‘My Dog has Irritable Bowel Disease’

October 18, 2020

When a puppy suffers from sickness and diarrhoea, it’s always a cause for concern. But what do you do when nothing seems to help and your puppy just doesn’t seem to be getting better? In this story, first-time dog owner Vaneeta shares her experience of caring for a dog with Irritable Bowel Disease – a disease of the gastrointestinal tract. 

Looking at him now, you’d never know that Enzo, my GSD furbaby suffers from a condition not fully understood by vets, that disguises itself as a number of other conditions. Nobody can identify the cause or reason why this condition occurs and all anyone can do is guess work through a list of possible issues and keep ticking them off one by one. 

Living with this condition is torture within itself as you’re helpless and constantly trying to work out what triggers it, what settles it and all the while your heart breaks because your poor puppy is suffering and there is nothing you can do to get through the process any quicker. Enzo was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) at just seven months old.

Gorgeous pup

I brought Enzo home at nine weeks old and I was in love from the second I laid eyes on him, even my mum who doesn’t like dogs couldn’t resist Enzo’s charm and he soon became everyone’s favourite family member. 

From the very beginning Enzo was disinterested in food and had diarrhoea. I called our vet who advised that it could have been due to the stress of the journey and settling into his new home with his new family but to try feeding him boiled chicken and rice and keep an eye on it – which I did. A few days passed and still no change and then Enzo began to vomit and so the frequent vet visits and hospital stays began. 

Over the course of five months Enzo was in and out of the vets, had to stay in hospital when he was too poorly to eat or drink and urgently needed rehydrating. He was put on a number of elimination diets, was tested for allergies, underwent a countless number of scans/x-rays and tests ruling out conditions such as kidney disease, pancreatitis, Addison’s Disease, Cushing’s Disease and so on… It was the worst experience ever for him and me! Not the experience I was hoping for and nor the life I wanted to give my new furbaby.

Fast forward to Enzo’s first Christmas and what should’ve been a happy time for us was one of the most horrible points of our journey together. Enzo went into the vets on Christmas Eve to have a gastrointestinal biopsy and to be tested for kidney failure where I was told if the test comes back positive for kidney failure Enzo would need to be put to sleep in the New Year – words that rang in my ears for days and every time I thought about it would bring tears to my eyes… 

At last, a diagnosis

But on the 2nd January 2019, I received the bittersweet news that it wasn’t kidney failure and that Enzo has IBD! This was great news because now we had something to work with, but we weren’t out of the woods yet as IBD is very difficult to manage in large dogs.

Enzo was put on metronidazole (a steroid based anti-inflammatory), I did loads of research, working with a leading canine nutritionist and trialling different foods but due to Enzo’s food allergies such as beef, rice, white fish, etc., commercial dog foods weren’t suitable and his stomach couldn’t sustain a home cooked supplemented diet. Eventually he settled on a single protein raw food diet.

Devastating relapse

Then in the summer, just after his 1st birthday, Enzo collapsed. He was unable to walk or stand, see or hear anything. We immediately picked him up and rushed him into hospital where after 24 hours of monitoring, testing and waiting we found out that Enzo had reacted to the medication he was on. 

“Every day is a win, every Christmas and birthday is a huge celebration and I don’t take anything for granted where Enzo is concerned.

Under the guidance of our faithful vet we stopped all meds, taught Enzo to walk, run and play again and not one to give up. I focused on managing Enzo’s condition through diet alone (which wasn’t guaranteed to work) but I am happy to report that it paid off. Enzo is now a healthy 40kgs, he leads a happy and full life, he’s even travelled to Ireland – with many other post-pandemic trips planned – and we take nothing for granted. Every day is a win, every Christmas and birthday is a huge celebration and I don’t take anything for granted where Enzo is concerned.

What is Inflammatory bowel disease? 

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is when a dog’s stomach and/or intestine becomes home to an unusually high number of inflammatory cells. These cells cause changes in the lining of the digestive tract, which prevent the normal absorption and passage of food. 

Typical symptoms: vomiting is a common sign if the inflammation is affecting a dog’s stomach and/or upper intestine. Long-term, diarrhoea that may contain blood or mucus caused by inflammation of the colon. A loss of appetite, low mood and/or weight loss are also other signs. Clinical signs come and go, and sometimes like in Enzo’s case the entire gastrointestinal tract can be affected.