cocker spaniel

Anatomy of a Dog With Irritable Bowel Disease: Part 3 of 5

dog cook
photo courtesy Deposit Photos license.

True health begins with a varied diet of fresh, whole foods; avoiding redundant vaccinations and persistent pesticides; promoting repair with natural therapies that help restore normal function.

In researching this blog series on dogs dealing with Irritable Bowel Disease, the above statement from Dr. Bill Kruesi resonates so strongly, I am sharing it here. You can read the entire case study of a 4-1/2 year old spayed female German Shepherd who had never been well, despite dozens of visits to the veterinarians. The dog had IBD and with proper treatment, she recovered.

Who Else Deals with IBD?

The me of 2008 wishes she knew the me I am today. IBD came on suddenly to our dog, yet I do believe there were signs over the years, including a continually elevated ALT (liver enzyme) level and extreme food sensitivities. Both were managed and monitored.  This series is dedicated to my dog, Brandy Noel, who died from euthanasia on October 11, 2008. Her body was taken over by the ravaging effects of IBD that came on like a freight train and never stopped.

Reading through the comments of Fidose of Reality readers thus far along with or stories from folks dealing with an IBD dog, it is astounding, but not surprising, the number of dogs who are eventually being diagnosed with IBD. Because IBD is not the easiest disease to diagnose, unless an endoscopy or colonoscopy are performed, the delicate GI system of dogs is being compromised time and time again.

The hard core bottom line and cold reality of IBD is this: The cause of inflammatory bowel disease is unknown. Some experts point to genetics, nutrition, infectious agents, and/or abnormalities of the immune system may all play a role.

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Mocha’s Case

Mocha is a 10-year-old female Cocker Spaniel who was tentatively diagnosed with IBD at age three, based on blood work, fecal testing, and history of symptoms, including a severe allergy to wheat.

Mocha developed acute hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, was hospitalized, and started on a specialty prescribed diet. Sulfasalazine was started but Mocha developed dry eye within a week, so prednisone, a steroid,  became the drug of choice.

A novel protein switch failed a month later, so Mocha began a diet of Z/D Ultra. This diet, along with prednisone, helped put Mocha into remission, but her mom still felt her fecal quality was not right.

“In my experience, most of these cases start with minor gastrointestinal upset— some vomiting or diarrhea,” says ‘Wholistic Vet,’ Dr. Laurie Coger. “These resolve with symptomatic treatment, and things are fine for a couple months. Then it happens again, and it’s a little tougher to kick. The cycle repeats, with each bout being more severe, more treatments failing , the dog loses weight and body condition, and then things hit crisis point.”

Mocha’s mom, Stephanie Chozen, sought the assistance of an Internal Medicine specialist who performed a number of tests, including upper and lower GI endoscopy after the dog was weaned off prednisone, which instigated a flare up. The biopsy results did not yield conclusive diagnosis, but the pathologist’s report gave a presumptive diagnosis of IBD, mainly in the large intestine.

A cocktail of famotidine, an immune-suppressing dose of prednisone and metronidazole were prescribed along with a change in diet. After months of prednisone usage, Chozen noticed her dog developing muscle wasting. The dosage was tapered, but the dog struggled with the muscle wasting effects.

Finally down to a dose of 5 mg of prednisone per day (down from 15 mg/day), the problems resolved. Mocha’s vet decided that 5 mg would be the dog’s maintenance dose. Anything below that would instigate a flare up. The dog has been on this dose since October of 2008 with no metronidazole—except when she’s had GI bugs (not flare ups, but actual other GI illness).

cocker spaniel

Mocha’s Flareups

Flareups are treated by increasing the prednisone to 5 mg and then slowly tapering back to 2.5 mg every other day. She eats a teaspoon of pureed pumpkin in her breakfast and dinner. Mocha does well eating four times a day because she has difficulty maintaining her weight when eating twice a day. The amount of food stays the same; the meals are just split up x4 instead of x2.

“Long term the only issues she has as a result of the diet and medications are mild eye discharge (possibly due to corn starch in the food she eats) and a very thin coat, “ says Chozen. “In the grand scheme of things, neither of these are a big deal. Even the tiniest amount of wheat will still send her into a tailspin, but other than that she is stable enough that getting a tiny bit of some forbidden food does not cause her to have a flare up.”

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Sunny’s Story

Carol Pap’s Cocker Spaniel, Sunny, entered her life at around 8 or 9 years of age, after being dumped in her neighborhood.

Pap recalls, “My neighbor was a chiropractor who had knowledge about holistic matters.  She referred me to a holistic vet; my own research indicated that IBD is a condition that responds well to alternative therapies.  I did locate research performed by TAMU (never could confirm but believe this was Texas A&M) ,which lauded the use of B12 shots to control IBD and IBS.  I also experimented with other products and found that slippery elm also helped greatly.  The combination of a restricted diet, monthly B12 injections, and slippery elm tablets worked.  My excellent vet told me that she believed the B12 saved his life, so I highly recommend it.”

