What is Crohn’s Disease in Dogs?

Has your dog been experiencing some digestive issues lately? If you notice your dog having inconsistent bowel movements or other canine digestive problems and it hasn’t gone away, that could mean that he is coming down with an underlying health condition that needs to be treated.

At first, you assume it is just something he ate and brush it off till later. This is something that has happened before, and it usually clears up within a few days. A couple of weeks have passed, and you notice your poor pup is losing weight and is showing signs of lethargy. He is not acting like the usual pet you know, which makes you concerned. Within the following days, intermittent vomiting begins. This is when you decide to take him to the vet to see what could be the underlying cause.

At the vet’s office, you anxiously wait to see what the diagnosis will be. After thorough testing, your vet returns to you with his final diagnosis. It turns out, your dog is suffering from Crohn’s Disease. If this sounds similar to your situation, just know this is not an uncommon canine health condition. Although it may surprise you, dogs can develop Crohn’s Disease just like their human counterparts.

This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about Crohn’s Disease in Dogs and what you can do as an owner to help alleviate his symptoms. The best thing you can do if you notice your dog experiencing digestive issues is to take him to the vet right away for further testing. The sooner you can diagnose the problem, the faster your dog can get treatment.

What is Crohn’s Disease in Dogs?

If you do a quick search of Crohn’s Disease in dogs on the internet, you might have trouble finding the information you are looking for. That’s because Crohn’s Disease is actually called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) when referred to dogs. IBD occurs when the stomach or intestines become invaded by inflammatory cells. These cells attach themselves to the walls of the digestive tract and cause changes in normal digestive functioning. Once these cells are present in the gastrointestinal tract, they can restrict normal passage and absorption of food.

When a dog has Crohn’s Disease, his stomach lining becomes irritated, which causes food to move through his system faster. Over time, the lining of the digestive tract will thicken and become irritated from the inflammatory cells. Healthy cells that usually fight off bacteria and other invasive allergens will build up within this area of the body, causing diarrhea, cramping, and abdominal pain. From there, harmful intestinal organisms can then replace the healthy cells and cause further symptoms to occur.

If your dog is experiencing a lack of appetite and vomiting, his issue is from the upper sections of the intestines. If his stool is loose and contains blood and mucus, his problem is from the lower parts of the intestines. Keep in mind that it is also common for both sections to be inflicted at the same time. Dogs can also show occasional symptoms and still have IBD. This health problem can either be continuous or sporadic depending on the severity of your dog’s condition and the area of the body that is affected.  

What Causes IBD in Dogs?

The actual causes of IBD are still under debate. As of right now, professionals suggest genetics, infections, diet, or abnormalities within the immune system could all have something to do with this problem. Some veterinarians even believe that IBD is not a condition at all, and is only a response to other conditions present in the body. Some cases of Crohn’s Disease is also thought to derive from specific ingredients in a dog’s diet or a parasitic infection that has yet to be treated. Even though it may be difficult for your vet to undercover the underlying cause, they will run a complete examination and use their best judgment to come up with a proper treatment plan.

Crohn’s Disease in Dogs Symptoms

As with any condition, dog’s suffering from Crohn’s Disease can show a number of different symptoms depending on the severity and cause. The most general signs to look out for include persistent vomiting, canine diarrhea, and weight loss. Dogs with Crohn’s Disease may also have mucus or blood present in their stool as well. Some dogs may also have the urge to defecate more frequently but be unable to do so.

As already stated, if the dog is having issues with the lower part of their intestines, he will most likely experience diarrhea and loose stool. If the inflammation occurs in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, he will be more likely to vomit. Regardless what section has problems, it is important that the animal seeks treatment right away. Both persistent vomiting and diarrhea will cause a nutrient deficiency if left untreated. In severe cases, a dog may become lethargic, show signs of depression, or develop a fever. Other less common symptoms that dogs with IBD can suffer from may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Rumbling abdominal sounds
  • Flatulence
  • Change in coat health

Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease in Dogs

Since the symptoms of IBD can be broad, diagnosing this condition can be quite difficult. In order for your dog’s health problem to be diagnosed with IBD, inflammatory cells must be present, the issue must be chronic, and all other possible causes must be ruled out. To begin the diagnosis process, your vet will first start off by reviewing your dog’s overall health history. This is the perfect opportunity to inform your vet of all your dog’s prior symptoms that have led up to this point.

From there, your vet will conduct a physical examination to identify the overall health status of your dog. After that, your vet will begin running lab testing to try and find the internal issues that are causing your dog’s problems. Some laboratory tests that are usually prescribed include urinalysis, blood count, and blood profile.

