Irritable Bowel Syndrome in dogs: the signs, and what to do

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Barking Heads has engaged their Vet Dr Scott Miller and their dog Behaviourist Adem Fehmi to talk about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in dogs…

Like humans, IBS is a condition that affects the digestive system in dogs, giving them an upset stomach. While it is an uncommon issue in dogs, any dog can be affected. Breed, sex and age do not change the chances of your pup getting IBS, so your small breed puppy has the same chances of having an IBS episode as a large breed senior dog. In dogs that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, it can cause diarrhoea, constipation and vomiting due to irregular function of their intestinal muscles.

What causes irritable bowel syndrome in dogs?

There isn’t one definitive trigger for irritable bowel syndrome in dogs, as it can be set off by genetics or environmental stimulants like stress or food allergies. So, making sure your dog is getting the proper nutrition is key for their general health. A dog’s IBS can also be triggered by bacterial infections or irritation in the bowel from obstructions in the intestines. To narrow down the cause, make sure to book an appointment with your vet.

puppy in garden

What are the symptoms of IBS in dogs?

When it comes to the symptoms, you can notice physical and behavioural changes that may signify your dog is suffering. Not all of these symptoms are exclusive to IBS, though, making it harder for a vet to determine if your dog is experiencing the condition.

Top 10 IBS symptoms in dogs

  •   Diarrhoea
  •   Constipation
  •   Abdominal pain
  •   Vomiting
  •   Flatulence
  •   Loss of appetite
  •   Dehydration
  •   Weight loss
  •   Poor coat quality

Some behavioural changes you may notice when a dog is suffering from irritable bowel syndrome are that your dog may seem more emotionally sensitive than usual and have less energy, and want to rest more than usual.

Dog behaviourist for Barking Heads, Adem Fehmi, shares these tips to spot the signs of a sad dog and reduce the stressors in your environment for them.

“Dogs can become anxious, stressed and develop a low mood for a number of reasons. Some key factors can be a lack of exercise for their individual needs, a change in routine, a new environment that they are not used to, or even a trigger or event that has caused them to lose their confidence.

“Some dogs are prone to becoming stressed with even the slightest change to their usual day to day, whilst others may take change in their stride. Signs of stress, anxiety and low mood in dogs can include:

  •         A tucked up body and/or tail
  •         Cowering
  •         Ears pulled back
  •         Whale eye – where the whites of their eyes can be seen
  •         Panting or hyperventilating
  •         Shaking or trembling
  •         Actively trying to avoid something/someone/a place
  •         Generally being agitated
  •         Becoming reactive to people, dogs or the environment in general
  •         Reluctance to carry out their normal activities
  •         Reluctance to eat
  •         Inability to settle and relax
  •         Becoming withdrawn or quieter than usual

These are just a few signs to look out for. All dogs will behave slightly differently when they are stressed or have developed a low mood. It is unlikely that a dog would display all of these symptoms and it is important to observe your individual dog carefully and know their typically behaviour in order to ascertain if your dog may be anxious, stressed or is suffering from a low mood.”

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