Goals of Treating Colitis
Treatment of colitis is directed toward resolving the underlying condition or conditions that are causing the colon to become inflamed. Most cases of canine colitis, which is inflammation of the middle portion of the large intestine, can be treated on an out-patient basis. However, if prolonged diarrhea and/or vomiting have caused severe dehydration, the dog may need to be hospitalized so that intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy can take place.
Fasting for 24 to 48 hours is a common initial part of treatment. This is typically followed by the slow introduction of a high fiber diet – especially if the dog is suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. High-fiber diets can increase stool bulk, bind fecal water and improve the contractility of the muscles of the colon so as to increase motility and normalize the quality of the stool. Diets with novel proteins, such as duck, fish or venison, are increasingly commercially available and can be beneficial in cases of colitis that are caused by food allergies.
A proper course of broad spectrum antibiotics usually will resolve colitis that is caused by a bacterial infection. Anti-parasitic medications, called anthelmintics, are available to treat intestinal parasites. There currently is no known treatment for the blue-green algae disorder caused by Prototheca. In some cases, anti-inflammatory and/or immunosuppressive drugs may be prescribed to affected dogs; these may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids. So-called motility modifiers – medications that are designed to decrease diarrhea and firm up the stool – can be administered for symptomatic relief, although they will not resolve or contribute to a “cure” of the condition.
In severe cases, if portions of the colon have become badly damaged by inflammation and scarring, surgical removal and reconstruction may be necessary. This is called surgical resection and anastamosis. Thankfully, most cases of canine colitis are self-limiting, which means that they resolve on their own with only supportive care and minimal medical treatment.
Dogs with infectious causes of colitis typically have a very good to excellent prognosis with appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Dogs with Prothotheca colitis, which is caused by a blue-green algae infection, have a guarded to grave prognosis, as there presently is no effective treatment for that condition. Dogs with colitis from other causes have a mixed prognosis, depending upon the nature and severity of their condition.