If your vet assumes that your dog has a parasitic infection, they will also need to take a fecal exam as well. Once these results have come back, the gastrointestinal tract will then be tested. X-rays or ultrasounds are often used to see any abnormalities in the intestinal walls. If an allergen causes the condition, another specific testing can be run.

In severe cases where the underlying problem is difficult to diagnose, your vet can also take a small sample of the tissue in the intestines to identify the issue.Taking a sample of the intestines can be done through a surgical procedure or an endoscope. The biopsy will show the presence of inflammatory cells and the type of cells involved. The ultrasound helps to identify specific changes that have occurred within the cell walls.

Before coming up with a proper diagnosis, it is critical that all other possible causes have been ruled out. As stated earlier, diarrhea is a very common symptom for all types of health conditions, such as diseases, canine cancers, and parasites, which is why a thorough examination is necessary. Your vet will not be able to start a specific treatment regimen until all test results have come back.

How is Crohn’s Disease Treated in Dogs?

Since there are no known causes of Crohn’s Disease in dogs, there are no specific treatments that can be prescribed. However, with that being said, a vet can provide anti-inflammatory medication and other treatment regimens which will help significantly control a dog’s condition. Please remember that even if your dog seems 100% better, he can still become inflicted with symptoms if you stop treatment prematurely. Dogs with Crohn’s Disease may need lifelong medication in order to be alleviated of their symptoms.

When a vet is treating Crohn’s Disease, their main goal is to stabilize body weight, reduce immune system’s responses, and reduce gastrointestinal symptoms. Antibiotics, immunosuppressive drugs, and anti-inflammatories may all be prescribed to mitigate your dog’s issue. Immunosuppressive drugs are used to reduce the number of inflammatory cells latching on to the digestive system. If the condition is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics would likely be prescribed.

Another more natural approach to fixing the dog’s issue is through a change of diet. As stated before, some dogs can experience Crohn’s Disease due to dietary reactions. If this is the case for your pet, your vet will likely put him on a hypoallergenic diet. The dog can only eat this recommended food for a few weeks to see if symptoms lessen. After the two-week trial period, if his symptoms disappear, that means his issue is caused by an ingredient in his diet. If he does not get better, however, vets will then begin a different treatment approach with medication.

For dogs that respond well to a change in diet, he will most likely need a homemade meal plan for the rest of their lives. In order to make sure their food is balanced and nutritious, a specialized pet nutritionist will have to guide you through the process. You can expect multiple diets to be used before concluding with the perfect match.

If your dog’s condition is caused by a parasitic infection or canine worms, specific treatment will be required. Once your vet has run a fecal examination and the test results come back positive for parasites, they will then identify the type of parasite that is causing the inflammation, and then use that information to prescribe a specific medication. It is critical that you complete the entire treatment process when it comes to a parasitic infection. If you cut treatment short, your dog is at high risk for becoming reinfected with the same parasite.

What is the Prognosis For Crohn’s Disease in Dogs?

Although this condition cannot be cured, it can be controlled in most cases. As long as your vet can find an effective treatment plan that caters to your dog’s condition, your pet should be showing improvement within the first month. The best thing you can do to ensure that your dog is alleviated of his symptoms is to follow your vet’s treatment plan as closely as possible.

The worst thing you can do in this situation is to stop using his medication because he appears to be doing better. As always, do not be alarmed if symptoms flare up once in awhile. This is a standard issue that dog’s with Crohn’s Disease have to face on a regular basis. You should only begin to worry if your dog loses weight or appears to be lethargic.

Since this is a lifelong health issue, it is essential that your dog is closely monitored. If symptoms begin to worsen and are continuous, he should be checked out by his veterinarian. In some cases, a vet may need to alter medication dosages or change his diet. If your dog is experiencing continuous vomiting or diarrhea, he is at risk of becoming severely dehydrated. Take him to the vet if he appears to be weak and lethargic after his bout of vomiting. If his dehydration is serious, he may need intravenous fluids to get back to stability.


Although no dog owner wants to see their furry companion sick, it’s a common reality that all pet owners have to face. Just because your dog has been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease does not mean he will be living a life in pain. It is entirely up to you to take your dog to the veterinarian when he has a change in health or behavior. Even if symptoms are intermittent, vomiting and diarrhea are not symptoms that should be taken lightly.

Once your vet can form a proper diagnosis for your dog, they can use that information and come up with an effective treatment plan. The best thing you can do for your pet is to follow this treatment plan as closely as possible and monitor him for any alarming symptoms. How you take care of your dog after he has been diagnosed will have a direct effect on his symptoms and overall quality of life.

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