What diet can I feed my dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

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The top 5 rules for the diet of a dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The bad news is, there is no cure for a dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Symptoms of IBD, such as frequent nausea, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, among others, can become very challenging for both, dogs with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and their owners.
But fortunately, there are some medications vets can prescribe to ease symptoms.
And, even though it is usually a longer route of trial and error with a chance of frequent flare ups, strictly adhering to certain habits in the diet of a dog with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and avoiding certain irritating ingredients can be very helpful.
In this article I will talk particularly about the number one issue we have to deal with in our dog’s inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, and the five key measures that help us to curb this symptom. These tips may also help with your dog’s nausea, gas and maybe even constipation. But in any case, the success of these measures is going to be a matter of trial and error.

Diet of a dog with inflammatory Bowel disease

My top 5 tips for the diet of Bull Terriers and other dogs with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

1. Feed the dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease food at room temperature

Give the dog food some time to reach room temperature by taking it out of the fridge early or even putting it into the microwave for a few seconds. Avoid feeding the dog food right from the fridge. This spares the body some energy, plus, the lining of the stomach and the bowels tend to tolerate body warm servings of dog food better.
If you can easily touch the food for the dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease with your finger and it feels neither cold nor warm, then it has the correct temperature.


2. Feed the dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease several small servings per day

Try to opt for several smaller servings of dog food distributed over the day, if you can, versus just feeding once or twice.
Don’t feed the dog late at night, allowing the bowels to calm down before sleep time. Mila eats four servings a day, her last meal around 6 p.m.

3. Soften dry dog food before feeding it to a dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Soak dry dog food for 1-2 hours before feeding. Right now I always have a serving of soaked dry dog food sitting in my fridge so I don’t run out.
The dry dog food will be easier to digest when it is already soaked and soft.

Soften dry dog food before feeding it to a dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

4. Chop and cook fresh dog food for a dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Cook ALL fresh dog food, meats as well as vegetables, and cut it into small pieces. The cooking and chopping alleviates digestion.
Every step that makes it easier for the stomach to handle and break down the dog food will help curb outbreaks of diarrhea.

5. If you found dog food and treats your dog likes and tolerates, don’t deviate!

Every time I break my own rules to treat doggie with something delicious besides her failsafe treats, I always regret it. Every. Single. Time.
Currently, we’re using peeled and finely diced apples. Peeling is important, as apple peel can again irritate the stomach. But peeled apples usually don’t irritate and don’t provide too much acid to create a problem. Alternatively, I am using unsoaked pieces of her dry dog food. But I always only feed two or three pieces of those at a time because as I mentioned before the dry dog food in the unsoaked state is less easily digestible.

One more thing …. broth for a dog with inflammatory Bowel disease

I recently read some information about beef or chicken broth for PETS becoming the new pet superfood, particularly for dogs with gastrointestinal issues. We have tried some. I have fed it as a small liquid snack and soaked the dry dog food in it. At least I can say so far that it hasn’t caused any additional trouble.
Broth for pets offers various benefits. It’s high in nutrients without byproducts. However, if you don’t want to cook it yourself, I recommend buying broth specifically made for pets. Most broth products for humans contain a lot of salt and sometimes even other ingredients which your dog’s digestion may not tolerate.
Broth for pets is said to be highly digestible and unlikely to further irritate an upset stomach. Especially for dogs who have been suffering from diarrhea over a longer period of time, broth can replenish nutrients without further escalating the situation. It brings back fluids at the same time, which is important because everyone with diarrhea, human OR dog, loses an unhealthy number of fluids and minerals, which need to be replenished.
Broth for pets is available as liquids or powders.
Of course, every dog is different and there’s no way to find out if broth for pets is beneficial for your dog, too, except giving it a try.

The right dog food is key for a dog with IBD Inflammatory Bowel Disease

There is no such thing as THE right dog food for a dog with IBD. The food your dog’s digestive system tolerates best could be a dry dog food, it may be fresh dog food, or it may be a combination of both. There’s never a guarantee that all dogs tolerate and like a certain dog food in the same way.
I want to tell you here, which nutrition helped us in order to give you a chance and try it.
The dry dog food I am feeding currently, is

Open Farm New Zealand Venison Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

This is the high quality product of a small business which takes pride in the sourcing and the manufacturing of their products.
But since quality is not the only criteria in this matter, I would still recommend trying a small bag at first, if you want to consider this dog food, and see how it works out for your dog.

