Canine Heartworm Disease

Gunbil German shepherd puppy in motion

Colitis is an inflammation of the colon that is common to dogs. Colitis is responsible for approximately 50% of all cases of chronic diarrhea in young, large breed dogs.

The causes of colitis may include inflammatory bowel disease, whipworms, and irritable bowel syndrome (a motility disorder often associated with highly-strung dogs).

In brief “colitis” is the term for inflammation of the colon. The chief feature of colitis is a gooey diarrhea, featuring mucus, fresh blood or both. The stool may start normal then finish soft or may seem gooey throughout.

There is often accompanying cramping, gas, and a sense of immediate urgency (the sudden need to run for a bathroom). Vomiting can be a feature of this condition though it is the characteristic diarrhea that is the hallmark. Colitis may be acute (lasting only a few days) or chronic (lasting weeks or months on end). Even in chronic case, weight loss is usually not a feature of this condition.

Clinical Signs

In classifying diarrhea, it is important to determine whether the problem relates to the small intestine (diarrheas originating here are more serious) or large intestine. Diarrheas of the large intestine have the following common characteristics:

They are not associated with weight loss.

They are associated with straining and sense of sudden urgency.

They often involve fresh blood in the stool.

They often involve slime or mucus in the stool.

They often involve a stool that starts normal and finishes loose.

They involve stool quality that is more gooey or slimy than watery.


A diagnosis of colitis is generally straight forward given the above classic findings though how one should proceed depends on the course of the signs. Is the problem acute (i.e. suddenly there) or chronic (been happening for several weeks regularly) or episodic (happens then goes away then happens again)?

Diagnosis of colitis requires a complete physical examination to rule out possible other disease and ensure that the animal is not suffering from a malabsorption disorder. Your veterinarian will need a fecal sample to search for parasites, which may be causing the disorder. Depending on the clinical signs, your veterinarian may also recommend radiography (x-rays), colonoscopy or a biopsy.


Treatment of colitis depends on the underlying cause of the inflammation. Pets suffering from parasitic infections may simply be given a wormer. Bacterial infections may require that the animal be placed on antibiotics for up to a month. Inflammation that has not been associated with an infectious agent may require longer-term anti-inflammatory treatment. Prescription diets containing high-fiber content may also be recommended to help maintain colonic health and encourage normal defecation.

Antibiotics such as Metronidazole (Flagyl) are normally prescribed to help control bacterial causes and sulfa-containing drugs such as Azulfadine are often used long term to treat chronic colitis. In certain cases, steroids such as prednisone may be used.

your dog is diagnosed with colitis, follow your vet’s recommended treatment, which will depend on the cause of the colitis.
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