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Inflammatory Bowel Disease & Diet

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (aka IBD) in dogs is a chronic condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract, leading to inflammation and discomfort. While medical intervention is crucial, dietary management plays a pivotal role in alleviating symptoms and supporting overall canine health. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the complexities of IBD in dogs and explore the impact of diet on managing this condition.

Understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a group of disorders characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. In dogs, the severity of IBD can vary from mild clinical signs to life-threatening protein-losing enteropathies, and clinical signs may be intermittent or persistent. Common clinical signs associated with IBD include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and decreased appetite– the type of clinical signs seen can often give some information as to which part of the gastrointestinal tract is involved. The exact cause of IBD is often unknown, but factors such as genetics, environment, parasitic and bacterial infections, microbiome imbalances, and immune system dysfunction may contribute to its development. There does not appear to be a gender or age predisposition although it typically affects adult dogs. 

Diet and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Dietary management is a cornerstone in the treatment of canine IBD. Tailoring a dog’s diet to meet its specific nutritional needs and address sensitivities can significantly improve the quality of life for dogs with this condition. Here are key considerations when designing a diet for a dog with IBD:

  1. Water

Dehydration is a common problem in dogs with IBD. Not only do they tend to drink less water, but this is further worsened by vomiting and/or diarrhea. 

  1. Energy Density

Foods with a higher energy density (more calories per serving) are preferred as these foods allow for a dog to eat less, meaning less stomach distention and secretions. Because those foods with high energy density typically contain more fat, and fat can contribute to IBD complications, a moderately energy dense food is recommended, typically within the 4.0 to 4.5 kcal/g DM range. If feeding a fiber-enhanced food, the energy density should be at least 3.2 kcal/g. 

Wild Earth Performance contains 3.4 kcal/g

Wild Earth Maintenance Golden Rotisserie contains 3.7 kcal/g

Wild Earth Maintenance Classic Roast contains 3.7 kcal/g

  1. Fat 

High fat diets can contribute to osmotic diarrhea and protein losses. Therefore it is recommended that fat content should be within 12-15% DM. If feeding a fiber-enhanced food, the fat content should be 8% to 12% DM. 

Wild Earth Performance contains 13.8% DM

Wild Earth Maintenance Golden Rotisserie contains 11% DM

Wild Earth Maintenance Classic Roast contains 9.9% DM

  1. Protein

Dogs with IBD tend to lose protein in their feces, potentially leading to protein malnutrition, and therefore their diet should be made up of at least 25% DM protein and be highly digestible. Not only does the amount of protein matter, but so does the source. It is suspected that dietary antigens play a role in IBD and therefore many times, a hydrolyzed or novel protein diet is recommended. If this is chosen, lower protein levels can be used at 16% to 26% DM. If choosing a novel protein diet, try to use novel protein sources that the dog has not been exposed to before. This helps reduce the risk of triggering allergic reactions or exacerbating sensitivities

All Wild Earth formulas are novel protein diets that are free from the most common allergens for dogs which include beef, dairy, chicken, wheat, and lamb. These ingredients may contribute to inflammation and worsen IBD symptoms in sensitive individuals.

Wild Earth Performance contains 31.4% DM

Wild Earth Maintenance Golden Rotisserie contains 26.6% DM

Wild Earth Maintenance Classic Roast contains 26.6% DM

  1. Crude Fiber

In humans, studies have shown that eating small amounts of soluble or mixed fiber can be beneficial. This is because the beneficial bacteria in the gut ferment the fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids which nourish the intestinal cells. Furthermore, using prebiotic fibers also leads to the growth of beneficial bacteria. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, adds bulk to the stool, and is beneficial for small bowel diarrhea. For IBD, it is recommended that mixed fiber be included at less than 5% DM. For increased fiber foods using mostly insoluble fiber, fiber should be 7% to 15% DM. 

Wild Earth Performance contains 3.2% DM. Furthermore, it contains both inulin and fructooligosaccharides which are heavily researched prebiotics that may be beneficial in IBD involving the small intestine and colon. 

Wild Earth Maintenance Golden Rotisserie contains 2.9% DM

Wild Earth Maintenance Classic Roast contains 1.9% DM

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  1. Electrolytes 

Due to vomiting and diarrhea, hypokalemia, or decreased potassium levels, is common. It is recommended that the commercial dog food fed contains 0.8% to 1.1% DM potassium. 

Wild Earth Performance contains 0.7% DM

Wild Earth Maintenance Golden Rotisserie contains 0.8% DM

Wild Earth Maintenance Classic Roast contains 0.6% DM

  1. Digestibility

For dogs with IBD, it is recommended they eat a highly digestible food – ≥87% for protein and ≥90% for fat and digestible carbohydrate. For fiber-enhanced foods, digestibility should be  ≥80% for protein and fat and ≥90% for carbohydrates. 

Since we do not condone testing on laboratory animals, we have not conducted an in vivo digestibility study, however we have conducted an in vitro digestibility study and our food had a digestibility of 99%. 

Always Consult Your Veterinarian

If you suspect that your dog has IBD or it has been confirmed and you are looking to make a change to their diet, it’s crucial to consult with your dog’s veterinarian. They will be able to provide personalized recommendations based on your dog’s specific needs. Wild Earth is a novel protein diet that meets several, but not all of the nutritional recommendations for IBD, however it may be suitable for some dogs with IBD. Above I have included the levels of each key nutrient in Wild Earth so that you may be able to speak with your veterinarian about whether Wild Earth is an appropriate choice for your dog. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in dogs requires a comprehensive approach that includes both medical treatment and dietary management. A carefully selected diet can make a significant difference in managing symptoms, promoting digestive health, and enhancing the overall well-being of dogs with IBD. By understanding the unique nutritional needs of dogs with this condition and tailoring their diet accordingly, you can contribute to a happier and healthier life for your furry best friend.

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Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA

Dr. Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva is the Professional Services Veterinarian here at Wild Earth. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Brown University, and attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in general practice, on telehealth platforms, and in animal rehabilitation. She has worked tirelessly to gain expertise in the field of canine nutrition through numerous certifications and coursework, and plans to pursue her Masters in Animal Nutrition.

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