Whats the topic for today?
I'm going to talk about colitis in dogs
What exactly is colitis?
It simply means inflammation of the colon
I know the colon is part of the intestines but can you tell us a bit more about it?
The colon is the last section of the intestines before reaching the rectum. It is part of what we call the large intestine. We call it the large intestine simply because it has a wider diameter than the rest of the intestines.
Does the colon have a function?
Yes it has 3 functions. It absorbs water from the faeces, it stores the faeces until it is ready to be passed, and bacteria in the colon breaks down any unabsorbed nutrients.
So what happens when the colon becomes inflamed?
Basically the function of the colon is affected so that less water is absorbed and the faeces pass through it much quicker. The bacteria get less chance to digest the nutrients. The end result is a pasty sloppy diarrhoea.
So is the main symptom of colitis diarrhoea?
Yes. Its often the only symptom. The pet is usually still very bright and eating well. It can be associated with stomach pain and an urgency to go to the toilet, often with straining.
How can you tell if the diarrhoea is due to colitis rather than some other problem?
The diarrhoea is quite characteristic. The faeces are pasty and often mixed in with a jelly like mucous secreted by the colon. The whole lot is often coated in blood from the inflammed lining of the colon. Sometimes the faeces can look just like redcurrant jelly!
What causes colitis?
There are lots of causes. Probably the most common cause is stress. This could be something as simple as spending time in a boarding kennel to something more stressful like a thunderstorm. Another common cause is due to eating something that has disagreed with the dog.
Do worms cause colitis?
Yes Whipworm does. Whipworm lives in the colon and this is just one reason why it is important to worm your dog regularly. Adult dogs need to be wormed every 3 months for life.
Will any old worm treatment do the trick?
No its important to make sure you use a good quality wormer that treats all worm types including roundworm, tapeworm and hookworm as well as whipworm. Not all worm treatments are up to the job. Its always best to get your worm treatment from a vet to make sure its suitable.
What treatment can you use for colitis?
Well the first thing is to make sure the worm treatment is up to date. Hopefully every one has that message by now. Apart from that the usual treatment would be a few days on a bland diet and sometimes a course of antibiotics and ani-inflammatories. Usually that is all that is needed.
What do you mean by a bland diet?
I'm really talking about an easily digested diet that's gentle on the gut. The usual bland diet would be chicken and rice. Although you can homecook this for a few days it is much more convenient to buy a ready made chicken and rice prescription diet. You should always ask your vets advice when choosing a food for your pet. Commercial pet foods vary enormously in their quality and whats in them.
What if this treatment doesn’t work?
Sometimes colitis can be chronic. That means its an ongoing problem. In these cases we need to do tests to try and find out the actual cause. That might include faecal analysis, biopsies of the colon, barium enemas, ultrasound, blood tests, colonoscopy. Often the cause of chronic colitis is infammatory bowel disease and that could be the topic of another talk.
Is there a take home message for today?
Many cases of colitis can be prevented by worming your dog every 3 months with a good quality multi-wormer.