What is IBD in Dogs
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Probiotics For Dogs With IBD

Katelyn Son


Medically reviewed by

Ivana Crnec, DVM

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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the most common GI disease that results in chronic vomiting and diarrhea in pet animals – dogs and cats. In this article, we will talk about dog probiotics for inflammatory bowel disease. 
Recently, as many studies prove the probiotic products’ effect on GI health grows, more and more vets include probiotics in the inflammatory bowel disease management plan (multimodal and complex). 
Keep reading to learn how probiotics can help your dog with its intestinal inflammation. We will discuss the benefits and considerations of probiotics for dogs with IBD and give tips on choosing the best supplement for your dog. 

Do Probiotics Help with IBD in Dogs?

Do Probiotics Help with IBD in Dogs
Yes, probiotics can help dogs with GI conditions, especially dogs with IBD, by working on multiple levels. However, it is essential to remember that probiotics are part of the treatment, they are not a treatment per se.  
Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms (bacteria and yeasts) that provide health benefits for the host. In simple words, probiotics are the “good” GI bacteria. The goal of the probiotics is to keep the levels of “good” bacteria high and prevent the “bad” bacteria from overpopulating the GI.

Benefits of Probiotics for IBD in Dogs

The use of probiotics for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn’s disease is well-studied. The results of those studies are promising in terms of implementing the same concepts and using probiotics for dogs and cats with IBD or other inflammatory GI conditions.
Although there are not many studies examining the effect of probiotics in dogs with IBD, the studies that are already conducted support the use of probiotics.
According to Jan Suchodolski, Ph.D., DACVM, professor at the A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Texas, almost all GI conditions in dogs are associated with gut microbe alterations. 
Since probiotics can modulate the GI gut microbes and restore the balance necessary for GI health, it can be extrapolated that they are beneficial for managing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and GI inflammatory conditions.
The lining of the GI tract is like a barrier that prevents pathogenic bacteria from penetrating and exerting their harmful effects. Some probiotics can increase the junction protein expression, which on a cellular level, improves the GI tract lining’s barrier function. In simple words, probiotics promote proper barrier function and make it hard for pathogenic bacteria to cause damage and disease.
A recent pilot study showed that probiotics promote overall improvement in dogs with idiopathic IBD when combined with immunosuppressive treatment. Namely, the group of dogs receiving both immunosuppressive drugs and probiotics improved more than the group of dogs receiving conventional immunosuppressive drugs alone.
Studies also show that probiotics decrease the incidence of stress-related diarrhea in dogs and cats. They also show that prolonged use of probiotics is associated with better results, and sometimes the clinical signs return upon discontinuation of the probiotics. 

Are Probiotics Good for Dogs with IBD?

Yes, probiotics are good for dogs. However, before deciding to add probiotics to your dog’s food or give them as chews, you need to talk to your vet. This is because probiotics alone cannot manage IBD. 
After carefully examining your dog and considering the pathologist’s histological findings, the vet will craft a treatment plan and recommend the right type of probiotic. Keep in mind that the only situation in which a probiotic can make IBD worse is if you expect the probiotic to be the cure and refuse other treatments. 

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What is IBD in Dogs?

What is IBD in Dogs
As a term, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is used to cover a number of poorly understood chronic enteropathies affecting both people and pets. In simpler terms, IBD is often described as an out-of-control chronic gastrointestinal inflammation with progressive nature.  
The hallmark of the condition is inflammation of the lining of the GI tract. Obviously, mucosal inflammation affects the function of the intestines leading to impaired digestion and nutrient absorption.   
There is a special and quite common form of immune-mediated inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. This immune-mediated form is popularly called idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease. 

