Unlocking relief from IBD: the power of real food for dogs

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Dr Matthew Muir

Constant tummy troubles and endless trips outside — you know the drill. Like us, dogs can suffer from chronic digestive upsets. Though there is no cure, 50% of dogs see improved gut health in response to nutritional changes. With the right adjustments to their diet, good gut health might be closer than you think.  

Every dog is different, which is why it’s helpful to speak with your vet. It’s possible to relieve stressful IBD flareups and GI issues with vet support and real food — all without the need for drug therapy, according to Dr Matthew Muir — Lyka’s Co-Founder and Integrative Veterinarian.

What is IBD?

Dogs with IBD have higher numbers of inflammatory immune cells in the gastrointestinal tract — this reduces their ability to absorb nutrients from food. 

At the vet clinic, you might hear the phrase “chronic inflammatory enteropathy”: the clinical term for IBD in dogs. If your pup has been diagnosed with this, they likely haven’t responded to diet changes — leaving steroids as the typical treatment option.

Do multiple diet trials quote

Download your diet trial worksheet

What are the symptoms of IBD in dogs?

Signs your pup may have IBD include: 

  • Chronic vomiting if the stomach is involved, or diarrhoea if it’s the intestines that are affected – both can happen at the same time 

  • The vomit may contain small amounts of blood or bits of undigested food 

  • IBD can affect appetite, up or down – your dog may be off their food and losing weight, or super hungry if their body isn’t absorbing nutrients from their food 

  • Your dog may also be unusually lethargic 

Dehydration and electrolyte balances from vomiting or diarrhoea can be life-threatening, so if a flare-up occurs, see your vet immediately. Your dog may be in an acute episode requiring hospitalisation. 

IBD risk factors


In the past, risk factors for IBD have not been easily understood.  

However, 2023 research from DogRisk shows that diet is a modifiable risk factor, which means parents “have a chance to act proactively and have an impact on their dog’s health.” Highly processed diets like kibble have also been identified as an IBD risk factor early in life. 

“Soluble fibres and phytonutrients — found in fruits, vegetables, seeds and spices — are great for promoting a healthy gut microbiome. An ultra-processed diet is less digestible and contains limited vegetables and antioxidant properties. This can lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria and negatively impact digestive health.”

— Dr Matthew Muir, Lyka Co-founder and Integrative Veterinarian 

Many factors can also be involved in IBD symptoms, including: 

  • Genetics and breed 

  • Food allergies or sensitivities 

  • Oxidative stress 

  • Bacterial overgrowth or infection in the gut 

  • Abnormal immune function 

  • Issues with the microbiome 

A biopsy is required to confirm if your dog has IBD – but this is quite invasive. Your vet may decide it’s best to manage symptoms regardless of a diagnosis. 

The microbiome’s connection to IBD

Your pup’s gut contains trillions of microorganisms which together, form the microbiome. When in balance, the microbiome plays a key role in healthy digestion — while also supporting immune function and overall wellbeing. 

An unbalanced microbiome (called dysbiosis) has been linked to IBD. A diet of real food is a great way to give your dog's gut microbes the nutrients they need. 

Learn more about the microbiome

Maximising your dog’s gut health with real food

Finding the right solution for your dog’s IBD will take some trial and error, so don’t give up after one diet trial — it’s worth doing at least three diet trials before ruling out nutritional changes as a possible solution. 

Our downloadable diet trial worksheet makes it easy for you to track any changes in their symptoms during a diet trial so together, you can find the foods that work best for your dog.

Clickable diet trial download preview

Always speak with your vet before trying any new foods for your dog. They can guide you through the process, and advise you on what to look out for, and what to do in the event of any reactions. 

Other points you may want to discuss with your vet include: 

  • Trialling different amounts of dietary fibre to meet a dog’s individual needs 

  • Checking for and correcting a Vitamin B12 deficiency 

  • Avoiding high carbohydrate diets, which have been linked to IBD signs 

  • Using herbal or pharmaceutical medications, after discussing the risk-to-benefit ratio with your vet

“Real food diets like Lyka are a great choice for a feed trial because they contain highly digestible protein, moderate amounts of fibre, and bioactive ingredients to support microbiome health.”

— Dr Matthew Muir, Lyka Co-founder and Integrative Veterinarian 

Explore the link between diet and gut health

Support good gut health with Lyka 

Concerned about your dog’s digestion? Ask your vet about Lyka.

For dogs like Louie — who developed IBD after experiencing separation anxiety — our meals can provide a new lease on life, with gut-soothing ingredients to heal the gut lining and microbiome.  

Lyka's healthy dog food is made with fresh, local, ethically sourced ingredients that contain prebiotics to keep gut microorganisms happy and in balance. 

Formulated for easy digestion and sensitive tummies 

Our Chicken Bowl is low in saturated and unsaturated fats, making it gentler on sensitive tummies, while still going above nutritional standards. This limited protein option also has fish oil, which provides omega-3 fatty acids, and is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than fish protein. 

Our Turkey Bowl has low-moderate fat and is hypoallergenic, being a novel protein for most dogs. It has plenty of antioxidants and fibre, making it a great choice for gastrointestinal health. It also contains turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties. 

Our Fish Bowl is perfect for pups with digestive issues like IBD, being rich in Vitamin B12 to support the gut.  

Our Kangaroo Bowl is a leaner choice made from limited protein. It’s hypoallergenic and highly digestible — perfect for pups with sensitive stomachs. 

You can amplify these meal benefits with our Digestion Supplement. It’s a bite-sized cube packed with active ingredients like inulin extract (for a balanced microbiome) and L-Glutamine (to soothe inflammation). Each daily dose provides targeted, preventative support to build your dog’s gut health over time. 

Go slow with the change 

Changes in diet can be a lot for sensitive tummies, even if they’re for the better.  

If your dog has IBD, always speak with your vet before transitioning to a new diet — and never introduce new foods during a flare-up. You can introduce smaller amounts of Lyka to their old food, slowly increasing the amount once they begin to tolerate it.  

Our Customer Care specialists are always available for a chat, with in-house veterinary experts to help support your dog’s individual needs. Contact us on 1300 851 936 or email info@lyka.com.au. 

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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