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Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Dogs (IBS)

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Dogs?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in dogs refers to a condition wherein the intestinal muscles don’t operate as they should, resulting in bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Authentic IBS occurrences are relatively rare among dogs. Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome relies on exclusion criteria, indicating that despite testing, no identifiable cause can be pinpointed for a dog’s diarrhea.


Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in dogs primarily manifest as diarrhea and constipation. Usually, the diarrhea presents as watery stool with varying degrees of formlessness. These gastrointestinal disturbances can be chronic or intermittent, resolving between episodes. Onset of each episode is often sudden, accompanied by signs of discomfort such as a painful abdomen, gas, and borborygmi—a distinctive “gas bubble” sound in the stomach.


The underlying cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in dogs is primarily attributed to a disorder in intestinal motility. This implies that the muscles of the intestines do not contract in the usual manner. Under normal circumstances, intestinal muscle movement follows a rhythmic pattern known as peristalsis, which propels food from the mouth to the anus. However, in IBS, these muscles may fail to contract synchronously, or they may exhibit either excessive speed or sluggishness. The aberrant motility observed in IBS can stem from factors such as food intolerance or stress.


Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in dogs poses a challenge as its symptoms overlap with numerous other conditions. IBS diagnosis typically follows a process of exclusion, wherein a veterinarian must eliminate various other diseases before confirming IBS. This often commences with bloodwork to detect anomalies in blood cell counts or irregular levels of liver and kidney enzymes. Diagnostic measures may also involve:

  • Abdominal imaging via x-rays or ultrasound to identify tumors, abnormal intestinal structure, obstructions, severe constipation, and irregular intestinal movement.
  • Blood tests to assess pancreas function.
  • Intestinal biopsy.
  • Fecal culture to detect bacterial infection.
  • PCR testing for viruses.

Additionally, a crucial aspect of diagnosing IBS in dogs involves initiating a dietary trial to observe your dog’s response to different diets.


Following a diagnosis of IBS in dogs, treatment typically involves a combination of medication and dietary adjustments. During IBS episodes, administration of antidiarrheal medication and probiotics aids in halting diarrhea and restoring balance to the gut microbiota. Your veterinarian might suggest a dietary change to help manage the condition. Opting for a highly digestible diet with increased fiber content can alleviate gut inflammation and regulate bowel movements. Diets such as Royal Canin Gastrointestinal High Fiber or Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d are recommended options as they promote normal intestinal movement and help prevent diarrhea and constipation.

Living and Management

Recovery and management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in dogs often involve addressing stress triggers. Strategies such as stress avoidance or premedication to mitigate stress can aid in preventing or reducing the severity of episodes. With appropriate treatment, many dogs typically experience recovery from IBS episodes within a week. However, for some dogs, ongoing issues with IBS may persist despite treatment. In such cases, lifelong adherence to a prescription diet is necessary to prevent future episodes and manage the condition effectively.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Dogs FAQs

What is the optimal diet for dogs with IBS?

Dogs diagnosed with IBS should be fed a diet that is highly digestible and rich in soluble fiber. Typically, this entails a prescription diet such as Royal Canin Gastrointestinal High Fiber or Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d.

How does IBS differ from IBD in dogs?

IBS presents with symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, or constipation. Notably, it lacks an identifiable cause, with no presence of bacteria, viruses, inflammation, or cancer in intestinal biopsies. IBS primarily affects the large intestine and is often triggered by stressful events.

In contrast, IBD affects both the small and large intestine, featuring inflammatory cells on biopsy. It leads to symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea and requires lifelong therapy as it’s a chronic condition.

How prevalent is IBS in dogs?

Genuine cases of IBS are infrequent among dogs. Given that symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal discomfort are common across various diseases, it’s crucial to seek evaluation by a veterinarian if your dog exhibits such symptoms to determine appropriate treatment.

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