I. What is Colitis?
Colitis may be referred to as Crohn's Disease which has similar causes and symptoms. The primary difference is that with Crohn's disease the inflammation occurs primarily in the ileum (the last portion of the small intestine) and with Colitis the inflammation is limited primarily to the lining of the colon (large intestine). Colitis can also be thrown in under general inflammation of the digestive tract usually referred to as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Symptoms of Colitis include bouts of diarrhea (perhaps bloody), pain in the GI tract, loss of appetite, weight loss, general malaise and fever.
II. Causes of Colitis
There are a number of possible causes of your dog or cat's Colitis. The more common causes are listed below.
Studies have produced several factors that lead many to believe there is a genetic component to Colitis and in a relatively high percentage of cases multiple family members can share this condition.
The majority of processed pet foods contain highly refined and low-fiber ingredients like corn, potatoes and various flours. These often poor quality ingredients have been shown to facilitate the condition of Colitis in our dogs and cats. Very often ingredients such as tomato pomace or beet pulp are added to pet foods as a source of fiber, however, being by-products (or waste products) of the human food industry, they generally make poor additions to pet foods. In the wild our canines and felines would consume fur, providing ample fiber, and bone, providing bulk, to create normal stools and prevent diarrhea. Ingredients such as ground bone are found in commercially available raw foods and help to create healthy stools and naturally express anal glands.
Additionally, processed pet foods contain so many often low-quality ingredients along with flavors, colors and other synthetic ingredients that it can be quite hard to tell which ingredient(s) may be contributing to your dog or cat’s inflammatory bowel issues. For example, chelated proteinate minerals found in most pet foods are marketed as being more easily absorbed. Unfortunately, Nature’s Logic, a natural pet food manufacturer, being able to review ingredient data from companies that produce proteinate minerals for the pet product industry discovered some interesting information. First off, all the trace mineral salts used to make metal proteinates (like copper proteinate, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, calcium proteinate, etc) are synthetic substances. In addition, without exception, all the proteinates they reviewed used hydrolyzed soy as the protein molecule. The hydrolyzation process also converts protein to MSG. So, in virtually every commercially available canned and kibble pet food you have synthetic substances, soy and MSG. Considering soy products and MSG are often at the top of the list of substances that can cause inflammation and allergic reactions, do you think it is possible that these commercial pet foods could be contributing to your pet’s Colitis and other health issues? Of course they could!
Poorly digested food is a common problem in our dogs and cats and often contributes to Colitis. This occurs because larger food particles are not broken down properly into their smaller constituents that allow for normal absorption through the digestive tract and healthy elimination. Instead, these larger food particles can contribute to damage and disease in the digestive tract resulting in immune system disturbances and related inflammation. The body’s reaction to these undigested, inflammatory particles is to eliminate them from the body as quickly as possible resulting in diarrhea.
There are various species of bacteria and viruses that are suspected to potentially cause symptoms of Colitis. Many of these have been identified in people, such as rotavirus and Epstein-Barr virus, but similar organisms may be responsible for Colitis symptoms in our dogs and cats as well.
Drugs / Supplements
Certain drugs can cause symptoms related to Colitis for a number of different reasons. One reason is the body’s desire to remove offending substances from your animal’s body as quickly as possible. This results in digestive waste being moving through the digestive tract more quickly with less time spent in the colon where healthy stool is formed. Another reason is the altering of the balance of digestive flora. This certainly is the case with antibiotics that destroy colonies of beneficial organisms allowing the overgrowth of invasive, opportunistic organisms like Candida albicans. These unwelcome organisms often secrete toxins and interfere with proper digestion. If your dog or cat’s elimination behavior changes soon after the addition of a new medication there is a very good possibility that the drug is contributing to the diarrhea or other symptoms. If you aren’t sure you can do an online search to check for the side effects of the medication you are using.
Another condition that could be confused with Colitis is called osmotic diarrhea. This occurs when certain substances cause excess water to be retained or drawn into the bowels based on the principles of osmosis. Excessive sugar (as with lactose intolerance - a milk sugar) or salt intake can cause osmotic diarrhea as can the use of too much water-soluble molecules, like magnesium or vitamin C, that result in increased fluid retention in the bowel.
