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Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Dogs & Cats

by Darleen Rudnick, B.S.W., M.H.N., Certified Holistic Nutritionist

Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders in pets. It is a term that describes a chronic inflammation disorder of the small and/or large intestine. When suffering from IBD, the body's normal rhythmic contractions of the digestive tract become irregular and uncoordinated. This interferes with the normal movement of food and waste material, and leads to the accumulation of mucus and toxins in the intestine. This accumulated material sets up a partial obstruction of the digestive tract, trapping gas and stool, which in turn causes bloating, distension, and constipation.

In general, the cause of most cases is unknown, but contributing factors that have been identified are poor eating habits, stress, food allergies, overuse of antibiotics, bacterial and viral infections and parasites. A blockage should not be ruled out as many times pets will chew and swallow toys, socks, and other objects.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Disease

  • Constipation. During episodes of constipation, stools may be hard, small, pebble-like, and difficult to eliminate.

  • Diarrhea. The diarrhea is usually in small volumes, but frequent. The morning bowel movement may be normal, but followed by successively loose bowel movements throughout the day. In some cases, constipation and diarrhea alternate.

  • Abdominal pain. Pain can vary in severity from mild to severe.

  • Mucus in the stool.

  • Nausea, sometimes vomiting.

  • Flatulence (gas)

  • Bloating

  • Anorexia

  • Intolerances to certain foods

Because IBD is triggered by many factors, it is important to have a thorough examine done by a veterinarian. If you decide to seek natural methods, For Pet Health recommends a consultation with our on-staff nutritionist.

A consultation will include a personalized diet and holistic program suggestions, all custom-tailored to your pet's personal needs. This is particularly imperative with pets suffering from IBD.

The nutritional program and other recommendations outlined in this article are designed for pets that have been diagnosed with IBD, but do not apply to every pet.

Treating Irritable Bowel Disease in Pet's Naturally


Feed What is Right for Your Pet

The most important thing to remember when choosing a food for your IBD pet is to choose a food that is right for YOUR pet, not what other people think is right. Raw diets are great, and home cooking is wonderful, but if your pet doesn't do well on it, don't feel guilty.

Some pets suffering from IBD do very well on a BARF (raw) diet, others do well on a home cooked diet and others only do well on dry or canned food. Every case is different, so it is a matter of experimenting and sticking to what works best. There IS NOT one diet that works for every IBD pet.

However, when choosing a dry food avoid synthetic preservatives such as butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate, propylene glycol and ethoxyquin. Avoid animal fats (found in many pet foods), high fat treats, processed foods, spicy foods, sugar and dairy products. These foods may aggravate an IBD problem.

Eating the wrong combination of foods can trigger symptoms. For example, when proteins and grains are eaten together, the grains start to ferment and cause gas. Also, as the combination slows the process down, proteins start to putrefy and cause toxins to be released into the system. Therefore, you may need to eliminate grains.

In many cases, feeding a very simple diet helps. Diets that seem to be beneficial are chicken and one vegetable, or ground meat and one vegetable. Some pets only do well when brown or white rice is added to the diet. In other cases a dry food containing beet pulp is beneficial because it hardens the stool.

Structure Meal Times

Feed small, frequent meals instead of one large one. Offer all food at room temperature for best digestion.

Recommended feeding schedule:

Breakfast: High quality pet food, raw or homemade food.

Lunch: High quality pet food, raw or homemade food.

Midday: Light Snack. Dinner: High quality pet food, raw or homemade food.

Before bed: Light snack.

Use Bottled Water

Toxic metals such as lead, copper, mercury, and aluminum are often found in drinking water and some pets are very sensitive to these metals.

Rule out a Parasite Infestation

A parasite infestation is a very common problem with dogs and cats. Symptoms of an infestation are -- vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, inability to absorb nutrients, bad breath, skin problems, chronic ear infections, yeast infections, foul odor to the stool, and many other minor and major ailments.

GIARDIA does cause Irritable Bowel Disease!

Giardia is a gastrointestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia. This is a common parasite causing gastrointestinal illness. It is found in the stools of many animals, including rodents, dogs, cats, cattle, and wild animals.

A Giardia infection can be acquired when your pet ingests food or water that has been contaminated with the parasite. It then multiplies in the small intestine. The infection can also be spread person-to-person when hands, which are contaminated with an infected person's stool, are brought in contact with the mouth. Swallowing as few as ten parasites can cause the infection.

Symptoms of Giardia include diarrhea, foul, greasy stools, abdominal cramps, bloating, increased gas, weakness, and weight loss. These symptoms are very similar to IBD symptoms so it is essential that your pet be tested for this parasite. This test is normally not done by your veterinarian, so you need to request it. This simple and inexpensive test can save you hundreds of dollars and invasive testing.

Giardia is usually diagnosed through a laboratory examination of a stool sample. Your veterinarian will forward the stool sample to a laboratory that will use a microscope to look for the parasite. Several stool samples need to be examined to detect the parasite.

If your pet is diagnosed with Giardia, always thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before meals, before preparing food, after having a bowel movement, after changing diapers, and after playing with your pet.

Eliminate Toxins in the House, Yard and on your Pet

Because IBD can be triggered by stress, it is important to put as little stress on the body as possible by avoiding toxins that may deplete the immune system.

Avoid the following:

  • Carpet powders.

  • Air fresheners.

  • Plastic bowls - All plastics release some undetectable fumes, especially when heated. This out-gassing means the fumes can pass into the foods that are served or stored in the bowl or container. Stainless steel or glass bowls are recommended.

  • Cheap ceramic bowls - Cause the same problem as described above.

  • Fumes from all bathroom cleaners.

  • Fumes from bleach.

  • Fumes from dusting products.

  • Toxic flea products - If the product states "Hazardous To Humans And Domestic Animals", it is hazardous to your

  • pet.

  • Toxic shampoos.

  • Toxic flea collars.

  • Paint fumes.

  • Paint chips from lead based paint.

  • Rawhides - Many are dipped in a solution of salt and bleach

  • Cheap painted pet toys

  • Red food dye.

  • Ethoxyquin.

For Pet Health does not recommend discontinuing traditional medications cold turkey or discontinuing them at all. This is YOUR decision based on how the following program works. We highly recommend you work closely with your veterinarian.

Although medications can be very effective, some may cause side effects that can eventually lead to other symptoms. Many pet owners are now looking into other methods of treating IBD.

If you are interested in treating your pet naturally, a phone consultation is recommended.  A consultation will include a personalized diet and holistic program suggestions, all custom-tailored to your pet's personal needs. This is particularly imperative in pets with complicated health issues, or if you've done outside reading and have conflicting information.


Contact For Pet Health today and get your loved one on the path to good health.  

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