Causes & Signs of IBD in Dogs

The exact circumstances that lead to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are controlled by a specific interplay between the host and the gut bacteria. More precisely speaking, there are four main contributing interactions and factors that lead to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 
Genetics. Genetics plays a vital role in canine IBD. Because of a genetic mutation, some individuals (humans, dogs, and cats) have an increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, chronic enteropathies are particularly common in certain breeds, including Shepherd dogs, Yorkshire terriers, Basenjis, Boxers, and French bulldogs. 
In fact, every breed is at high risk of a certain form of canine IBD or chronic enteropathy. For example, Shepherd dogs usually develop lymphocytic-plasmacytic inflammation form of IBD while Yorkshire terriers develop the protein-losing enteropathy form.
The genetic component is demonstrated in cats too. Namely, Siamese cats and other oriental cat breeds are more likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) than other cat breeds. 
Mucosal Immune System. The occurrence of chronic inflammation of the GI tract depends significantly on the mucosal immune system. Namely, IgA dispersed in various locations in the intestinal mucosa serves as a barrier and prevents bacteria from trespassing.
When the barrier function is compromised, GI pathogens can transposition, which results in GI inflammatory conditions.
The Environment. The environment includes a number of components such as diet, stress, parasites, and exposure to different medications (primarily antibiotics). In dogs and cats, these factors are not extensively reviewed. However, studies confirm that in cats, stress can result in inflammatory conditions.
Plus, many studies have shown that inflammatory bowel disease has a diet-responsive component. For example, dogs with IBD respond well to novel proteins their GI immune system is unfamiliar with.  
The Gut Microbiome. In dogs with IBD, there is accented dysbiosis of the intestinal gut microbes. Canine IBD manifests with gut bacteria imbalance in terms of decreased number of Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Clostridium strains. 
On the other hand, they have an increased number of potentially pathogenic bacteria such as Enterobacteriaceae (Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas strains). The role of Escherichia coli in the development of IBD has been demonstrated in Boxers, in which the most common IBD form is granulomatous colitis. 
As a complex and specific enteropathy, IBD manifests with visible clinical signs and histological changes (mucosal cell infiltration). Let’s thoroughly discuss both aspects. 
IBD Clinical Signs and Symptoms. A dog with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) will manifest the following signs and symptoms:
  • Chronic and intermittent vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite changes 
  • Picky eating habits
  • Weight loss 
  • Lip licking and drooling when offered food but refusal to eat 
  • Heartburn or acid reflux 
  • Nausea
  • Fluctuance, burping, and tummy rumbling
  • Bloating and stomach pain
IBD is a likely diagnosis in dogs with chronic diarrhea (diarrhea that lasts over three weeks) and dogs with intermittent vomiting (vomiting lasting more than two months). 
When evaluating a dog with IBD-indicative digestive tract issues, the vet will use a scoring system known as CIBDAI (Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease Activity Index). The CIBDAI scoring evaluates six different clinical signs, including:
  • Vomiting
  • Appetite
  • Attitude or activity
  • Stool frequency
  • Stool consistency
  • Weight loss
IBD Histological Changes. In terms of histological changes, in tissue samples from dogs with IBD, there is significant inflammatory cell infiltration. Based on which cells account for most of the infiltrate, there are different forms of IBD in dogs and cats.   
In dogs with IBD, the two most common forms are lymphocytic-plasmacytic enteritis and eosinophilic enteritis. Lymphocytic-plasmacytic enteritis is the most common type of canine enteropathy. 

How Long does it Take for Probiotics to Work for Dogs with IBD?

The time probiotics need to start working depends on the IBD’s form and severity. However, in most cases, it would be irrational to expect immediate results. 
Good bacteria need time to start working and you might be able to see an improvement in your dog’s symptoms a few weeks after initiating the probiotic supplementation. 

