When dogs are suffering an illness that affects their digestive system, the food we give can either hinder or help. This article will discuss the effect IBD has and how food can be used to manage the symptoms.
What is inflammatory bowel disease?
IBD is a condition that many people suffer from. It affects dogs in the same way. IBD is a condition of the digestive system whereby inflammatory cells are present in the lining of the intestines. These changes inhibit the absorption of nutrients and the normal passage of food through the digestive tract.
The exact cause of IBD is not known, but experts speculate it could be due to allergies, bacteria, parasites or a faulty immune system. It is important to note that IBD and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) are two separate conditions. Although many of the symptoms are similar, IBS is caused by psychological stress rather than a physical abnormality.
Symptoms of IBD include vomiting after eating and chronic diarrhea. This may include blood or mucus due to the swelling in the intestines. Loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, lethargy and fever are also common symptoms.
If your dog’s veterinarian suspects IBD they will need to perform a biopsy. Other tests may include blood work, ultrasound, fecal examination and radiographs.
Any dog can suffer from IBD, however, the breeds that seem particularly susceptible are German Shepherds, Wheaten Terriers and Shar Peis.
What to feed a dog with inflammatory bowel disease
When it comes to choosing a suitable food, wet is better as it is easier to breakdown and gentler on the digestive tract, however, many dried foods seem to be much better balanced in terms of nutrients and supplemented vitamins. Choose a dog food that does not contain any grains as they are quite difficult to digest.
1. Solid Gold Sunday Sunrise Lamb, Sweet Potato and Pea
Although this food is dry kibble, it is packed full of natural ingredients that support gut health. This holistic pet food – America’s first – includes two protein meats of Lamb and Ocean fish meal. Both are easy to digest and should not cause any IBD flare-ups. Additionally, the recipe includes sweet potato, carrot, blueberries, pea and salmon oil (among other ingredients) that are packed full of essential vitamins, minerals and probiotics.
2. Halo Holistic Chicken and Chicken Liver
Another dry food, Halo’s dog food is made from chicken meat and no chicken meal. Fresh chicken meat is much easier to digest than the dried chicken meal. The company never uses GMO fruits or vegetables and their ingredients are sustainably sourced. Having only one protein source means it is easy to track your dog’s IBD flare-ups.
3. Holistic Select Turkey and Lentils
This food is grain-free which is great for sensitive stomachs and avoids IBD flare-ups. Turkey is easy to digest and is just as nutritious as chicken. Holistic Select does not use any animal by-products, wheat, gluten, artificial colors or preservatives. The recipe contains flaxseed which provides beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and is fortified with prebiotics and probiotics to support healthy gut bacteria.
Natural remedies for inflammatory bowel disease in dogs
More focus has been placed on natural remedies in recent years as a support to prescription medication. There are lots of different remedies that can help to manage the symptoms of IBD in dogs.
The most common is choosing a raw food diet rather than processed dog food. By feeding raw, you are ensuring that all the ingredients are fresh, locally sourced and not mixed with anything artificial. It is also easier to remove ingredients that cause your dog to suffer flare-ups.
Stick to protein sources that are easy to digest such as chicken and turkey. Include organ meats such as kidneys, but only feed liver once per week as it can cause diarrhea if fed in large quantities. Boost your dog’s immune system by feeding broccoli, carrot, peas, sweet potato, pumpkin, bananas, apples and blueberries. These foods are all high in essential nutrients that will support your dog’s gut health.
It may help to mince the meat you offer and dice fruits and veggies into small pieces to make digestion that bit easier.
You can also supplement their food by adding coconut oil or salmon oil. Both are great for healthy skin and providing omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs boost riboflavin and the shells are high in calcium.
Your veterinarian may suggest Chinese herbal remedies if they are certified in that area. alternatively, they can suggest suitable home remedies that will not cause irritation to your dog’s bowel during digestion.
Many dog owners have noted that acupuncture has resulted in a reduction of their dog’s IBD flare-ups and many vets recommend the treatment for their patients. Consult your veterinarian for a referral or search for local holistic veterinarians. They must be listed in a Holistic Veterinary association directory.
Recent evidence supports the beneficial effects of several herbs such as turmeric, clove and cinnamon oil. Turmeric contains a compound called Curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties, while cloves and cinnamon oil suppresses levels of chemicals and soluble mediators that affect inflammation.
You can also supplement your dog’s food with probiotics if his dog food is not already fortified with them. Probiotics block the pathogenic effect of other bacteria present in the gut. They also improve immune function, promote cell survival and stimulate protective responses of the bowel.
Plantain is another good food to supplement as it has an active component that reduces intestinal inflammation and mucosal tissue damage.
The most important thing to remember is that natural remedies are not always supported by scientific data. Always consult your veterinarian before introducing natural remedies to your dog. You should also only give one at a time to ensure they do not cause any adverse reactions.