The reason why I consider this a good quality dry dog food:

The ingredients are high quality, and the list of ingredients is not super long. You will not find the typical fillers on the label and meat is the first ingredient, all a good sign. Every person who has smelled this dry dog food so far, told me how good it smells. I’ve never had this experience with any other dry dog food. It’s certainly not my first priority but it helps me trust this dog food even more.
I also like that the manufacturer is very transparent even with the origin of their ingredients. You can find this information on their website.
Here is the ingredient list of the variety of dry dog food Mila is currently eating:

Open Farm New Zealand Venison Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Ingredients with country of origin

100% Animal Welfare Certified Venison (New Zealand)
Field Peas (Canada, Saskatchewan)
Ocean Whitefish Meal (United States, Alaska)
Sweet Potato (United States, Mississippi, North Carolina)
Herring Meal (Mexico)
Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas) (United States, North Dakota)
Red Lentils (United States, North Dakota)
Green Lentils (United States, North Dakota)
Coconut Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols) (Indonesia / Philippines / Malaysia)
Flaxseed (United States, North Dakota)
Pumpkin (United States, Illinois / Honduras)
Natural Flavour  (United States, Missouri / Canada, Quebec)
Carrots (United States, California)
Apples (United States, Wisconsin)
Sunflower Oil (United States, Minnesota, Illinois / Bulgaria)
Salmon Oil (Chile)
Cranberries (United States, Wisconsin)
Chicory Root (Belgium)
Salt (United States, Kansas)
Suncured Alfalfa (United States, Minnesota)
Choline Chloride (United States, Missouri)
Vitamin E Supplement (Spain)
Vitamin A Supplement (Denmark / Poland)
Niacin Supplement (Poland)
Pantothenic Acid (Poland)
Riboflavin Supplement (Poland)
Vitamin D3 Supplement (Denmark)
Thiamine Mononitrate (Poland)
Vitamin B12 Supplement (Poland)
Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Poland)
Folic Acid (Poland)
Zinc Proteinate (United States, South Dakota)
Iron Proteinate (United States, South Dakota_
Manganese Proteinate (United States, South Dakota)
Copper Proteinate (United States, South Dakota)
Selenium Yeast (United States, Kentucky)
Calcium Iodate (United States, Missouri)
Taurine (Japan)
Mixed Tocopherols  (United States, Iowa)
Cinnamon (Indonesia)
Turmeric (India)
Rosemary Extract (United States, Iowa)

We are currently using the venison variety, because venison, fish and beef seem to be the least irritating meaty ingredients for Mila’s bowels.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean this variety is automatically also going to work just as well for your dog. Therefore, again, I recommend starting with a small package if you want to give this dog food a try.

Currently the nutrition of our Bull Terrier Mila looks like this:

Four meals per day at room temperature, the first two of the day are the soaked dry dog food. The last two meals are composed of cooked venison with bone, beef, sometimes boiled eggs, cooked sweet potato or alternatively cooked lentils or green peas.
We do experience flare ups of the diarrhea now and then. During these times, skipping the cooked dog food and only feeding the dry dog food has proven to calm her digestive system down within a couple of days. I have no idea why, but it is working for us.

Why did chicken and white rice not make it on this list of diet tips for a dog with IBD?

For us this very popular approach did not bring the desired results. It may be different for your dog. As it happens to be the case Mila is allergic to chicken and can’t digest cooked rice very well. I have noticed whole, undigested cooked rice grains come out again in her stools.
And I found out that Mila doesn’t seem to be the only dog having these issues. The digestion of carbohydrates, such as white rice, requires a certain enzyme in the body. Dogs, as I learned, have these enzymes in their bodies, but far less of them than humans, for example. That makes it difficult for the canine digestion to deal with high carb dog foods, such as white rice. For example, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils and peas all have less carbohydrates than white rice, making them easier digestible, provided they have been cooked before feeding them.
This is also the reason why we are feeding a GRAIN-FREE dry dog food.
So, my own experience is the reason why chicken and rice are not on my list of advised dog foods for dogs with gastrointestinal issues and diarrhea.
They may still be worth a try in your case. But now you know why I do not give a recommendation for these particular ingredients.

Supplements to consider for a dog with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Usually, Inflammatory Bowel disease in dogs is likely to make antibiotics necessary sooner or later because secondary infection of the weakened intestinal lining is a contributing factor in the course of the disease. Unfortunately, antibiotics kill bad AND good bacteria, which is why they are known to put stress on the bowels. Probiotics for dogs can help with that. It is advisable to choose a product specifically formulated for dogs, because the necessary dosage and composition in these products are not the same for humans and dogs. In addition, supplements for humans, especially capsules, tablets and fluids, are often full of fillers to facilitate intake. A lot of these fillers are not good for dogs.
A possible natural additive to try is low fat cottage cheese as a source of probiotics.

Fat: High quality and in small amounts

Healthy dogs benefit from higher fat contents in their nutrition more than the average human body, especially very active dogs.
But this is a different story for dogs with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. As there is inflammation present in the digestive system, less fat makes the dog food easier digestible for these canine patients. Still, additives such as Salmon Oil or other oils with high quality fatty acids can be beneficial even for these dogs.

High quality nutrition has helped us a lot to deal with Mila’s digestive issues. I hope these tips are also helpful for you, if you are going through this Inflammatory Bowel disease with your dog.

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