WHAT Does Colitis in Dogs Mean?

Alianna Munakata

Published by Alianna Munakata

Updated on

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What is Colitis in Dogs? 

Colitis in dogs is an inflammation of the large intestine (also known as the colon), which is painful and uncomfortable, and the affected dogs require veterinary attention. Is colitis in dogs common? Yes, it is a relatively common condition. If you want to learn more about it, please continue reading.

Doctor Examining Dog

Dog Breeds Prone to Colitis

Colitis is often a secondary condition to an underlying problem. Therefore, the type of colitis can be identified by its causal/primary concern. Many primary issues can lead to colitis. Some breeds are known to be susceptible to some of these primary problems, which are listed below: 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

  • Basenji
  • Border Collie
  • Boxer
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Irish Setters
  • Norwegian Lundehund
  • Rottweiler
  • Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers
  • Weimaraner
  • Yorkshire Terriers

Allergies or Dietary Intolerance: Food Allergies

  • Dachshunds
  • Bulldogs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Pugs
  • Pitbulls
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Shih Tzus
  • Westies (aka West Highland White Terriers)
  • Yorkies (aka Yorkshire Terriers)

Bowel Cancer

  • Border Collie
  • German Shepherd Dog

The Clinical Signs and Symptoms Associated with Colitis in Dogs

Typical presentations of the dogs with colitis are lethargy, reduced appetite/inappetence, frequent defecation or straining, abnormal feces (e.g., soft, diarrhea, dog pooping mucus and blood), vomiting, and pain/discomfort. Read on to find out what causes colitis in dogs!

What are the Causes of Colitis in a dog?

Colitis in dogs causes can be caused by stress-induced colitis in dogs, trauma, foreign body ingestion, bacterial infection (e.g., Salmonella, Clostridium, E. coli), viral infection (e.g., Parvovirus), parasites (e.g., Giardia, Cryptosporidium, whipworms), allergy (e.g., diet discretion, dietary intolerance, medication), tumor or primary inflammatory disease (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis). 

Diagnosing Canine Colitis

History, clinical presentation, and findings from an initial physical examination and diagnostic procedures such as fecal analysis, cytology, blood analysis can confirm the condition. 

Further diagnostics may be necessary to determine the causing factor of colitis and evaluate any damage to the affected organs. Radiographic imaging (x-rays), ultrasonography, and endoscopy are some of the diagnostic tools commonly used for this. 

Available Treatment Options to Colitis in Dogs

Colitis generally has a good prognosis and is manageable. Colitis treatment in dogs can vary depending on the cause of colitis.  Although it is best to manage the condition by treating the cause, symptomatic treatment can be achieved if the cause is unknown. 

Want to know how to treat colitis in dogs? Treatment for colitis in dogs may include medications, dietary adjustment, supplemental nutrition, or surgical intervention. 


Colitis is a painful condition. Pain-reliefs are commonly prescribed to reduce discomfort and inflammation. Antibiotics would be required to eliminate pathological bacterial species in case of a bacterial infection. H2 blockers (e.g., Famotidine) may be used to create a more gentle gastrointestinal (GI) environment for patients with irritated or damaged GI tract.

Dietary Adjustment

Transitioning dogs to a hypoallergenic or an allergenic diet would eliminate allergy/intolerance-induced colitis. A good dog colitis diet includes adding or increasing soluble fiber intake to upregulate and improve nutrient absorption by colon-residing bacteria species, resulting in firm feces instead of diarrhea. 

Supplemental Nutrition

Prebiotics can be used to supplement colon-resident bacteria species. This may be required when the affected dog has a nutritional deficiency, possibly due to inappetence or vomiting/regurgitating. Prebiotics may not be helpful in dogs with colitis due to dysfunctional gastrointestinal tract and the associated organs.

Probiotics can harvest bacteria species in the colon when there is a deficit. However, some probiotics may only contain bacteria species that are not colon residents and would not help increase the beneficial colon bacteria species.

Surgical Intervention

Dogs suffering from colitis secondary to a trauma injury, foreign body ingestion, or certain forms of neoplasia may require surgery to resolve the primary issue. 

Happy Dog

What Is The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Canine Colitis?

Acute Colitis

  • Causes: Stress, dietary discretion/allergy, foreign body ingestion, toxicity, parasite infestation, traumatic injury.
  • Duration: Several days.
  • Characteristics: Mucosal infiltration with neutrophils, epithelial disruption, and ulceration within the large intestine. 

Chronic Colitis (Recurring Colitis in Dogs)

  • Causes: Viral infection, bacterial infection, parasite infestation, chronic digestive disease (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome), traumatic injury, neoplasia. 
  • Duration: Weeks, months, or years. 
  • Characteristics: Mucosal infiltration of plasma cells,  lymphocytes, or histiocytes as well as fibrosis, and sometimes ulceration within the large intestine. 

How can Colitis in Dogs be Prevented?

There are several things owners can do to minimize the risk of colitis in their dogs. 

Practice and maintain good husbandry (e.g., diet, hygiene, environment) at home. This is the key to preventing sickness in general. Dogs should always be offered an appropriate healthy diet based on their life stage: lifestyle and dietary tolerance. In addition, any environment accessible for the dogs should be hazard-free and regularly cleaned/disinfected.

Dogs should have a regular veterinary checkup either annually for healthy pets and biannually or more frequently for pets with previous medical history or a known/ongoing medical issue. The health check should ideally include a thorough physical examination, fecal analysis, blood analysis, urinalysis, and prophylactic antiparasitic and antiviral treatments. 

How Long Can Dogs With Colitis Live?

There is no established life expectancy for dogs with colitis as it depends on an underlying condition that led to colitis.

Colitis has a relatively good prognosis if its causal issue is treatable or manageable. In those cases, colitis may be kept under control for weeks or years with medications and a specific dietary regime.

Basenji dog

In a Nutshell

Colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine. It can be acute or chronic.  This commonly seen veterinary condition is often secondary to various underlying issues. However, a history, via findings from a clinical examination, and diagnostic procedures confirm this condition.

Treatment options and the prognosis vary depending on a causal factor that resulted in colitis. 

Although you may not prevent this from occurring altogether, you can minimize the risk by maintaining a good husbandry practice and having regular veterinary checkups. 

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Alianna Munakata


Alianna has built a strong educational foundation to complement her extensive hands-on experience in the field of veterinary medicine. She holds a New Zealand National Certificate in Veterinary Nursing, which she earned from Otago Polytechnic in 2012. Furthermore, she graduated with a Bachelor of Veterinary Technology from Massey University, New Zealand, in 2015. Her commitment to expanding her knowledge is evident through her advanced qualifications in veterinary nursing, with a specific focus on reptiles and amphibians, small mammals, and the handling of venomous snakes.


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