Colitis is an inflammation of the large bowel (colon). This inflammation may be acute (sudden onset of brief duration) or chronic (long-term), disrupting your pet's normal bowel habits.
Acute colitis occurs most commonly in dogs and frequently responds to one to three weeks of therapy. Chronic colitis can go on for several years or perhaps a lifetime.
Signs of Colitis
Some dogs and cats may have minor clinical signs; others have severe and sometimes disabling or fatal signs. Dietary therapy and certain medications can help control the inflammation and most signs, but they generally do not provide a cure.
The inflammation in chronic colitis leads to excess water in your pet's stool. This is manifested as diarrhea; you most likely will see the frequent passage of small quantities of mucus and/or blood-streaked stools. The diarrhea may be intermittent or continuous.
Abdominal pain, depression, fever, weight loss, and a dull coat may also be present.
Causes of Colitis
Many things can cause colitis, as can be seen from the following list. In many cases, the exact cause of colitis may never be determined.
- Spastic colitis
- Bacterial colitis
- Fungal colitis
- Eosinophilic colitis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Allergies (including food allergies)
- Foreign body
- Spastic colitis
- Histocytic ulcerative colitis
- Plasmacytic lymphocytic colitis
- Immunoproliferation enteritis
Diagnosis of Colitis
If your veterinarian suspects that you pet has colitis he or she may perform some, most, or all of these diagnostic tests: abdominal palpation, rectal exam, white and red blood cell counts, blood chemistry profile, urinalysis, multiple fecal examinations, bacteriologic cultures of feces, x-rays of the digestive tract (possibly with barium), colonoscopy (examination of the colon through a small, lighted tube inserted though the anus), biopsy of the colon, and exploratory surgery of the abdomen.
To evaluate how your pet is responding to therapy, your veterinarian will periodically repeat some of these lab tests.
Management of Chronic Colitis
Remember, few cases of colitis can be cured. The goal of therapy for chronic colitis, therefore, is to enable your pet to maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible. Diet and drugs can generally suppress the inflammation in your pet's colon and help prevent recurrences.
Many cases of chronic colitis respond to one of two dietary approaches: 1) Increasing the amount of fiber in the animal's diet or 2) Feeding a diet that is not likely to stimulate an allergic reaction (hypoallergenic diet). There is no way to predict which approach might be better for your pet.
Based on experience treating colitis, your veterinarian will recommend one approach or the other. Follow the directions explicitly - feed no other foods or treats. If your pet is taking any other medicine, tell your veterinarian about it so that interactions between the diet and medicine can be controlled.
A trial with a therapeutic diet usually takes three to six weeks before your veterinarian will be able to accurately assess the results of the trial. Be patient, and remember, diarrheas in some pets may actually worsen for a few days while the pet's digestive tract is becoming accustomed to the new diet.
Your veterinarian will recommend the best diet for you to follow for your pet...... follow it!
Importance of Fiber
Fiber is a carbohydrate in our diet that cannot be digested by enzymes. There are two kinds of fiber: one is soluble in water; the other is not. Insoluble fibers provide bulk to the diet and help food and water move through the digestive tract.
It is well established that fiber-rich diets can be used to manage constipation in pets because fiber increases water retention in the intestines which softens the stool. The increased bulk also increases the propulsive movements of the intestine, helping to alleviate the constipation.
Amazingly enough, fiber also can be used to treat some diarrheas. In diarrheic animals fiber normalizes intestinal transit time, which increases water absorption form the colon. Therefore, there is less water lost in the stool. That's why high-fiber diets have a place in the treatment of colitis.
Many drugs used to control chronic colitis have side effects and may even be dangerous - your veterinarian will prescribe them with caution. Drug therapy involves five categories of medications:
- Drugs that relieve diarrhea
- 5-aminosalicylic acid
- Steroids for relief of inflammation
- Drugs that suppress the immune system
Any questions that we can help you with, please feel free to contact us anytime.
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