Diverticulitis is a condition that affects the digestive tract, causing inflammation and infection. Diverticula, small pouches within the digestive tract, trap food or fecal matter, resulting in infection and inflammation. As an infection worsens, ruptures are possible. Diverticulitis is most common in the large intestine but can occur in any area of the digestive tract, including the esophagus. Diverticulitis is a chronic medical condition that requires regular monitoring by a veterinarian and dietary modifications.
Symptoms of diverticulitis in the large intestine include abdominal pain on the left side, cramps, bloating, spasms, fever, diarrhea and vomiting. The severity of the pain depends on the intensity of the infection. Bowel movements may be frequent, with watery and loose stool. As the pockets rupture, small blood vessels may also rupture, leading to blood in the stool.
Diet seems to play a role in the risk for diverticulitis in the large intestine. Low-fiber diets and regular bouts of constipation increase the risk of fecal buildup in the large intestine, increasing the risk of inflammation and irritation. A genetic predisposition to developing the condition may exist, though no specific breed is known to have a greater risk.
Treatments for diverticulitis of the large intestine often begin with a change in diet. Your veterinarian may recommend moist foods, foods high in dietary fiber, and easily digestible foods. Antibiotics treat possible bacterial infections common with diverticulitis; pain medications may be necessary to reduce your dog’s pain. In serious infections, surgery to resection the large intestine may be necessary.
In addition to the large intestine, the esophagus is another common location for diverticulitis in dogs. Pouches form in the esophageal wall, trapping food. In addition to the symptoms seen with lower intestinal diverticulitis, you may notice difficulty swallowing, lack of appetite, coughing, weight loss and respiratory distress. As food becomes trapped in the esophagus, there is an increased risk of it passing into the lungs. This increases the risk of aspiration pneumonia. Treatments include a change to a soft, bland diet and, in severe cases, surgery.