Case of the Month: Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Yellow Lab laying beside a food bowl

Daisy*, a 6 year-old Labrador Retriever

Daisy’s story:

In Daisy’s young age, her family noticed that she had a tendency to regurgitate her food. As she grew older, she had frequent bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, and appetite loss. Sometimes these illnesses would follow ingestion of foods that were unfamiliar to her, like scraps of human food, or bites from the cat’s bowl…but at other times, there seemed to be no identifiable cause for the digestive upset. When she injured one of her legs, her family discovered that she simply could not tolerate oral pain medications the way other dogs could. Even some antibiotics upset her stomach. Daisy’s brushes with gastrointestinal illness grew progressively worse, sometimes requiring hospitalization and intensive care.

Finally, after many illnesses, ongoing treatment, and an extensive diagnostic workup, Daisy was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

About the Condition: Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect the gastrointestinal system of dogs.  In involves abnormal immune system reactivity in the digestive system, possibly in response to dietary ingredients, medications, stress, or abnormalities in the bacterial populations in the gut.

Dogs with IBD are more likely to get sick when they are exposed to new foods, medications, or when they eat something they aren’t accustomed to.  They may experience chronic or recurrent vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, appetite loss, weight loss, and gastrointestinal ulceration.  Inflammation in the digestive tract may also affect closely related organs, causing pancreatitis, liver, and gallbladder inflammation. Cats can also get IBD.

IBD can be difficult to diagnose.  There are a long list of other diseases that can cause similar symptoms, like viral, bacterial, or parasitic illnesses, endocrine diseases, and foreign body ingestion.  The diagnosis of IBD is often made after excluding all of the other more common illnesses.  A diagnosis of IBD can be confirmed by advanced diagnostics like gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsies of the stomach and intestine.


Initial treatment of IBD involves stabilizing the patient by treating nausea and diarrhea, controlling pain, correcting dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and providing therapeutic nutrition.  This acute phase of treatment often requires several days of hospitalization. 

Once a patient is stable, considerable ongoing care is often required to manage their gastrointestinal inflammation and prevent episodes of vomiting and diarrhea.  This may involve special diets, immune-modulating drugs, appetite support, nausea control, antibiotics, probiotics, and microbiome management.

Claim Outcome

Since 2020, Daisy has required more than $19,000 in veterinary care for gastrointestinal problems related to her Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Her Pets Plus Us Accident and Illness Max plan has reimbursed her family more than $13,000 of those fees.**

Written by Dr. Jennifer Sperry, DVM
*Details changed for privacy.
**Sample claim for illustrative purposes - details have been changed for privacy. Based on 2024 PTZ Insurance Services Ltd. actual claims data. Dollar amounts have been rounded down.

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