What Are The Signs Of Colitis In Dogs?

As a caring dog owner, it’s natural to be troubled when your canine companion’s bathroom habits take an unexpected turn.

Colitis in dogs involves inflammation of the colon, leading to distressing symptoms.

Fortunately, colitis is curable once it’s timely identified and addressed. But what are the signs of colitis in dogs?

This article highlights the common causes and symptoms of colitis in dogs, so that you have a better understanding of your dogs condition.

We will also look at strategies for prevention, diagnosis, and available treatments to help your pup feel better.

What is Colitis In Dogs?

Colitis causes inflammation of the large intestine in dogs that can last for several weeks.

This results in diarrhea accompanied by fresh blood and mucus in the poop, as well distressing bowel movements.

Acute colitis resolves within 24-48 hours after its onset.

Due to recurrent or prolonged symptoms, chronic colitis necessitates a medical evaluation when it persists for several weeks to months.

what are the signs of colitis in dogs

What Are The Causes Of Colitis In Dogs?

Before we look at what are the signs of colitis in dogs, it is important to understand what causes colitis.

The causes of acute and chronic colitis in dogs include:

Acute Colitis:

  • Stress-related triggers, such as traveling, relocating, or environmental changes.
  • Improper diet, like excessive treats, consumption of human food, or rummaging through the garbage.
  • Abrupt dietary alterations.
  • Ingestion of foreign materials.
  • Infections due to bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses.

Chronic Colitis:

  • Food hypersensitivity reactions.
  • Parasitic infections, such as giardia or whipworms.
  • Bacterial infections because of campylobacter, salmonella, or clostridium.
  • Fungal infections like histoplasmosis (Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection of the lungs, intestines and sometimes a systemic infection)
  • Ingestion of foreign materials.
  • The possibility of cancer.
  • Development of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Dysbiosis (unhealthy shift in the gut’s microbial balance causing a leaky gut)
  • Idiopathic disease (of unknown cause)

What Are The Signs Of Colitis In Dogs?

Your dog can’t voice their discomfort, so it’s up to you to be their health advocate.

So, what are the signs of colitis in dogs?

Some common signs and symptoms to look for in canine colitis include:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Passing small amounts of bright red blood near the end of defecation
  • Presence of mucus or fat in feces in case of chronic colitis
  • Straining during and after defecation
  • Difficulty passing stool
  • Reduced appetite or unusual eating behaviors
  • Weight loss
  • Elevated gas production
  • Persistent fatigue

What causes colitis in dogs

What Does Colitis Poop Look Like?

Colitis causes diarrhea in dogs, sometimes called large bowel diarrhea, because colitis mainly affects the colon or large intestine.

It is easy to answer “what are the signs of colitis in dogs?”, but it is a little harder to describe what their poop looks like.

The poop will appear watery with very little form to it, there may also be fresh blood and mucus present.

Diarrhea is either caused by small or large intestine.

Small intestine diarrhea is called small bowel diarrhea.

The blood in small bowel diarrhea has a dark, coffee grounds or tar-like appearance, while bright red blood is commonly seen in large bowel diarrhea or colitis.

Dogs with colitis pass fresh blood in their diarrhea.

How Do Vets Diagnose Colitis in Dogs?

So now we have identified what are the signs of colitis in dogs, how is it formally diagnosed?

A veterinarian will follow a diagnostic process to identify colitis in dogs:

  • Medical History: Gathering a thorough medical history to understand the nature of the diarrhea. Questions focus on stool appearance, urgency, straining, vomiting, appetite, and recent dietary changes or stress.
  • Physical Examination: A physical examination, including rectal assessment, helps evaluate your dog’s condition, dehydration, and abdominal health.
  • Fecal Test: A fresh fecal sample is taken if your dog has diarrhea. In acute and chronic cases, fecal analysis is conducted to check for parasites.
  • Diet Trial: A diet trial before advanced diagnostics to help identify certain food allergies.
  • Abdominal Imaging: If the diet doesn’t resolve the issue, abdominal ultrasound or X-rays examine the intestines for foreign objects, wall thickening, or lymph node enlargement.
  • Colonoscopy: The final step is a colonoscopy under anesthesia, involving a camera inserted through the rectum to inspect for masses, inflammation, or abnormalities. Biopsies of the colon wall are taken for further analysis.
What is the treatment for colitis in dogs

How Do You Treat Colitis In Dogs?

Here are various treatment options available to alleviate canine colitis symptoms and improve their quality of life:

Avoid Human Medication

Never give your dog human medications, as their metabolism differs, and it can be dangerous without knowing the cause of colitis.

Consult a Veterinarian

Seek professional help if your dog displays colitis symptoms. Veterinarians may provide hydration therapy or start medications.


  • Initial treatments may include metronidazole, tylosin, and sulfasalazine, which have antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Glucocorticoids are anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating drugs prescribed for chronic colitis when other treatments fail, especially for inflammatory bowel disease diagnosed via colonoscopy biopsy.


