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IBS in Dogs and Cats

By Adam Trainor March 13, 2020

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an uncomfortable condition that, among other things, alters your bowel transit times when you least expect it.

Basically, if you’ve got this gastrointestinal disorder, you might as well cancel any social plans you have for the next couple of days, week, or even months.

But it turns out:

Humans aren’t the only ones that need to cancel plans—pets can also develop the stomach disorder out of the blue.

IBS in dogs

They can experience the same discomfort and inflammation we do but without any way of alerting us to their painful condition.

If you love your furry, four-legged friends, you should learn everything you can about IBS in pets, where it comes from, and what you can do to treat it.

IBS in Dogs and Cats: Symptoms to Look For

Generally speaking, the symptoms of IBS in pets are identical to what you would find in human patients. Although they may not be able to directly relay their symptoms to you, you might be able to tell whether your pet cat or dog is silently suffering from the condition by keeping an eye out for the following symptoms:

○ Diarrhea
○ Constipation
○ Mucousy stool
○ Abdomen sensitive to the touch
○ Vomiting
○ Bloating
○ Frequent flatulence
○ Depression
○ Lack of energy
○ Inexplicable weight loss

It can be difficult for pet owners to determine whether these symptoms of IBS are actually IBS-related since they can also appear with other health conditions.

If your pet cat or dog is experiencing one or more of these warning signs, you should schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

IBS in cats

Causes of IBS in Pets

Sadly, science has yet to determine what causes IBS in dogs, cats, and even humans. This is what makes dealing with IBS so frustrating—it’s a common disorder with an unknown cause, and therefore, currently remains incurable.

However, anxiety and stress may play an active role in activating IBS in our pets’ stomach lining. New environments, sudden changes in daily routine, or trauma can lead to anxiety in animals which can trigger chronic diarrhea—one of the telltale signs of IBS in pets.

However, because chronic diarrhea can be caused by a number of different health problems, you might not want to jump the gun and automatically assume the worst.

In order to diagnose IBS in cats and dogs, your veterinarian may need to perform a biopsy after ruling out organ disease, viruses, and parasites as possible causes. If the results show that nothing is physically wrong with the intestinal tissue sample, then IBS may be the culprit behind your pet’s stomach problem.

Once again, take your pet to the vet to see whether they’re suffering from IBS or another stomach disorder.

How to Treat IBS in Pets

Without a culprit, we have no leads on how to cure IBS in pets.  There are several therapy options available that will help soothe IBS-related symptoms, but you’ll need a diagnosis from your vet before commencing treatment.

Treatment typically involves keeping your cat or dog away from exposure to factors associated with aggravated symptoms.

For instance, your vet may recommend you keep your pet away from stressful situations—e.g. solitude, loud sounds, or traveling (unless your pet is accustomed to it)—which will reduce anxiety and, in turn, rapid bowel transit times.

Your vet may also suggest changing your pet’s diet from table scraps to high-fiber foods specifically for animals.

Also, keeping a bowl of fresh water within snout’s reach may also aid in regulating digestive function as well as replenish fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea.

Water bowl for a dog

In conclusion...

Despite not being a fatal condition, IBS in pets is still a top concern among pet owners due to the number and severity of its symptoms.

However, it’s not only difficult to diagnose without performing an invasive biopsy to extract a tissue sample, but it’s also incurable.

Treating IBS in cats and dogs is similar to that in humans—a significant change in diet and avoiding stress-inducing environments.

If you’re unsure of how to treat IBS in your pets, you’ll want to consult with your vet at your earliest convenience. 

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