Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a disorder in which one or more sections of the gastrointestinal tract have become invaded with inflammatory cells. Over time, this inflammation causes the intestine to become less efficient at absorbing nutrients from digested food and weight loss, vomiting or diarrhoea often result.

Early signs may be subtle which allows IBD to go undiagnosed for months (and even years) until the dog begins to develop more serious symptoms.

IBD is not a specific diagnosis as there are several types, characterized by the type of cell that is causing the inflammation and the specific section of the gastrointestinal tract that is affected. A veterinarian must investigate before confirming a diagnosis of IBD.


Occasional vomiting and diarrhoea occurring over weeks (or years) are the most common signs of canine IBD. These symptoms may be responsive to brief changes in diet or short courses of antibiotics, but eventually return. The signs are usually slowly progressive but can be severe and sudden in onset in advanced stages of the disease. A combination of symptoms is most common in dogs with IBD as the stomach, small intestine and colon may be involved.

Stomach inflammation (gastritis) causing loss of appetite and vomiting. Vomit may contain undigested food, partially digested food, clear or brownish liquid or even a small amount of blood.


Thought to be genetics, diet, intestinal infection, abnormalities of a dog’s immune system. The intestine is responsible for processing large amounts of food and bacterial particles called antigens. Antigens can be recognized by a dog’s body as “foreign” and cause an abnormal allergic (immune) response. The end result is that the lining of the intestine is invaded with inflammatory cells and this inflammation interferes with the ability to digest and absorb nutrients.

Common antigens in the intestine include proteins and preservatives from the food, parasites, viruses or bacteria, and ingested foreign material (toys, garbage, etc). Any of these antigens can start an abnormal immune response but eventually the inflammation continues even when the antigen is no longer present.