  • In cases of acute colitis, it’s recommended to withhold food for the first 24 hours to give the bowel a chance to rest.
  • Adding fiber like canned pumpkin can reduce diarrhea by decreasing fecal water content, prolonging transit time, and enhancing intestinal function.
  • A simple, bland diet of boiled chicken or cooked hamburger and plain carbohydrates like rice or sweet potatoes can be beneficial.
  • Dogs with food allergies may receive novel or hydrolyzed protein diets, while high-fiber diets may help in specific colitis cases.

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics act like a nourishing feast for the friendly bacteria in your dog’s gut.

On the other hand, probiotics introduce live beneficial bacteria into the digestive system to balance the bacterial population.

Recommended Nutritional Guidelines for Dogs with Colitis

NutrientRecommended Nutrient Profile
WaterFresh water should be available for proper hydration.
ProteinChoose an easily digestible, high-quality protein.
Protein Digestibility: ≥ 87%
Adult dog protein: 15% to 30% Dry Matter
Growing puppy protein: 22% to 32% Dry Matter
FatLow to moderate fat level: 10 – 15% DM
CarbohydrateHigh digestibility carbohydrates (≥ 90%) reduce colitis-related diarrhea risk.
FiberLow to High fiber content: ≤ 5% to ≥ 15% DM crude fiber.
Dietary fiber in dogs with chronic colitis can help by normalizing bowel transit.

What Not to Feed Dogs With Colitis

When feeding a dog with colitis, avoid these triggering foods:

  • Consider lactose intolerance in dogs with colitis and avoid dairy products.
  • Limit high-fat foods like fatty meats, fried foods, and dairy products, as they can trigger digestive inflammation.
  • Be cautious with high-fiber foods, as excessive fiber can worsen symptoms in some dogs; avoid foods like beans, legumes, and bran.
  • Avoid giving table scraps, as many human foods are high in fat and seasonings that can exacerbate colitis; opt for a veterinarian-recommended balanced diet.

How To Prevent Colitis In Dogs

Colitis prevention is important for the health of your dog.

So now we have answered “What are the signs of colitis in dogs?”, Here’s what you can do to keep your furry friend’s digestive system healthy:

  • Special diet: A vet may suggest a special diet for your dog to manage their condition and reduce the chances of recurrence.
  • No treats: Do not give your dog any form of treats, even dental chews, as they can disturb the stomach of dogs.
  • Monitor outdoor food ingestion: Do not let your dog consume things they find outside, such as scraps of food as they are not good for their stomach.
  • Regular worming: Give your dog regular worming treatments at least twice every year.
  • Flare-up help: If your dog has a relapse of colitis, contact a vet for further treatment.

What Dog Breeds Are Prone to Colitis?

Colitis can affect any dog, but Boxers and French Bulldogs are more prone to a specific type called granulomatous colitis.

It is a rare type of colitis in which bacterial invasion into the intestinal wall can partly block a section of the intestines, causing bloody diarrhea.

Prognosis for Dogs with Colitis

Colitis in many dogs subsides rapidly, especially when it is stress-induced.

Sometimes, a little change in their diet and medications is enough to help lower their intestinal inflammation or infection.

About 95% of the dogs with colitis heal in three to five days.

However, additional diagnostic tests are required in persistent, severe, or recurring cases to identify the cause and determine the best treatment method.

Dogs with chronic colitis can be managed by restricting their diet and ensuring compliance with medication.

Life Expectancy of Dogs with Colitis

In most cases, dogs with acute colitis go on to live a full and happy life.

The life expectancy of dogs diagnosed with chronic colitis is around two years, with some exceptional cases where dogs have lived up to 5 years after diagnosis.

Wrapping Up

So, what are the signs of colitis in dogs?

Well hopefully now you can answer that question and know what to look for in your companion.

Colitis in dogs can be very dangerous if neglected.

However, there are some solutions for managing it.

Learning about the common warning signs and causes of your dog’s illness is vital so that your pet gets treated promptly.

The best way to handle colitis is through prevention.

Monitor your dog’s weight, feed them high-quality food free of excess fillers, minimize stress, and avoid known triggers.

However, if your dog gets colitis, treatment often includes a bland diet, probiotics, and medications.

Always watch out for recurrences of the same signs and take your dog to regular vet visits.

Their comfort and good health depend on you, so do your part to prevent canine colitis.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Is Stress Colitis in Dogs?

Stress colitis, whether caused by physical or mental anxiety, can adversely affect your dog’s large intestine or colon.

This may lower the immune defenses and increase their vulnerability to colitis and other bacterial infections.

The symptoms of stress colitis are diarrhea, vomiting, and frequent bowel movements.

Is Wet Food Better for a Dog With Colitis?

Yes! Wet foods like canned pumpkin are more digestible, especially when dealing with inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.

Can Colitis in Dogs Heal Itself?

Dogs with acute colitis often recover in two days. A veterinarian visit may be needed if it doesn’t resolve on its own.

What Foods Soothe Colitis in Dogs?

A low-residue or hypoallergenic diet can soothe colitis in dogs.

Add psyllium, beetroot pulp, pumpkin, or fructooligosaccharides to their diet.

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