and additional treatments may be necessary. Complimentary treatments include bowel regulators like Ispaghula Husk, homoeopathic remedies like Rhus Tox nutriceuticals like Glycosamine, and Aloe Vera Conventional treatments include systemic and bowel active steroids and antibiotics.

Remember to worm your dog at least twice yearly.

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