Sunny passed away in 2011, and although he had other ailments, digestive issues were never a major factor again.

cocker spaniel

Mariah’s Story

Cocker Mom, Gale Gordon, says her dog, 6-year-old dog, Mariah, had been suspected of having IBD for four years. At two years of age, she was placed on sulfasalazine, prednisone, and ProPectalin. Holding steady, she became sicker years later after the food she was eating for years had a formulation change.

Gordon submitted a saliva sample via NutriScan testing of Dr. Jean Dodds. Long-time readers of Fidose of Reality may recall that did a the very same test on our dog, Dexter, to determine any food sensitivities. As an aside, we highly recommend and believe in the NutriScan test as tool in helping you determine any foods your dog should not be eating.

For Mariah, the NutriScan test showed very few tolerable proteins. A colonoscopy and endoscopy indicated colitis and gastritis, with mineralization in the stomach lining, along with an ulcer. Mariah was removed from all medications and takes a probiotic and specialty diet.

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Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes, and Diet

Dr. Coger believes the importance of probiotics and digestive enzymes is often overlooked. She believes injectable vitamin B12 is helpful, as the dog is often unable to absorb B12 from the damaged intestinal tract. Our Brandy Noel, during her worst throes of IBD flares, was being given B12 injections.

Food, of course, has to be carefully managed. For Dr. Coger, if dogs can eat, without vomiting, she believes they can heal.

Delving further, Coger wonders about the amount and types of starches and gluten in the current kibble diets. More people are gluten intolerant, so why not dogs?

“We know the gluten molecule has gotten bigger as crops are genetically modified. And we know the dog has no requirement for carbohydrates (commonly supplied from grains and starches in commercial foods),” according to Dr. Coger. “ Is this a factor in more dogs developing IBD? Chronic low grade inflammation could be damaging to the lining of the intestines, leading to leaky gut, and worse.”

Resources for Extended Reading

In developing this series, a few websites have proven very valuable, and there are a few resources that have been brought to my attention.

Pet Nutrition Consulting

IBD Dogs Yahoo Group: Must apply for admittance

Dr. Karen Becker: The Hidden Inflammatory Bowel Disease That Threatens Your Pet’s Well-Being

Food Sensitivity or Food Allergy by Dr. Jean Dodds: I highly recommend you run to read this brief but powerful article by the very knowledgeable, Dr. Dodds. Food sensitivities contribute to IBD.

NutriScan Food Sensitivity Testing: This is a test we had performed on our dog, Dexter, and are grateful for the results. Read our review of NutriScan here. (since our review, NutriScan panels now test for most major proteins)


Can IBD Be Managed?

Yes: It absolutely can be managed. It cannot be “cured” but it is possible to get through it, manage it, deal with flare-ups, and have a happy, healthy dog.

In part four of the series, I will review the process of colonscopy, endoscopy, more of our struggle with IBD, and we’ll wrap the series this Friday. Stay with us.

Catch up on Part I and Part II of this Dogs with Irritable Bowel Disease series.

Note: Please discuss any changes or concerns of your dog’s health with your veterinarian.


  1. Wow, tons of great information and resources. In this house, we believe that there are a lot of ailments that stem from consumption of wheat and grain products as well as foods with lots of additives… there are a lot of human foods out there like that, and even more for dogs. Seems like there is some indication here of wheat and gluten influencing cases of IBS. Anyway, we’ll know what kit to use if we need the saliva test. Thanks! *wags* – Gilligan from

  2. Great case studies! It sounds like there were some options out there, they just had to be tailored for the dog! Its nice to know, that when diagnosed, the dogs were able to live high quality lives. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post Carol and thanks for the info on the Yahoo Group….I will be looking to join 🙂 I have to admit that I am so terrified of this disease because it is so new to us. Right now Leroy is doing so well but I know that could change at any time. There’s so much information that it has been overwhelming for me but one thing I have been told over and over again is that no case of IBD in dogs is the same and if you find something that works stay with it. I have gone over so many things that have happened with Leroy over the years and I just feel like the IBD might have been there hidden for quite some time and his surgery triggered it but we will never know for sure.

    I have tons of questions about that case study also 🙂

  4. I just stumbled across this page while doing a search. My 3-year-old beagle was diagnosed in 12/13 with moderate to severe IBD via upper endoscopy. He was placed on a regimen of metronidazole, azathioprine, prednisone, and also monthly B12 injections. He was also placed on Royal Canin hydralized protein kibble. While he remained relatively stable for almost two years, we never were able to achieve a remission.

    We lost him two weeks ago to the sudden onset of severe symptoms. He had developed intestinal lymphoma, which IBD can evolve into, and the day of diagnosis is the day we said goodbye as he was suffering. I hope one day a successful treatment for this disease will be found as saying goodbye to a dog that just turned 5 years old was absolutely heartbreaking.

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