dog having a veterinary check up

Colitis in dogs: symptoms and treatment of canine colitis

Colitis is a digestive disease that causes inflammation of the colon – also called the large or lower intestine. It can cause pain and discomfort in your dog, as well as diarrhoea or constipation.

A relatively common condition, colitis affect both animals and humans. Like many conditions, it’s usually described as chronic – meaning slow to develop, but persistent – or acute, meaning it flares up quickly and may be intense.

Colitis can be painful and uncomfortable for your dog, and is responsible for causing up to half of all cases of chronic diarrhoea. While it’s relatively common and easy to treat, canine colitis can lead to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a more serious condition.  

If your dog is displaying any of the signs and symptoms of colitis listed below, make an appointment with your local vet. 

The symptoms of colitis in dogs

Be on the lookout for several of these common colitis symptoms in various combinations:

  • Watery or bloody diarrhoea
  • Mucous or jelly in the stools
  • Excessive straining
  • Constipation
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent need to go to the toilet
  • Lack of appetite or disinterest in food
  • Stomach cramps

“Canine colitis is caused by inflammation of the dog’s colon. It can cause pain and discomfort, as well as chronic diarrhoea or constipation.”

Common causes of colitis in dogs:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Intestinal worms 
  • Stress
  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Food allergies or dairy intolerance 
  • Eating things he shouldn’t – as a result of scavenging in bins, for example
  • Gastrointestinal infections, such as salmonella or giardia
  • Injury to the colon 

Treating colitis in dogs

Your vet will recommend a treatment programme, depending on the severity of your dog’s condition. He or she will usually recommend fasting for 24 to 48 hours, then introducing a special high-fibre or bland diet.

They may recommend a course of antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication, to treat any underlying infection, and a worming treatment to remove any gastrointestinal worms that can cause or exacerbate colitis.

While colitis can be painful and uncomfortable, it’s normally very treatable, and the prognosis is generally good. 

Can I prevent my dog from getting colitis? 

While it’s not possible to completely prevent canine colitis, taking the following steps may help to reduce your dog’s chances of developing the disease:

  • Get into a regular worming routine
  • Get into a regular flea treatment routine – as fleas can lead to worms
  • Feed your dog a balanced, high-fibre diet and plenty of water to drink
  • Ensure they don’t eat things they’re not supposed to
  • Avoid sudden changes to your dog’s diet
  • Keep stress to a minimum

Need help advice on canine colitis?

For expert advice on colitis in dogs get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.