One of the most frustrating concerns a pet owner can encounter is diarrhea. While there can be many causes of diarrhea, one of the most common is colitis. Colitis is inflammation of the colon, or large intestine. It is a quite common issue seen in pets. Thankfully, when the cause of this condition is accurately diagnosed by your veterinarian, it can often be treated very quickly and effectively.
Symptoms of colitis include:
• Increased frequency of needing to defecate
• Increased urgency of defecation- often leads to accidents in the house and unhappy owners!
• Straining to defecate
• Producing small amounts of stool at a time
• Blood and/or mucous in the stool
There are a number of causes for colitis, but in general there are several that stand out amongst the rest as the most common culprits:
• Intestinal Parasites need to be ruled out to ensure they are not contributing. This can be done by submitting an intestinal parasite exam (fecal test) to your veterinarian
• Stress colitis is very common. Pets can be stressed by many factors. Stress colitis will be seen in pets that are boarded, stressed by new additions to the family/ household, construction or fireworks in the neighborhood, etc.
• Dietary Indiscretion is probably the most common cause of colitis. Generally defined as eating anything they aren’t accustomed to, this can happen secondary to an abrupt switch in diet, new treats, medications, or even eating something in the yard we’ll never know about!
Diagnosis is generally made by taking a good history and performing a physical exam on the affected pet. An intestinal parasite exam is recommended to rule out parasites. In many cases, the exact cause may not be identified and the pet will be treated symptomatically.
Treatment of colitis may vary depending on doctor preference, but in general it consists of the following treatments:
• Bland diets: bland diets are used to decrease stimulation to the GI tract and help reestablish “normalcy.” This can be accomplished with prescription diets available through your veterinarian. A home version can be accomplished using boiled chicken or hamburger with rice. Once the symptoms have resolved, the pet will gradually be switched back to their regular diet. Some veterinarians prefer adding fiber to the diet.
• Medications: The most common medication used to treat acute colitis is a drug called Metronidazole. This is an antibiotic, but it is most commonly used because it also acts as an anti-inflammatory in the GI tract. Because symptoms are caused by inflammation, they typically resolve very quickly when this medication is used.
• Other treatments: Supplements such as probiotics may also be used
Acute colitis typically resolves in several days with treatment. In cases where the colitis becomes more chronic, more diagnostic tests may be recommended to search for an underlying cause. Thankfully, many cases resolve quickly which is much appreciated by pets and owners alike!
article written by:
Derek Williamson, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Vernon Hills