Could your dog have IBS? Irritable bowel syndrome is relatively common in humans, but it can also affect dogs. Fortunately, there are ways to manage gastrointestinal issues related to IBS in dogs.
What Is IBS in Dogs?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a term used to describe stress-related gastrointestinal problems in dogs that do not have a physiological cause. IBS is often confused with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but these are two separate conditions. IBD is an inflammatory condition of the intestines that can be diagnosed by analyzing the cells of the intestine. IBS is a psychosomatic condition, meaning it is related to the mind.
Signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Dogs
- Straining to defecate
- Sudden urge to defecate
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal discomfort
Dogs with IBS most commonly experience diarrhea. This diarrhea usually has a gooey consistency and often contains mucus. You may sometimes notice the dog straining to defecate, but other times the dog will have a sudden urge (and need) to have a bowel movement. Vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, bloating, and abdominal pain may also accompany diarrhea. Canine IBS is typically a chronic, intermittent problem, meaning it may come and go over a long period of time.
A diagnosis of IBS is generally made after ruling out diseases that cause gastrointestinal upset. Don't assume your dog has IBS; take your dog to the veterinarian for an examination followed by diagnostic testing. A dog with IBS will have normal intestinal cells and diagnostic tests will yield negative results.
Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS is a psychosomatic disease, meaning it is related to the mind and not a disease within the body. Stress is the root of IBS in dogs, and chronic stress is more likely to lead to IBS. This stress may come from a variety of sources.
- Fears and phobias such as thunderstorm phobia
- Chronic anxiety disorders, such as separation anxiety
- Moving to a new home
- Boarding or staying away from owners
- Adding a new pet or person to the household
- Behavioral problems
- Personality traits, such as nervousness or excitement
- Working dogs
- Unknown source of stress
The best way to begin treating IBS in dogs is to identify the source of the dog's stress and work to reduce or eliminate it. Of course, there are times when you cannot identify or control the factors that cause stress. Your veterinarian can help you manage diarrhea and make recommendations to reduce your dog's stress levels.
Veterinarians often recommend high-fiber diets or fiber supplements to control IBS in dogs. Anti-diarrhea medications like loperamide and metronidazole may also be used to control diarrhea in dogs with IBS.
In cases of severe anxiety or behavioral problems, veterinarians may prescribe drugs like fluoxetine or clomipramine to manage the anxiety. However, there are non-prescription options that can effectively reduce stress and anxiety in some dogs.
Pheromone sprays, diffusers, or collars such as Adaptil send calming signals to dogs and can help reduce stress and anxiety. These pheromone products can be used in conjunction with other treatments.
There are a number of stress-reducing supplements on the market that can help calm your dog. Calming aids for dogs may contain ingredients like L-theanine, tryptophan, CBD, and various herbs. Talk to your veterinarian about dog-safe options. Do not give your dog any supplements without approval from your vet. Human products and other commercial supplements may contain toxic ingredients or make your dog's diarrhea worse.
How to Prevent Irritable Bowel Syndrome
You may be able to prevent IBS in your dog by minimizing stress in the household. If you can identify signs of stress, anxiety, or fear in your dog early, you may be able to address the problem before signs of IBS develop. Calming aids can be used while you work to address the source of your dog's stress. Your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or recommend behavior modification if fear, anxiety, or behavioral problems are severe.
Some dogs work hard to hide fear and anxiety from humans, so it's not your fault if your dog develops IBS. Seek treatment early and stay in contact with your veterinarian. Fortunately, most cases of IBS can be managed. IBS may eventually go into remission with treatment.
Simpson, J. W. “Diet and Large Intestinal Disease in Dogs and Cats.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 128, no. 12 Suppl, 1998, pp. 2717S-2722S.
“Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in Dogs.” Vin.Com, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4952228.