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Colitis is inflammation of the colon. Sudden colitis can be induced by stress and excitement.

However, there are many factors which may cause colitis: dietary hypersensitivity, infection with parasites, viruses and bacteria.

In acute colitis, the problem comes and goes, however if the colitis lasts more than 3 weeks it is said to be chronic.

Typical symptoms

  • Diarrhoea (different from true diarrhoea, which is very watery)

  • Blood in the stool

  • Mucus covered stools

  • Stool often starts normal then throughout the day it becomes loose

  • Animal may strain to defecate

  • Animal may show urgency to defecate

  • Animal may want to defecate more frequently

The longer the stool remains in the colon, the more water is absorbed from it. However, due to inflammation of the colon there is difficulty in moving the stool along the colon and therefore a problem absorbing water from the stools. This means they pass out the animal quickly and with a high water content. The blood comes from damage to the protective lining of the colon.

Traditionally, high fibre diets are advised for dogs suffering from colitis because fibre absorbs water. However, fibre increases the bulk of the stool, which can therefore be harder to pass.

Fibre is suggested because a common belief is that colitis is caused by a lack of fibre or 'bulk' in the diet. However, this problem is often seen in low quality foods, which produce a lot of 'bulk' because they are difficult to digest (e.g. many foods contain wheat, Soya or dairy products, these are less easily digested than other ingredients).

An animal suffering from colitis should be fed small amounts of a highly digestible, low fat, high quality diet. This should produce smaller stools, which are easier for the animal to pass.

Colitis may also be caused by dietary intolerance or allergies. Blood and skin tests are not a reliable way for testing food allergies, the best way is to use an elimination diet.

Intolerances can result from chemical preservatives/flavourings or colourings in the food, foods high in fat or high in protein and certain types of protein in the food.
Dogs - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Burns Pet Nutrition

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