Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

How Colitis Affects Dogs

Colitis, which simply means inflammation of the colon, is reportedly responsible for up to thirty to fifty percent of the cases of chronic diarrhea in domestic dogs. The colon is the center portion of the large intestine, located between the cecum (the first part) and the rectum (the last part). When the colon become inflamed for whatever reason, substances called inflammatory cytokines begin to accumulate there, disrupting the normal cellular structure and junctions of colonic tissues. This stimulates secretion of mucus and other substances from the large intestinal lining and adversely affects normal gut motility. As a result, the colon’s ability to properly absorb water and process feces is compromised, causing profuse diarrhea that often is mixed with mucus and/or frank (fresh) red blood. It is difficult to speculate about what a dog with colitis is feeling. However, based on reports from people suffering from this disorder, it is safe to say that there is a significant amount of discomfort and pain associated with the condition.

Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs

The observable hallmarks of canine colitis include one or more of the following clinical signs:

  • Profuse watery diarrhea, usually containing fresh red blood and mucus
  • Semi-formed feces
  • Passage of frequent, small amounts of liquid to semi-formed fecal matter
  • Painful defecation
  • Straining to defecate; especially prolonged after defecation (tenesmus; may be mistaken for constipation)
  • Squatting to defecate
  • Passage of gas (flatulence)
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite (inappetence; anorexia; not common)
  • Weight loss (also not common)

Basically, dogs with colitis from whatever cause probably are suffering from varying degrees of lower intestinal cramping and nausea. The persistent diarrhea can cause secondary inflammation, redness and irritation of the tissues surrounding the anus.

Dogs at Increased Risk

Some Boxers are predisposed to developing histiocytic ulcerative colitis, which is one of the several diseases that can be part of a syndrome called inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. Boxers usually develop symptoms of this type of colitis by 2 years of age. German Shepherd Dogs are predisposed to developing lymphocytic-plasmacytic enterocolitis. Irritable bowel syndrome, one of the more common causes of canine colitis, is a gut motility disorder that is frequently associated with stress in nervous, high-strung dogs. Young dogs seem especially predisposed to developing colitis as a result of dietary indiscretion, also called “garbage gut.” Free-roaming outdoor dogs obviously have increased opportunities to eat things that they shouldn’t, and subsequently to develop colitis as a result of their inappropriate eating habits.

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