Colitis in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/20/20242-4 minutes
woman playing with a small black and grey dog

Colitis in dogs is a condition that can cause your four-legged friend to have diarrhea which can be quite painful, but luckily, with the correct treatment, colitis can go away relatively quickly. Find out all you need to know about the possible symptoms and the treatment options with this guide. 

There are numerous conditions which may cause your four-legged friend to have diarrhea, one of which is colitis in dogs. This is very unpleasant for them and can make it painful to go to the toilet, so it’s important that veterinary help is sought as soon as possible for diagnosis and prompt treatment. 

If you suspect your dog has colitis, keep reading to find out about the symptoms of colitis in dogs and the current treatment options available. 

What is Colitis in Dogs?

Colitis in dogs is a condition that refers to the inflammation of the large intestine or colon. It will commonly display as diarrhea or loose stools which will usually contain fresh blood and mucus. Additionally, these stools may be difficult to pass and can cause pain when defecating. 

What Causes Colitis in Dogs?

There are numerous possible causes of colitis in dogs, from eating anything unusual to something more long term such as irritable bowel syndrome. The most common causes are: 

Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs

The symptoms can vary from dog to dog, but the most typical signs are: 

These symptoms may come on suddenly (acute), or they may last for several weeks or be recurring (chronic). 

How is Colitis in Dogs Diagnosed?

If you suspect your dog has colitis, take them to the vet right away for examination. Your vet will check your dog’s history to rule out any other conditions and will likely request a stool sample so they can search for the presence of worms or other parasites. 

In some cases, X-rays and/or ultrasounds may also be carried out to look for possible foreign bodies or obstructions in the digestive tract. Blood counts, colonoscopies or colon biopsies may be required, too, to try and identify the cause of the colitis. 

How to Treat Colitis in Dogs

There are a few possible treatment options for colitis, depending on the cause. Your vet will determine what the cause is and then either prescribe a plain diet, worming treatment or anti-inflammatory probiotics. You’ll need to keep an eye on your pooch and contact a vet if there’s no improvement. 

Plain Diets

Firstly, your vet will likely try and tackle the problem from a nutrition point of view and may suggest a period of fasting that will range from 24 to 48 hours in order to let the digestive tract rest. Alternatively, they may suggest a bland diet such as boiled chicken and rice or prescribe a veterinary diet instead. Find out more information on feeding your dog rice here. 

Worming Treatment

If this issue is due to worms or parasites, then the method of treatment for colitis in dogs will likely include a worming treatment and further advice from your vet on when and how to administer it. 

Anti-Inflammatory Probiotics

A few other treatment options may be probiotics to improve gut health, antimicrobial drugs to treat infections if present and anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation and pain of the gut. 

If your dog is prescribed medication to treat the colitis, always make sure you follow the directions as instructed. If you don’t, there’s a risk that the colitis will return. After the medication is finished, if your dog isn’t showing signs of getting better, take them back to the vet for further treatment. 

How Do You Prevent Colitis in Dogs?

Once veterinary help is sought, colitis in dogs usually resides quite quickly. However, if your dog is prone to issues such as colitis, there are a few things you can do to prevent it in the future. For one, if the root of the problem lies in them consuming things which aren’t good for them while out on walks, consider teaching them the ‘leave it’ command or keeping them on the leash in order to stop scavenging. 

If the issue is linked to their food, consider a slow and steady diet change – your vet will be able to advise on the best option to suit your dog and their unique dietary needs. Finally, always be sure to worm regularly to prevent parasite related issues. 

That’s our guide to colitis in dogs. For more tips from Purina experts on how to look after your dog’s digestive health, explore our other dog digestion articles.

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