III. Standard Veterinary Medicine Approach
Your veterinarian will examine your dog for underlying illnesses and assess for dehydration. He or she may take a stool sample to check for the presence of internal parasites, as well as conduct blood tests to identify a possible cause of your pet's symptoms. Other diagnostic tests might include radiographs, ultrasound, cultures, endoscopy and biopsy. The diagnostic tests performed will depend on how long the symptoms have been going on and the severity of your pet's condition. Treatment recommendations will be determined by the results of x-rays or other diagnostic tests that determine if any abnormalities are present in the GI tract.
In our experience it is most common for a veterinarian to prescribe an antibiotic, like Flagyl (metronidazole), even when the cause of the diarrhea or other symptoms is unknown. Overusing antibiotics in this way is dangerous and leads to imbalances in your dog or cat that can lead to lifelong disabilities as well as the possibility of stronger, antibiotic resistant bacteria strains in the future. Your vet may also prescribe a steroid medication in an effort to reduce inflammation within the digestive tract. This may be necessary for some very short term needs but if the symptoms are not life threatening then other more natural approaches will be more suitable with less undesirable side effects.
Bring your dog or cat to the vet if severe diarrhea continues for more than a day, or if you observe lethargy, vomiting, fever, dark-colored or bloody stools, straining to defecate, decreased appetite or unexplained weight loss. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice your puppy has diarrhea, as it can be an important indicator of serious diseases in young dogs.
IV. Holistic Natural Protocol Goal
We are not permitted to diagnose or treat specific diseases. All of our protocols are designed to use supplementation and diet to promote the health and rebalancing of organ systems that may be contributing to your animal's condition.
The goal of our natural Colitis protocol is to help reduce the inflammation in your pet's digestive tract and to provide nutrients that help to heal the lining of the digestive tract while also improving digestion and replenishing beneficial flora. At the same time in a holistic fashion, we want to remove any contributing factors whether these are in your pet's diet, environment or occur during veterinary visits. Since we do not necessarily know the root cause(s) of the imbalance in your particular animal, we do know from our research and experience what are the primary culprits.
V. Our Holistic Colitis Protocol
Core Recommendations Suggested products are included in the Core Colitis Package found below.
Our "Core Recommendations" form the backbone of our Colitis Protocol. They consist of supplement recommendations that we feel are the most important to provide to your animal companion for this condition. They are displayed as a package and individually at the bottom of this page along with other helpful products from which you may make additional selections. Pet foods can be purchased at your finer, local pet stores. If you desire more individualized attention please feel free to use our Consultation Form to provide detailed information about your dog or cat so we can better help you.
Core Recommendation #1 - Diarrhea Relief Formula
Colitis is caused by inflammation in the lower digestive tract that results in diarrhea and other uncomfortable symptoms. Our Diarrhea Relief contains organic herbs known for their anti-inflammatory benefits as well as soluble fibers and a special bacteria that provide benefits such as:
Core Recommendation #2 - Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics
One of the possible causes of your dog or cat's Colitis relates to the poor digestion of their meals. When molecules like proteins are incompletely broken down into their smallest size (amino acids) they can often cause inflammation in the digestive tract and throughout the body. The enzymes in this formula will help to quickly and completely break down your pet's meals. The probiotics and whole food prebiotics will help to restore a healthier balance of beneficial flora to the digestive tract as well as a stronger mucosal lining.
Core Recommendation #3 - Repair and Strengthen
This formula contains a cold-processed whey protein isolate supplying the important amino acid glutamine, colostrum that provides anti-inflammatory proline-rich polypeptides and healing growth factors that help to repair damaged tissue along with organic Aloe vera that provides soothing, anti-inflammatory and healing benefits. All these nutrients are important to the growth and maintenance of intestinal cells and can greatly benefit dogs and cats with inflammatory bowel issues.
Whole Food Nutrition
With a condition like Colitis your dog or cat needs the highest value nutrition possible to provide the body with what it needs for maintenance and repair. Because of this we highly recommend a whole food diet, which just means real food not processed. We normally recommend raw food because this is how carnivores, like canines and felines, have evolved to eat and they do best on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. However, some animal's with conditions like Colitis may have an initial problem properly digesting raw food so you will have to see what works best for your particular dog or cat. Fortunately, there are now many quality premixes to choose from to which you can add your own raw or cooked meat.
