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Exercise Helps Dogs with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Thank you Susan Thixton,  of the  for sharing information and articles which have relevance for pet parents everywhere. This post by Dr. Michael Fox has some great insights into the importance of exercise for urban pets.

Exercise Helps Dogs with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Dr. Michael Fox shares some interesting information from a study showing exercise has clinically proven to help with IBD in dogs.

Two veterinarians in Taiwan have documented the benefits in small breed dogs living a sedentary life and suffering from chronic diarrhea of putting them on an exercise regimen in addition to standard prednisolone treatment. This was after other dietary treatments (hydrolysed and hypoallergenic elimination diets) and various supplements either failed or only partially improved their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Although this was a small study in part inspired by the clinical improvement in human patients suffering from IBD who are able to participate in a regular exercise program, it offers a safe and potentially effective additional therapeutic approach to this all too common canine condition.

From behavioral observations of my own dogs they will pass a few stools when let outdoors in the morning to urinate but only when they are aroused and setting off for a long, fast walk or safe and legal off-leash romp do they fully empty their bowels. Dogs living a sedentary life, rarely aroused and often being trained to evacuate inside especially when living in high-rise apartments, could well lead to longer retention times of fecal material prior to evacuation with resultant inflammation of the bowels, exacerbated by various dietary ingredients and their metabolites with further possible health problems due to bacterial endotoxins. Physical activity may also help improve circulation and help alleviate and prevent lymphangectasia, the accumulation of lymph in the bowels seen in some forms of canine IBD.

Mental arousal with physical activity may increase peristaltic tonus that may be relatively flaccid with parasympathetic dominance as with a placid temperament and an unstimulating indoor environment. Sympathetic/parasysmpathetic balance and adaptive flexibility of the autonomic nervous system are aspects of well-being that are considerable and clinically relevant. (For references see Fox, 1978). Megacolon and fecal impaction, commonly seen in understimulated and underactive indoor cats, and weak urinary bladder tonus with urine retention and consequential cystitis may be other conditions related to parasympathetic dominance/imbalance.

See Huang, H-P. & Lien, Y-H. Effects of a structured exercise programme in sedentary dogs with chronic diarrhea. Veterinary Record, 180: 224. 2017 and the Editorial my Dunning, M. Improving IBD in dogs through exercise. Veterinary Record, 180: 222-223, 2017. Fox, M.W. The Dog: Its Domestication and Behavior, 1978, reprinted edition with Dogwise Publishing.

Dr. Michael W. Fox

From Michael W. Fox BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS Veterinarian, bioethicist, syndicated columnist (Animal Doctor with Universal-U Click). Website:   Latest books: “HEALING ANIMALS & THE VISION OF ONE HEALTH” and “ANIMALS & NATURE FIRST: CREATING NEW COVENANTS WITH ANIMALS & NATURE” with CreateSpace/


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