If your dogs has been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, the best way you can help is simplifying their diet. Luckily, you can introduce easy dietary changes that make a big difference for your IBD dog. It's all about eliminating ingredients and controlling their intake. Find out the best diets to try, and how you can help your dog lead a normal, healthy life.
How Diet Can Help Treat IBD in Dogs
Dogs with IBD have with a chronic syndrome that causes their gastrointestinal tract to constantly deal with inflammation. This makes digesting and absorbing nutrients difficult, if not impossible. The goal of changing your dog's diet is to reduce how much work their GI tract is doing, which reduces irritation and inflammation in your dog's body.
Don't get discouraged if making dietary changes doesn't work immediately. It's going to be a trial-and-error process. Sometimes, you will get lucky on the first try, but that's a rare occasion.
Providing five to six meals per day may also help your dog's digestive tract. Feeding smaller portions more frequently can help manage the symptoms of IBD.
1. Highly Digestible Diets
One common recommendation you'll hear from your vet involves feeding a highly digestible diet. Search for a diet that is formulated to control diarrhea and vomiting. Fiber and fat can be harder for your dog to consume and process than others if they have IBD. Offer foods high in moisture, whether that's wet food or raw food, to help your dog digest food easier.
2. Minimial Ingredient Diets
For dogs living with IBD, a diet that includes few ingredients - many commercial diets designed for dogs with IBD have only three ingredients - could be the key to reducing their symptoms. You can find high-quality diets with fewer additives and limited ingredients in your local pet store, talk to your vet about a prescription diet like Hill's, or you can try feeding raw with limited ingredients to try to figure out what's agitating your dog's digestion.
3. Novel Protein Diet
Since common proteins, such as those found in dairy, chicken, and beef, can cause IBD flare-ups, some veterinarians recommend a novel protein diet. This means they may try to introduce a protein your dog has never had before in the hopes the body will respond positively. A novel protein diet also allows you to introduce one food at a time to determine what your dog is or is not allergic to.
4. Hydrolyzed Diets for Dogs
Hydrolyzed diets can be used as a temporary solution to relieve the inflammation in your dog's gut. This chemical process breaks down proteins so your dog's immunse system can't "see" them, and thus doesn't react to the protein. However, this isn't a diet that should be used forever. Nearly all hydrolyzed dog foods are available by prescription.
Since it's not as appealing as regular dog food, your dog may not want anything to do with hydrolyzed dog food. Most pet parents struggle to get their dog to eat this type of food. If your dog does decide they want to eat hydrolyzed food, there isn't as much nutritional value due to the process the food goes through during manufacture. As a result, you may go from an IBD flare-up, to temporary improvement, then persistent diarrhea with this diet type.
5. High-Fiber Options
A diet that is high in fiber can also be helpful. A non-fermentable kind of fiber can help move food through your dog's digestive tract, reducing the risk of diarrhea. Since the non-fermentable fiber helps pass waste, it can also reduce stored toxins. The fermentable form of dietary fiber provides nourishment to the beneficial bacteria in your dog's gut while reducing the bad bacteria.
The easiest way to add dietary fiber to your dog's diet is to put a topper on their food - this is when you mix in a fiber source into their bowl when you feed them. Canned pumpkin with no added sugars or ingredients, cooked brown rice, some wheatgerm, steamed vegetables, or berries can all help. However, you will probably want to switch dog foods to a high-fiber option if this helps your dog.
Provide fresh, clean water at all times to help move food through your dog's digestive tract.
6. Supplements That Can Help
There are times where supplements aren't necessary, but in this case, the right supplements can be beneficial. Supplements dog lovers have found to be helpful include:
Offering omega-3 fatty acids can increase the absorption of nutrients, decrease inflammation, and decrease the workload on your dog's body. Opt for a high-quality fish oil supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids. Alternatively, you can offer your dog small, oily fish like sardines stored in water a couple of times per week.
Many gastrointestinal problems are caused by an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. In order for dogs to be healthy, they need a good ratio of both. Probiotics, the good bacteria, can help restore balance in the gut leading to fewer complications.
Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast-based strain, is the probiotic strand most commonly recommended by holistic veterinarians. This strain is resistant to antibiotics, can reduce the likelihood of diarrhea, and help your dog's stomach feel better over time. This strain may also aid in the healing of the intestinal lining which is helpful for dogs experiencing IBD-related symptoms.
If you have gut problems yourself, you may have heard of this one. Psyllium is a soluble fiber that absorbs water in the intestines, which helps the intestines move food through. This is one that should be carefully monitored though, as too much of it could cause a flare-up. It's all about balance.
Tips for What Works Best
To help you along the way, here are some tips on what we have found works best:
- Keep a journal of foods that do and do not irritate your dog's stomach. It's easy to forget what works and what doesn't. Plus, your vet will thank you.
- Jot down the brands you have used in the past that didn't agree with your dog's gut.
- Don't make sudden changes. Instead, adjust your dog's diet to different or new foods slowly to minimize stomach upset.
What to Avoid
The following list of foods is not exhaustive, but it does include some of the most common ingredients that can cause problems for dogs with inflammatory bowel disease.
Dairy products: Dogs with IBD often have difficulty digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk, yogurt and ice cream. They may also be allergic to casein, another protein found in dairy products. If your dog has IBD, you should eliminate all dairy products from their diet.
Corn and wheat: These grains are often used as fillers in commercial dog food. Even if you're feeding your dog a diet that claims to be grain-free diet, they may still be consuming these ingredients.
Sugar: Sugar can irritate the lining of your dog's intestines and make symptoms worse.
Rawhide: While it is commonly available, rawhide isn't even healthy for the average dog, but absolutely should not be provided to a dog with IBD.
Take Your Time
Finding the right diet for your dog with IBD will take some time. Try not to get discouraged. Work with your veterinarian or canine nutritionist to find a diet that works best for your individual dog. And remember, what works for one dog may not work for another. If your neighbor's dog has IBD, their dog can probably eat foods your dog can't, and vice versa.