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IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that causes an inflammation of the lining of the bowels, and is usually a chronic or long-term condition. Most of us are aware that humans can suffer from this painful and uncomfortable problem, but did you know that dogs can suffer from it as well? If your dog seems to suffer from more than their fair share of stomach problems, often has diarrhoea or digestive issues and appears to be in discomfort on a semi-regular basis without an obvious underlying cause, they may be suffering from IBS. So what exactly is IBS, what does it mean for your dog, and what can you do about it? Read on to learn more.
Canine irritable bowel syndrome refers to a condition that results in the lining of the bowels becoming inflamed, which makes them sore and sensitive and sometimes painful. Sometimes, the level of the inflammation makes it difficult for food to be digested normally, and may be caused due to underlying medical reasons but can also be brought on or triggered due to stress. While IBS can be painful for your dog and addressing the underlying issue causing it is important, IBS in dogs is not connected to any other gastro-intestinal diseases or conditions that can be more serious.
IBS in dogs most commonly manifests in the first instance as problems with digestion and going to the toilet. This can present in a variety of ways, often as persistent diarrhoea, but it may also display itself as constipation, bloating, sickness and general discomfort. The stomach area may be sensitive to the touch, and your dog may be unhappy if you try to touch their stomach to investigate further. Excessive licking of the stomach, lying uncomfortably, or peering around to look at the area that is causing the pain may also occur. IBS is a chronic condition, which means that it will probably flare up or re-occur more than once throughout your dog’s life, and so these symptoms observed on one occasion only may not be indicative of canine IBS.
IBS flare-ups often have no obvious trigger behind them, although there are a range of issues that can cause the initial episode and later recurrences.
You will need to take your dog along to the vet to get a definitive diagnosis of IBS, and further tests might be needed to pinpoint the presence of the condition for certain. Blood tests, sensitivity and allergen testing and getting a thorough history of your dog’s health and their symptoms will all help your vet to reach a conclusion. IBS in dogs is sometimes confused with a range of other conditions that have similar symptoms, including bacterial infections, worm infestation, colitis, and abnormalities of the intestines, and it is important to rule out these other potential conditions as part of the diagnostic process.
Generally, treatment for IBS can be performed at home after the initial consultations and treatment protocols are decided upon, and it is important to schedule regular follow-up appointments with your vet so that you can establish how well the course of treatment that your dog is undergoing is working, or if you might need to try something else. Often, making changes to your dog’s diet is all you will need to do to prevent or minimise the likelihood of later flare-ups of the condition, and your vet may recommend a specially designed prescription diet that is highly digestible and rich in fibre. This will help to maintain the healthy functions of the digestive system and the normal movement of food through the digestive tract. If stress is indicated as the reason or one of the triggers of IBS in your dog, it is important to address the root causes of this, and do what you can to reduce your dog’s stress levels and keep them on an even keel. Your vet will be able to help with making recommendations on how to do this, and a canine behaviourist may also be able to provide helpful advice.
Once your dog has been diagnosed as having suffered from an initial bout of IBS, they will remain prone to recurrences throughout their life, so it is important that you as the owner keep a careful eye on your dog’s general health. Be particularly aware of any changes in the consistency of their stools, and keep an eye out for any of the other symptoms that can indicate a flare-up, such as stomachaches and problems going to the toilet.
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