IBS In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is an annoying cluster of intermittent gastro-intestinal issues and symptoms. It’s usually diagnosed once other conditions or intolerances have been ruled out. 

Many humans suffer from IBS symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and flatulence during flare-ups – leading sufferers to change their lifestyle and diet to keep symptoms at bay. 

But can dogs get IBS too?

Can Dogs Get IBS?

Yes, Irritable bowel syndrome in dogs is a thing. Frustratingly, it’s only diagnosed through exclusion of other symptoms and conditions, and sometimes IBS doesn’t really feel like the answer we are looking for. 

Symptoms of IBS in dogs persist, with no easy explanation, and no clear treatment plan. 

Understanding IBS in dogs, its symptoms, and treating this condition, tends to be more holistic than in clear-cut conditions with a single cause. 

What Causes IBS In Dogs?

As in humans, the cause of IBS in dogs is unclear. It’s usually a diagnosis made once other conditions associated with gut or abdominal issues, such as worms, colitis or food intolerance, have been ruled out.

Consider ultrasounds, an intestinal biopsy, blood tests, faeces culture and PCR testing viruses before accepting this diagnosis. You might wish to seek another opinion as well. 

If symptoms persist, IBS could be the culprit behind your dog’s discomfort. 

Some think the cause of IBS symptoms in dogs is hitherto undiscovered parasites, or undiagnosed food intolerances, particularly to ingredients like wheat and corn, which are often used in commercial dog food.

Mis-diagnosed IBS can also be an intolerance to artificial additives like colourings and preservatives. 

Stress can also negatively impact gastro-intestinal health, as can a lack of dietary fibre, which is essential for bowel health in your dog. 

Signs and Symptoms Of IBS In Dogs

The symptoms of IBS in dogs are similar to the symptoms of IBS in humans. 

The classic symptoms are intermittent bouts of diarrhoea or constipation, or passing mucus-containing poo.

Other symptoms include flatulence, vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, or general signs that your dog is unhappy and has a sensitive stomach. 

IBS symptoms in dogs can come and go over time, or flare up occasionally. If they are happening on a daily basis, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) could be to blame instead. 

How To Treat IBS In Dogs

When humans are diagnosed with IBS, the first advice is to keep a food diary tracking symptoms. You can do this with your dog, too. Do their symptoms flare up when they eat certain foods?

Is there a particular time of day when they flare up? You may notice certain foods or food groups lead to flare ups, and you can try reducing or eliminating these foods to see whether your dog’s symptoms persist or lessen.

Conversely, make sure your dog’s diet is rich in everything they need, including plenty of dietary fibre to keep their bowels moving. 

Your dog’s overall health may play a role in governing their gut health, too. Make sure your dog is not missing out on essential nutrients, for example omega 3s have been linked to reduced inflammation.

Our Wolf Fish Flattie Treats are packed with protein and omega 3’s and 6’s, and will also help your dog’s coat shine

In severe cases of stomach upset and varying symptoms that do not respond to dietary changes, medication may be required to treat diarrhoea or constipation.

Your vet may also recommend a course of probiotics to restore the gut flora

Remembering that stress can wreak havoc on your dog’s bowel, reduce your dog’s stress by keeping them active and entertained.

Don’t skimp on your time, love, and daily walks. .

How Serious is IBS in Dogs?

While IBS can be uncomfortable and distressing for dogs, it is not considered life-threatening and generally has no effect on their life expectancy.

It is important to get to the root of the problem and manage the disorder as, if left untreated, irritable bowel syndrome can significantly impact a dog's quality of life.

What is the Difference Between IBS and IBD in Dogs?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are two different gastrointestinal conditions that affect dogs but can be easily confused due to their similar names and symptoms.

However, it is important to learn the difference as these conditions have different causes and treatment.

IBS affects the gastrointestinal system but doesn’t cause visible inflammation. This condition can usually be treated with dietary modifications and stress reduction.

IBD causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, is typically caused by an abnormal response of the immune system and can be diagnosed through a biopsy.

Treatment of IBD can include dietary changes too but it can also be managed with immunosuppressive medications.

Diarrhoea is a symptom of both conditions in dogs, however it is intermittent in IBS and much more persistent in IBD.

IBS is more likely to occur in episodes in dogs whilst IBD is a chronic disease that requires lifelong management.

What Are the Most Common Food Triggers for Dogs with IBS?

Whilst there are many different causes of IBS, undiagnosed food intolerances could be causing an IBS flare up in your dog. 

Though every dog is different, some common food triggers include high-fat foods, dairy products, certain proteins, grains and low quality dog food that contains additives, preservatives and artificial colours. 

A food diary can help you to zero in on possible allergies and find out what your dog’s sensitivities are.

How do Vets Diagnose IBS in dogs?

As the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are similar in many other digestive disorders, it can make diagnosis challenging.
As a result, IBS in dogs is often diagnosed after ruling out other potential causes.

This can involve your vet carrying out a physical examination and taking a medical history of your dog that includes an enquiry into their diet, symptoms and any changes in behaviour or environment.

They may also carry out faecal examination to rule out parasites or bacterial infections as well as blood tests to rule out conditions such as liver or kidney disease.

X-rays or ultrasound imaging and biopsies can also be involved in the process if required and dietary trials will help to identify any food intolerances.

If all other causes are ruled out and your dog's symptoms improve with dietary and lifestyle changes, a diagnosis of IBS may be made.

What Is The Best Dog Food For IBS In Dogs?

The best dog food for IBS in dogs is preservative and additive free, protein rich and made with fresh, carefully sourced ingredients

Avoid processed, commercial dog food and kibble, instead opting for natural formulas, free of preservatives. Play it safe by avoiding common allergens and unhealthy fillers like wheat and gluten.

Table scraps may be off the menu, too, at least until you and your dog figure out what is aggravating their gut. 

Homemade food for dogs with IBS will certainly be better than most commercially available options.

Go for rice or sweet potatoes. Protein is important too, but we recommend feeding your dog leaner meat like chicken or turkey. Grain-free formulas tend to be best for sensitive stomachs. 

At Pets Love Fresh we have included fibre-rich brown rice in our complete nutrition formula, which is supportive of gut health and good digestion.

We have also included eggs, an easy-to-digest protein, as well as offering a variety of meats to suit different tastes and stomachs.

Cycle between our formulas to find out which is more appropriate for your dog – our chicken dog food may be best suited for a dog with a sensitive tummy.

Try a taster pack and see if your dog agrees!