Ulcerative Colitis in Dogs Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Colitis in dogs

A number of conditions tend to be confused with colitis in dogs. To help minimize the chances of your dog developing colitis, we discuss the symptoms and signs of histiocytic ulcerative colitis, causes and treatments, and tips to minimize the chances of your dog contracting it.

Colitis in Dogs

Colitis in dogs refers to the inflammation of the colon. The condition is a digestive disease which can develop quickly and be prone to recurrence or it could develop slowly but be persistent. It is usually painful and uncomfortable for the dog. At times, it could precede inflammatory bowel disease.

 Is colitis in dogs contagious? While colitis in itself may not be contagious, some of its causes are. Colitis resulting from bacterial or viral infection and parasitic infestations may be contagious. As the causes of the condition differ, so do the treatment methods and remedies. These are discussed in details below.

Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs

The condition comes with a number of symptoms. You should always pay attention to your dog to help identify when something is wrong. The symptoms of colitis in dogs discussed below can help in identifying the conditions.

Blood in Stool

A dog with colitis will bleed which is identified by the presence of blood in the stool. Blood stained stool is always an indication that something is wrong and should never be brushed off. In this case, there will be bright flecks and they should not be ignored.


Another sign of canine colitis is a loose watery stool. It comes out semi-formed or in liquid form. Colitis is responsible for most cases of chronic diarrhea occurring in dogs. An additional sign that can tell colitis apart from general diarrhea is the fact that in addition to being watery, the stool will also be slimy.

Frequent Defecation

Dogs will feel the urge to pass stool more frequently than usual. In normal times, dogs defecate once or twice in a day. When suffering colitis this will be more frequent. Additionally, the defecation will be accompanied by consistent flatulence.

Painful and Strenuous Defecation

With colitis, dogs will strain while passing stool. This will cause pain. These are usually displayed when the dog squats to defecate. It will do so with a sense of urgency and display signs of discomfort and pain, unlike times when it is okay.

Flatulence, pronounced squatting and hunching, weight loss and disinterest in food are additional symptoms.

Classification of Colitis in Dogs

The above symptoms help to identify colitis in general. Treatment, however, depends on severity which is the base for the classification of the condition as seen below.

Acute Colitis

This will often times appear suddenly. Apart from diarrhea, your dog will appear normal. Acute colitis in dogs may be caused by ingestion of toxins, food intolerance, dietary indiscretion or dietary change. Stress resulting from moving, severe weather, boarding and an abrupt change in lifestyle could cause the same as well. Acute cases can be cleared easily using medication and diet therapy.

Episodic Colitis

Episodic colitis is usually sporadic and its symptoms may range from mild to severe. Each episode could last for up to a few weeks with a likelihood to recur.

Chronic Colitis

This is slow to develop but is persistent and lasts for months on end. It also tends to get worse with time. In such cases and where the condition keeps recurring, a colonoscopy with a biopsy may be suggested by your veterinarian for a correct diagnosis to be reached.

Histiocytic Ulcerative Colitis in Dogs

Ulcerative colitis in dogs affects the large intestines and is often associated with inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel disorder. With this condition, there is a malfunction of the immune system in which histiocytes (cells responsible for causing inflammation in the body) penetrate the intestines of your dog.

Bulldogs and boxer breeds are prone to this condition and it is suspected to be as a result of a defect in the immunity system. Histiocytic ulcerative colitis is characterized by ulcers in addition to inflammation of the colon. It is mostly treated and managed through strict dietary schedules.

Causes of Colitis in Dogs

A certain way of diagnosing your canine for colitis is to have them checked by the veterinarian. Depending on tests done on your pooch, the cause of the same can be identified. The causes of this condition include physical trauma, infections as well as psychological problems as can be seen below.


Parasitic infestation in the gut can cause canine colitis. Dogs can pick E. Coli, Whipworms, Giardia and Salmonella from each other, contaminated water and food. These then lead to inflammations. To avoid infestations, watch out what your dog eats and where they get it. Once there is an infestation treat all dogs even those that are not showing signs yet for communicable infestations.

Infections and Diseases

Canine colitis can be experienced when the dog has bacterial and fungal infections within the digestive system.

Stress and Anxiety

Shelter dogs tend to suffer colitis quite often and this is attributed to stress. Dogs will also suffer the condition when they travel or move due to the associated stress and anxiety. The solution to it in such situations depends on the causative agent. Once this is eliminated the dog can get back to being itself. In severe cases, your vet may administer some sedatives. However, some love, care, and attention are all that is required to get them back to being themselves.


Where trauma is exerted on the digestive tract and on the intestines, your dog may suffer colitis. This mostly results from dietary indiscretion, swallowing toys as well as other abrasive materials which end up hurting the digestive tract.


Dogs suffer food allergies quite often. Since dogs are not verbal, it may be hard to diagnose allergic reactions where there are no visible signs of reactions. Where colitis is being caused by allergic reactions, it is important to eliminate the food causing it. Probiotics and other drugs can be used to relieve symptoms in the meantime. After that feed your dog a hypoallergenic diet.

Other Causes

Other causes include consumption of stale food, overeating, poor absorption of food, pancreatic disease and vermin.

Colitis in Dogs Treatment

There are different treatment options for colitis in dogs depending on what its cause is. In some cases, a combination of various remedies may be necessary. Fortunately, though, the condition can be cleared using simple home treatments and natural remedies.

1.      Diet for Dogs with Colitis

Diet plays a vital role in the treatment of colitis. Immediately there is a diagnosis for the condition, fast your dog for 24 to 48 hours.

Once this period lapses, slowly introduce a high fiber diet. This is more so if your dog suffers irritable bowel syndrome. A high dog fiber colitis diet increases stool bulk, improves contraction of colon muscles and binds fecal water. These with time normalize the dog’s stool.

For colitis resulting from allergic reactions and sensitivity to specific foods, opt for hypoallergenic diets. These are available commercially and there also are some available on prescription. Duck, venison, and fish could be alternative sources of proteins which are beneficial.

In case the high fiber diet does not work, opt for highly digestible foods to treat colitis in dogs naturally. With these, smaller fecal mass is produced.

2.      Antibiotics

Colitis in dogs that is as a result of bacterial infections can be treated using a broad spectrum antibiotic medication. Where the cause is intestinal parasites, anti-parasitic medication should resolve it. Where necessary, your vet may recommend corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or immunosuppressive drugs. While they may not cure the condition directly, this colitis in dogs treatment drugs will offer symptomatic relief.

3.      Surgical Reconstruction

This only occurs as a last resort and in cases where there is severe damage, inflammation, and scarring of the colon. It involves the removal and reconstruction of the damaged areas. In most cases though, dog colitis resolves on its own with time and only requires supportive care and minimal medical treatment.

Preventing your Dog from Contracting Colitis

To prevent recurrence of the condition, try the following:

  • Use good quality de-worming products on your dog regularly.
  • Eliminate stress factors from your dog’s environment to avoid flares ups.
  • To avoid consumption of inappropriate things, offer your canine friend a high quality balanced diet.
  • When making dietary changes, let it be gradual to give their digestive system time to adapt.
  • Watch your dog while out for walks and play so they do not consume inappropriate things.

Sources and References


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