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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease




Condition Overview

This is a group of diseases of the small and large intestines, characterized by chronic and protracted diarrhea, malabsorption, weight loss, anemia, and malnutrition. They are treatable, but seldom cured.


Symptoms for this group include chronic and protracted diarrhea, malabsorption, weight loss, anemia, and malnutrition.


Lymphocytic-Plasmatic Enterocolitis

Lymphocytic-Plasmatic Enterocolitis is the most common inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. Lymphocytic-Plasmatic Enterocolitis has been associated with giardiasis, food allergy, and overgrowth of intestinal bacteria. lymphocytes and plasma cells are the target cells seen on biopsy.

Certain breeds are predisposed, suggesting a genetic influence. These breeds are basenji, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, German Shepherd, and Chinese Shar-Pei. In the Basenji, the disease is known to be related to an autoimmune disorder. While signs can show up in younger dogs, most dogs are middle aged when diarrhea starts.

Lymphocytic-Plasmatic Enterocolitis produces a small bowel type of diarrhea. Vomiting is common. Involvement of the colon produces colitis.

Eosinophilic Enterocolitis

Eosinophilic Enterocolitis is a relatively uncommon form of inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. On biopsy, eosinophils may be found in the stomach, small intestine, or colon, and the eosinophil count in the blood may be elevated. Some cases are thought to be associated with food allergy or the tissue migration of roundworms and hookworms.

Granulomatous (Regional) Enteritis

This is a rare disease, similar to Crohn's Disease in humans. There is thickening and narrowing of the terminal small bowel die to inflammation of surrounding fat and lymph nodes. Mactophages, which are cells found in tissues that fight infections, are found on biopsy of the colon. The diarrhea is the chronic large bowel type, containing mucus and blood. Biopsies are processed with special stains to exclude histoplasmosis and intestinal tuberculosis.

Neutrophilic Enterocolitis

Neutrophilic Enterocolitis produces acute and chronic large bowel diarrhea. The inflammatory infiltrate is composed of mature white cells in the tissues and blood vessels. Diagnosis is based on a colon biopsy and stool cultures to exclude bacterial infection.

Histiocytic Ulcerative Colitis

Histiocytic Ulcerative Colitis occurs almost exclusively in Boxers. Signs usually appear before age 2. Affected dogs develop severe, unrelenting diarrhea that contains mucus and blood, and corresponding weight loss. The diagnosis is based on a colon biopsy.


Diagnosis is made by endoscopy and biopsy of the intestinal wall, or by exploratory surgery.


Lymphocytic-Plasmatic Enterocolitis is an illness for which the realistic goal is control, not cure. Hypoallergenic diets bring about partial or complete resolution of symptoms in some dogs. Hypoallergenic diets are recommended as is comparing the label of a special prescription diet food to a similar premium brand to locate the best food for your pet. The premium brands often offer higher quality ingredients at a lower cost than the "special" prescription diet foods.

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial overgrowth and giardiasis. Immunosuppressant drugs such as azathioprine (Imuran) and/or prednisone are used if other treatments are not successful.

Eosinophilic Enterocolitis: High-dose corticosteroids are used to treat this disease. They are tapered off as symptoms diminish. The dog should be tested for intestinal parasites and placed on a hypoallergenic diet.

Granulomatous (Regional) Enteritis: Treatment involves the use of corticosteroids and immunosupressive drugs to reduce the inflammation and scarring. A course of metronidazole may be of benefit. A strictured bowel (An abnormal narrowing or tightening of the bowel) requires surgery.

Neutrophilic Enterocolitis: Antibiotics and/or corticosteroids are used to control the disease.

Histiocytic Ulcerative Colitis: Treatment is similar to that described for lymphocytic-plasmacytuc enterocolitis.


There is no prevention for these conditions.


Please contact your veterinarian if you suspect your pet may have this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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