Change in stool probably due to inflamed colon

11/20/2007 12:00 AM

11/20/2007 4:09 AM

Paying attention to all facets of our pets' daily lives is a good aspiration.

It is, of course, not always possible. Then there are certain facets that are not very exciting to observe, such as bowel movements. But there can be lots of information contained in those bowel movements, as Dana points out.

Dana is concerned about Woody, her 3-year-old boxer dog. For the past few weeks, she has observed intermittent changes in the appearance of Woody's stools. He has what appear to be normal stools one day, and then the next, his stool will contain what appears to be a whitish, gelatinous material.

She was not too concerned until recently, when she has noticed several bowel movements that produced stool with what appears to be blood on the outside.

From Dana's description, it sounds like Woody is having a problem with his colon.

The colon, also known as the large intestine, is the last major portion of the digestive tract.

The digestive tract is made up of the oral cavity, the esophagus, the stomach, the small intestine and the large intestine, or colon. Each of these areas has a function in digestion, and the function associated with the colon is primarily reabsorbing of water. Water is a precious substance to the body and is not to be wasted, and the colon is one of the structures in the body designed to conserve water. With this in mind, it is easier to understand what might happen if the colon is upset in any way.

When the colon becomes inflamed, a condition we call colitis, it cannot resorb water and so stools are higher in moisture, causing a colon induced-type of diarrhea. This is often described as a gelatinous material within or upon the stool. This substance is actually mucous, which contains water and results when the colon is not doing its entire job.

If the colon gets really upset (inflamed), it can bleed, and that blood can be seen with a bowel movement. The key question: What is causing the colon to become inflamed?

Colitis can be a primary or secondary problem. In other words, there may be a problem directly associated with Woody's colon or it may be a problem farther up the digestive tract that is affecting the colon farther down. The cause must be determined in order to properly treat Woody's disease.

Guess what's next? That's right, a visit to Woody's veterinarian. There are a multitude of potential causes for Woody's likely colitis and the diagnostic avenues that need to be explored are predicated upon a further discussion with Dana and a good physical exam for Woody.

The list of possibilities is a bit daunting to address here, but I suspect Woody's case will be fairly straightforward and ultimately very treatable.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.

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