Be aware that kibble diets are harder for an animal to digest and most contain many highly processed ingredients that can contribute to inflammatory conditions in the digestive tract and this is the last thing your dog or cat needs at this point. Poor digestion can contribute to the symptoms we generally see in animals with Colitis like like diarrhea and even arthritis and allergy issues. In addition, because commercial pet foods contain so many different ingredients that are often poor quality, it can be difficult to determine which ingredient may be contributing to your pet's condition.
If you decide to make a homemade diet please research the proper way to do this and make sure to add a calcium source like our Seaweed Calcium. For more information and some product recommendations read our article How to Feed Your Dog or How to Feed Your Cat that can be found in our Education section.
This is a great remedy to have on hand for those times your dog or cat gets an upset tummy. The organic herbs in this formula work wonderfully to relieve gas, indigestion and nausea that can make your pet feel awful. This can be given daily before or after meals or kept in the fridge to use as needed.
We highly recommend you transition to this product to replace our Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics when your animal's condition has improved. Our Daily Multi Plus is formulated with organic, whole foods that are extremely important to an animal's nutritional needs but are often missing from the majority of canine and feline diets. This special formula provides the enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, glandulars, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that are so beneficial to the body's daily maintenance and repair needs for healthy aging. In this formula you will find the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants recommended by the veterinarian community for this condition - only in an organic, whole food form!
Many animals we work with are having problems with insufficient stomach acid (hypochloridia). Feeding a kibble diet raises the alkalinity of your pet's stomach resulting in incomplete digestion, but dogs and cats can have problems properly digesting other foods as well. This contributes to many inflammatory issues in the body such as diarrhea, arthritis and allergies. Our Probiotic Digestive Tonic is rich in lactic acid and thriving colonies of live and active bacteria cultures and our Herbal Digestive Tonic contains organic herbal bitters tinctured in organic apple cider vinegar that helps to acidify the gut and stimulate gastric, intestinal and gall bladder (bile) secretions to supercharge digestion. Choose one or try both and see which works best for your dog (liquids like these are usually more difficult to get into cats).
When your dog or cat is suffering with an imbalance there will be an increase in free radical production that can further damage tissue and cause premature aging and possibly other disease. We want to provide your animal with high quality antioxidants to neutralize these free radicals along with other nutrients to aid the body's healing and rebuilding processes. This specialized blend of microalgae is able to travel directly into the cells lining the digestive tract providing nutrients on a cellular level. In addition, nutrients from the microalgae are able to cross the blood brain barrier and the retinal barrier for amazing effects on the brain and eyes as well as the entire body. This is truly an amazing and beneficial supplement we recommend to all of our clients.
If you feel that your dog or cat has come into contact with a microorganism that is causing diarrhea, either because you recently went for a hike or to the dog park, then providing this antimicrobial formula could be of benefit. Our formula contains organic herbs that help to stimulate the immune system while providing antimicrobial activity effective against bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. When your animal's condition is not considered to be life-threatening, this formula can make a great alternative to broad spectrum antibiotics that eliminate beneficial organisms throughout the entire body possible leading to imbalances like chronic diarrhea or urinary tract infections that can last the lifetime of your dog or cat.
Are the chelated proteinate minerals added to my pet food I use better than a non-chelated form of a mineral? Retrieved from http://www.natureslogic.com/bl_faq/are-the-chelated-proteinate-minerals/
Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Kidd, R. (2000). Dr. Kidd’s guide to herbal dog care. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.
Messonnier, S. (2001). Natural health bible for dogs & cats: You’re a-z guide to over 200 conditions, herbs, vitamins and supplements. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
Murray, M. T., & Pizzorno, J. E. (1998). Encyclopedia of natural medicine (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
Pitcairn R. H., & Hubble-Pitcairn S. (1995). Dr. Pitcairn’s complete guide to natural health for dogs & cats. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc.
Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing with whole foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Puotinen, CJ. (2000). The encyclopedia of natural pet care (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Keats Publishing.
Tilford, G. L., & Wulff, M. L. (2009). Herbs for pets: The natural way to enhance your pet’s life. (2nd ed.). Irvine, CA: BowTie Press.
Thibodeau, G.A., & Patton, K.T. (2008). Structure & function of the body. St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
VI. Natural Remedies for Colitis