Colitis in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Colitis in dogs can have many causes and refers to inflammation of the colon, part of the large intestine. Find out all you need to know about the possible symptoms and treatment options with this guide.
colitis in dogs
colitis in dogs
colitis in dogs

If you suspect your dog has colitis, keep reading to find out about the symptoms of colitis in dogs and the current treatment options available.

What is colitis in dogs?

Colitis in dogs refers to inflammation of a section of the large intestine, called the colon. This will often cause soft faeces or diarrhoea, which can contain fresh blood and mucus. You may also notice your dog straining to defecate. There are several underlying causes of colitis, and while many cases resolve quickly, longer-term, severe or recurrent cases may need diagnostics to help get to the root of the problem.  

What causes colitis in dogs?

Colitis in dogs can be caused by a large range of underlying processes that lead to inflammation of the colon. The cause is sometimes difficult to ascertain but the following can be factors in the development of the condition:

  • Stress

  • Eating something unusual or a foreign body

  • A gut infection

  • Worms and other parasites

  • Food allergies

  • Auto-immune diseases

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Injury or damage to colon

  • Pancreatitis

Symptoms of colitis in dogs

The symptoms can vary from dog to dog, but the most typical signs are:

  • Softer, more frequent faeces

  • Faeces containing fresh blood and/or mucus

  • Pain when passing faeces

  • Repeated straining which can be mistaken for Constipation

  • Lack of interest in food or unusual eating habits

  • Weight loss

  • Increased flatulence

  • Lethargy

These symptoms may arise suddenly (acute), or they can last for several weeks and even be recurring (chronic).

Diagnosing colitis in dogs

If you suspect your dog has colitis, contact your vet for advice and to book an appointment. Your vet may request a stool sample which can be tested for certain underlying causes of colitis, such as the presence of intestinal parasites. Bring a fresh sample in a clean, sealed container.

Depending on the symptoms you have noticed, and the vet’s findings on clinical examination, further diagnostic tests may be required. These can include blood tests to screen for potential causes. In more severe cases, X-rays and/or ultrasounds may be carried out to look for possible foreign bodies or obstructions in the digestive tract. Colonoscopies or colon biopsies may be required to try and identify the cause of the colitis.

colitis in dogs treatment

There are many medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms to colitis, and the vet may suggest tests to rule some of these in or out.

Colitis in dogs treatment

Treatment will depend on the suspected underlying cause of inflammation. In mild cases of colitis, your vet will often advise feeding a higher fibre diet for a few of days to see whether this is sufficient to resolve the symptoms. If symptoms persist, or your dog has more severe or recurrent colitis, the vet is likely to advise diagnostic tests to help identify potential underlying causes.

Colitis in dogs can be caused by intestinal parasites, and a vet will prescribe a worming treatment if this is suspected. Other treatment options may include anti-inflammatory medication, antimicrobials or probiotics.

If your dog is prescribed medication to treat the colitis, always make sure you follow the course as instructed. If you don’t, there’s a risk that the colitis will return even if symptoms initially appear improved. Never give your dog medication that has not been prescribed by the vet – in particular some types of anti-inflammatories known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can make the condition much worse.

Preventing colitis in dogs

Colitis in dogs often starts to resolve within a few days of following veterinary advice. However, if your dog is prone to recurrent colitis, there are a few things you can do to prevent it in the future. If dietary irritation is thought to be the root of the problem, consider teaching them the ‘leave it’ command in order to prevent scavenging.

Your vet may also advise a slow and steady diet change – with the best option to suit your dog and their dietary needs. Always be sure to worm regularly to prevent parasite related issues.

That’s our guide to colitis in dogs! Is your dog suffering from a different dog illness with similar symptoms? It may be gastroenteritis in dogs instead! Find out all about it with our guide, next.