Using Probiotics for Your Dog’s IBD Treatment

Using Probiotics for Your Dog's IBD Treatment
Because of its complex etiology, inflammatory bowel disease in dogs requires a multimodal therapy strategy, including food changes, dietary supplements, and medications. 
IBD enteropathies are generally food, antibiotic, or steroid-responsive. However, if the IBD enteropathy is refractory even after immunosuppressive therapy, it is classified as idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease (idiopathic IBD). 
The use of probiotics in dogs with IBD, GI inflammation issues, and enteropathies is a hot topic at the moment. Many studies are exploring the effects of probiotics on the dog’s overall GI health. With probiotics covered, let’s review the other aspects of managing inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. 
Food Trial. A food trial is the first choice when managing dogs with inflammatory bowel disease. The goal of the food trial is to exclude the possibility of underlying food allergies and sensitivities.
During this phase, the dog needs to be fed commercially available diets made of hydrolyzed proteins or homemade diets including novel proteins. For example, if your dog ate beef diets and has never eaten fish, the novel diet should use fish as the primary protein source. 
Around one-half of the dogs with chronic diarrhea respond positively to these food switches. However, they are time-consuming, and pet owners often do not stick to the strict feeding regimens vets recommends.
Antibiotics. Every dog with chronic diarrhea or some form of GI inflammation will eventually be put on an antibiotics treatment. They are supposed to reduce inflammation and fight off pathogens. One of the most commonly used anti-diarrhea antibiotics is metronidazole. 
Vitamin B12 Supplements. Chronic GI inflammations result in impaired vitamin B12 absorption. Considering this vitamin’s crucial role in maintaining GI health, the vet will probably prescribe oral vitamin B12 products or injections. 
Fiber Supplements. Fiber supplements (inulin, psyllium) containing soluble fiber sources can be beneficial in the treatment of canine IBD. This is because they can help restore the gut microbes and promote healthy intestinal motility and fecal density. Such fiber-based supplements or prebiotics are also important when using probiotics as they serve as food sources for good bacteria. 
Steroids. When nothing else works, the vet will prescribe steroids (usually prednisone) in high doses as a form of immunosuppressive therapy. Steroids keep the immune system from producing an exaggerated inflammatory response.
This is because in dogs with IBD, the immune system overreacts. However, it should be noted that the use of high steroid doses is associated with many side effects, not just when treating canine IBD but in general.
Fecal Transplants. Fecal transplant is a fancy term for a simple treatment – poop from healthy dogs is given to dogs with GI conditions. The concept is simple as well – reintroducing “good” bacteria in dogs with IBD-triggered bad bacteria. 
The fecal transplant comes in two forms – an enema and an oral capsule. Each option has its pros and cons, and which one is best for your dog is something you need to discuss with your trusted vet. 

How to Choose the Best Probiotic for Dogs with IBD

With so many different probiotic products available on the market, choosing the ideal product for your dog with IBD can be challenging. Before adding probiotics to your dog’s IBD treatment plan, discuss the idea with your trusted vet regarding compatibility and the best probiotic. 
Here is a short explanation of what you need to consider when choosing a probiotic for a dog with inflammatory bowel disease. 
CFUs (Number of colony-forming units). First, you need to pay attention to the CFUs in a single serving. In general, higher CFUs mean more powerful probiotics. Most dogs usually need between 1 and 4 million good bacteria per day. Large and giant dogs can take probiotics with 5 million CFU. 
Various strains of good microorganisms. It is not just the number of bacteria that matters but also the type of bacteria. You should always choose probiotic products containing several different microorganisms (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecium, Bifidobacterium animalis, Bacillus subtilis, Saccharomyces boulardii), preferably no less than five.
Added ingredients to the formula. A good probiotic supplement should contain synergistic ingredients like prebiotics, vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, and antioxidants. On the other hand, ingredients like GMOs, fillers, and potential allergens must not find their way on the product’s label. 
Potency guarantee and shelf stability. Probiotics contain live bacteria, which is why you need them to be stable. If they start decaying and lose their potency, your dog will not benefit from the supplementation. It is also advisable to opt for probiotics made in the USA. 
Transparent labeling and reputable brands. Probiotics are classified as nutraceuticals which means their production and labeling are not as strictly regulated as is the case with pharmaceuticals. Therefore, it is critical to choose a trustworthy and reliable probiotic brand. 

What is the Best Probiotic for Dogs with IBD?

After considering the above-mentioned factors, we can assume that the best probiotic for dogs with IBD is the Honest Paws Pre + Probiotic Supplement. The product is conveniently packed in individual sachets and dog-friendly flavored with natural roasted chicken. 
Each Honest Paws Pre + Probiotic sachet contains 5 million good bacteria (Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus coagulans, Bifidobacterium animalis lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus plantarum), chicory-derived inulin as a prebiotic source, and spinach leaf extract (Solarplast® ).
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Our Final Thoughts on Probiotics for Dogs with IBD

Probiotics for Dogs with IBD
Canine inflammatory bowel disease is a potentially life-threatening condition that cannot be treated only managed. Therefore, it is vital to talk to your trusted vet in terms of tailoring a combination therapy for your dog’s individual needs. 
The fact that probiotics are efficient in promoting GI health, readily available, and simple to use gives hope to many pet owners whose dogs and cats are diagnosed with IBD. If you are one of those pet owners, check out our Honest Paws website and start supplementing your dog today.