How to Treat Colitis in Your Dog: the best diet for recovery!

Feeding a dog with colitis the best diet is going to help them recover faster and maintain their appetite. It’s all too easy to waste money of useless supplements and expensive “treatments” when feeding the right food is all that’s needed.

best diet for colitis with dog sitting on grass

My dog is recovering from a nasty bout of colitis. What foods can I offer her to tempt her to eat again?  

Okay, and so my next question is from Amanda and she says that her dog is recovering from a nasty bout of colitis. What food can I offer her to tempt her to eat again?

What is Colitis?

So let's start off with what colitis is. So colitis is due to a problem in the lower intestinal tract. So not up by the stomach, but lower down. And typically we'll see straining, sometimes little produced and sometimes with a lot produced. As well as straining, the hallmark of colitis is that there is mucus or some blood or both in the stool.

Now generally colitis is actually due to a problem within the colon rather than the rest of the body. If you've got vomiting or a more watery diarrhea, then these can be caused by things going on within the rest of the body. But if your dog or cat has just got colitis, then typically it's a problem within the gut itself.

The Best Diet for Colitis

So really we want to be feeding a bland food that is easily digestible. You should be avoiding high fat foods, avoiding high salt foods, avoiding rich foods even though they're the ones that your dog may find most appetizing, most appealing.

We don't want to be using those because they're just going to irritate the gut. That gut is going to have a harder time digesting those and that's going to perpetuate the diarrhea.

Home cooked or commercial?

Really we then want to move on to the question: do we want a home cooked diet or do we want a commercial diet?

There are various quality commercial diets out there, and they're specifically designed for intestinal recovery. They’re easily digestible, they contain prebiotics to encourage the good bacteria and discourage harmful bacterial overgrowth, and they're also a complete diet so they can be fed longer term without problems.

If we're wanting instead to feed a home cooked diet, we can feed things like boiled chicken, rice and pasta, whitefish, a cottage cheese or scrambled egg as long as you're not adding loads of butter and salt and things like that.

You could also try blending that just to make things a little bit easier for the stomach to digest but we also need to bear in mind that these diets are not balanced, not as easily digestible, and don’t containing prebiotics. They will be fine for mild cases and OK to feed for a few days, that's not a problem, but it's not something that we would want to be feeding long-term because of that lack of balance among other things.


Now, something else we can think about is giving probiotics. Probiotics are the live bacteria that are normally found in the gut. Effectively giving an extra dose of those just to try and encourage the re-colonization of the colon or of the intestines with these healthy bacteria.

The idea is that probiotics can speed up recovery, but actually they don't tend to make a huge amount of difference in the time frame for recovery. It might be that recovery time is improved by half a day, but it's not making a really significant improvement in that recovery time and there's probably a number of reasons for that.

We don't necessarily know the best bugs to include in these probiotics. Also, the probiotic industry is unregulated and quality control is really poor. We're giving live bacteria, so handling needs to be very careful. they needs to have been stored correctly. The manufacturing needs to have gone through some quite strict regimes to make sure that they're producing live bugs.

There have been independent tests that looked into the different concentrations of live bacteria in some of these probiotics, and in some cases it's really tiny or even nonexistent. So that's something to think about as well. These are unlikely to cause any harm, but more likely you're just going to be wasting your money.

Tempting Your Dog to Eat

Okay and then moving on to how to get a dog to eat, how to tempt them to eat. Your dog will obviously want fresh food. We don't want to just leave food down for ages that's getting stale, it's getting dry and getting a bit manky. So we want to make sure there's a fresh food supply.

Warming it up can help as well. That helps increase the smell, which can be just enough to encourage a dog to eat.

Hand feeding can really help as well to encourage a dog to eat. Having said that, we get some pets that are private eaters, so they like to eat by themselves and don't like to be watched. If your pet is one of those, if your dog prefers to eat by itself, then just leave them to it for 20 minutes in a room with their food and see what happens. Don't hover anxiously to see if they are eating because that's only going to put them off.

When to See Your Vet

And then the final thing to say is that if your dog with colitis is not eating, is not recovering, seems to be getting worse or there are any other problems going on like not drinking, vomiting or lethargy; really you need to reassess that diagnosis with your vet.

You definitely need to get a vet check in the first place or talk to your vet again. Go back to your vet for a re-examination because things do change and it might not just be a simple colitis that we're dealing with. Your dog might need additional treatment. So that could be anti-nausea treatments for example, they might need specific treatments for something like giardia that isn't just going to resolve by itself, or there may need to be different tests run to try and reach a diagnosis. So that could be fecal testing, it could be blood testing, it could be X-rays, it could be a whole number of different things.

So if you've got a dog who is sick, who isn't getting better, or is getting worse, than we definitely need to reassess the diagnosis and treatment plan by checking in again with your vet.

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

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