Dogs and cats who have continuous inflammation in their bowels are often diagnosed with IBD or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This condition generally causes excessive vomiting, diarrhea, and/or weight loss. IBD is diagnosed by collecting tissue samples from your pet’s intestinal tract using ultrasound, but surgery or endoscopy (looking inside with a microscope) may be necessary in cases where the veterinary professional needs an extra view.
Regardless of how it’s described, your pet is in pain if she is diagnosed with IBD. According to Dr. Gary Richter, “IBD is very similar to the condition in humans known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Some pets are responsive to diet changes, while others are not. For the latter, long-term antibiotics and steroids are often recommended. In my experience, many of these pets can be helped greatly through complementary and alternative care with minimal long-term pharmaceuticals (1).”
WHAT IS IBD?
When a dog or cat has IBD, their bowels and gastrointestinal tract are inflamed (1).
There are two types of IBD in pets. Their names can be a bit overwhelming but try not to focus on the actual names; we are simply educating you so you’re aware of the two kinds. They are Lymphoplasmacytic IBD and Eosinophilic IBD. Lymphoplasmacytic IBD is the most common affecting the small intestine, stomach, and colon of your pet.
(NOTE: we explain a little of what Lymphoplasmacytic IBD is and no more mention of Eosinophilic IBD. I think we need a small description of both since we mention the 2 types).
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS IN DOGS AND CATS?
The symptoms of IBD are similar in dogs and cats. Some of the most common include (1):
- Frequent diarrhea: diarrhea with blood or mucous shows there is a problem in the large intestine
- Constipation: Constipation is most often seen in Manx and older cats
- Vomiting: Vomiting may lead veterinarians to believe there is an obstruction somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract
- Weight loss: Weight loss occurs due to the lack of absorption of nutrients. There may not be a sufficient amount of nutrients being taken in by the body.
- Decrease or Increase in Appetite: An increased appetite may mean your cat or dog is not receiving nutrients to their body and may be indicative of an underlying health condition like Cushing’s Disease. A decreased appetite may be indicative of pain, nausea, or general discomfort.
- Abdominal pain and spasms
These symptoms can vary in duration, and your pet may only have one or two symptoms.
If you suspect that your pet is experiencing these symptoms, you should seek veterinary help. It is possible for the inflammation to cause partial or fully undigested food into the gut, which may reach the bloodstream, which is why diagnosis is so important.
WHAT CAUSES IBD?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease can be found in both dogs and cats and with the ultimate cause being unknown. Research has found there are certain items that contribute to IBD including (1):
- Bacteria in the Gut: Fecal cultures can find bad (pathogenic) bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract
- Lowered Immune System
- Parasites: Ova, parasite, and giardia tests are conducted to look for common parasitic diseases
- Genetics: It could be in their genes. Just as every person is different, every pet is different, as is their genetic makeup
IS IBD THE SAME THING AS IBS?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have different causes but have very similar results.
IBS is not caused by inflammation but is caused most commonly by stress and anxiety. These are often used interchangeably, and treatment may be similar (for example, CBD can help lower the stress and anxiety and can be a positive treatment option for both conditions), but they are not the same.
HOW CAN I TREAT IBD?
The conventional medical treatment involves a change in nutrition. There are prescription diets available in response to dogs and cats being diagnosed with IBD. Commercial diets are tailored toward pets with chronic diarrhea and/or vomiting (2).
Since there is no definitive answer to treating IBD in our pets, the overall goal of veterinarians is to determine what can be done to reduce the symptoms of IBD. Finding a diet a dog or cat can live a relatively normal life with is the key here. There are a couple of methods used to manage the diet:
- Switching temporarily to a bland diet. This will allow the gut to heal and ‘reset.’
- Limit the ingredients in their food by switching to a novel protein diet. These diets use protein and carbohydrate sources you can’t find in commercial dog food. Dogs and cats are less likely to react to food they haven’t had before.
According to Dr. Gary Richter, “this is why you’ll find unusual combinations like duck and potato or venison and green pea. I once had a client feeding canned beaver to her dog (1)!”
Does CBD Help?
One of the safest and best options available is CBD for dogs and cats. CBD is an anti-inflammatory and works with the endocannabinoid system to restore homeostasis (balance in the body). CBD has been shown to increase blood flow to the stomach lining and promote a more gradual digestive process.
Unlike many medications for IBD, CBD does not require a prescription nor does it require extensive, costly, stressful visits to the veterinarian to refill. There are also no negative side-effects when using CBD. Some medications can treat the IBD but may cause new problems in the liver or kidneys. However, the only side effect associated with CBD is that your pet may become a little bit sleepy.
If you have decided to continue the journey with CBD, it’s important to understand how to administer it. For the fastest and most thorough absorption, lift your dog or cat’s lip and apply directly to her gums. This results in CBD connecting with the bloodstream quicker. If you add the CBD oil to food, it may not be as effective and will take significantly longer to make it’s way to the gastrointestinal tract. Check out this page for more info about dosing and administration.
(1) Dr. Gary Richter. 2017. The Ultimate Pet Health Guide. Book.
(2) Hand, M.S., et.al., eds, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th ed. Topeka, KS. Mark Morris Institute.
About Angela Ardolino
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years and operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. She is also the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, she founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. Angela has seven dogs, Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle, Potato a 15-year-old shih-tzu, and Miss Daisie a 15-year-old black lab, plus 4-10 more at any time she is fostering or boarding. She uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day, and has since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Veterinary Cannabis Association and has trained hundreds medical doctors and veterinarians about the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit www.angelaardolino.com for more information.
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Written by Amber at cbddoghealth.com