a brown dog with colitis eating its food

Best Dog Food for Colitis: Diet Recommendations for Intestinal Problems

Your dog’s diet plays an integral role in the cause and treatment of colitis. In this review, we’ll give our recommendations on what to feed a dog with colitis as well as tips to soothe colitis symptoms.

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Dealing with canine colitis can be taxing on both you and your dog. But there are things you can do to help ease your dog’s suffering. After speaking with your vet, the next step you should take is to address your dog’s diet.

Nutrition, along with other factors, affects the health of your dog’s gut microbiome, which has a big role in immune and inflammatory responses.4 After researching the kinds of foods that are beneficial to overall health, gut health, and specifically colitis, we’ve compiled a list of the best dog food for dogs with colitis.

Always check with your vet before changing foods, however, as chronic colitis is a serious medical issue that requires close monitoring by a veterinarian, and you’ll need to determine which ingredients your dog is sensitive to.

In this review:

Our top pick!
Best dry option
spot and tango logo
A Pup Above logo
Meat-free option
Halo Ocean of Vegan Dog Food, Dry Dog Food, Plant-Based, Adult Dog Food, 4-Pound Bag
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Grain Free Natural Senior Wet Dog Food, Turkey 12.5-oz cans (Pack of 12)
Halo Dog Food, Dry Dog Food For Small Dogs, Grain Free, Wild Salmon & Whitefish 10-Pound Bag
Just Food For Dogs: Balanced Remedy Recipe
Spot & Tango UnKibble: Duck & Salmon Recipe
A Pup Above Fresh Dog Food
Halo Holistic Ocean of Vegan Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Senior Wet Food
Halo Small Breed: Holistic Wild Salmon & Whitefish Recipe
Our top pick for severe cases! Vet-formulated recipe to combat digestive issues.
UnKibble only includes whole, human-grade ingredients dried slowly to preserve nutrition
Give your dog a fresh, human-grade diet, plus get 25% off with code THEDOGTALE25
Made with plant-based & marine-sourced ingredients for dogs with meat allergies
Eliminates common allergens and makes it easier for senior dogs to chew
Small, nutrient-dense kibble for small dog breeds with short digestive tracts
Our top pick!
Just Food For Dogs: Balanced Remedy Recipe
Our top pick for severe cases! Vet-formulated recipe to combat digestive issues.
n/a
Best dry option
spot and tango logo
Spot & Tango UnKibble: Duck & Salmon Recipe
UnKibble only includes whole, human-grade ingredients dried slowly to preserve nutrition
n/a
A Pup Above logo
A Pup Above Fresh Dog Food
Give your dog a fresh, human-grade diet, plus get 25% off with code THEDOGTALE25
n/a
Meat-free option
Halo Ocean of Vegan Dog Food, Dry Dog Food, Plant-Based, Adult Dog Food, 4-Pound Bag
Halo Holistic Ocean of Vegan Dog Food
Made with plant-based & marine-sourced ingredients for dogs with meat allergies
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Grain Free Natural Senior Wet Dog Food, Turkey 12.5-oz cans (Pack of 12)
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Senior Wet Food
Eliminates common allergens and makes it easier for senior dogs to chew
Halo Dog Food, Dry Dog Food For Small Dogs, Grain Free, Wild Salmon & Whitefish 10-Pound Bag
Halo Small Breed: Holistic Wild Salmon & Whitefish Recipe
Small, nutrient-dense kibble for small dog breeds with short digestive tracts

Best dog food for Colitis

In our search of the best dog foods for colitis, we’ve tried to include a variety of protein options, since many dogs cannot tolerate one meat or another. If you don’t find a meat your dog tolerates well, many of these brands offer alternative proteins which may be better suited to your dog’s needs. Just click the brand you’re interested in and view their other options.

Best vet-supported limited-ingredient diet (our top pick)

Just Food for Dogs: Balanced Remedy Recipe

  • Vet-created formula specifically designed to support a dog’s digestive health
  • Limited-ingredient recipe helps dogs avoid food allergens
  • Aids colitis issues: Highly digestible, moderate levels of high-quality protein, low fat, low residue

What we like

The truth is, most dogs with severe colitis will require a complicated homemade diet to avoid the triggers included in most kibbles. Fortunately, Just Food For Dogs has created an entire “Vet Support” category that allows pet owners to find truly vet-approved foods to treat their dogs’ digestive issues. Balanced Remedy is a gently cooked, human-grade recipe that is cooked fresh then delivered frozen to your door.

It’s the answer for pet owners who want real, healthy food for their dog in a simple recipe that avoids most common food triggers. The best part about it might be that you don’t have to do any of the cooking!

This special diet contains one protein source (ground turkey), a single starch source (rice), a few nutrient-dense oils, and a supplement blend. It is specifically created to help support a dog’s digestive tract. Since it is a therapeutic diet, it should only be used in conjunction with your veterinarian. It is not for healthy dogs, but dogs who need a specialized diet for their digestive tract. If your dog’s health issues are permanently resolved, JFFD also offers other food options for healthy dogs.

You can learn more in our full Just Food For Dogs review.

What we’d change

There isn’t a thing we’d change about this special formula. We just wish there were more varieties of recipes that suited digestive issues!

You should note that this option and several others in this review are more expensive than most common kibbles. This is because they include specialized recipes and far higher-quality ingredients than you can get with the cheap supermarket staples. If your dog has serious digestive issues and you want to resolve them, paying more for their food will usually be inevitable. Fortunately, JFFD offers 35% off your first delivery when you subscribe, plus 5% off future subscription deliveries. Autoship shipping is free.

Best dry dog food for chronic colitis

Spot & Tango UnKibble: Duck & Salmon Recipe

  • 100% fresh, human-grade ingredients without any artificial additives, preservatives, fillers, or meat meals
  • Ingredients are gently dried to maintain nutritional value
  • Can be combined with Spot & Tango's fresh food for even better nutrition

Spot & Tango make human-grade, GMO- and hormone-free food for dogs. To maintain maximum nutrient integrity, UnKibble recipes are gently dried using their unique Fresh Dry™ process. The way most kibbles are manufactured scorches the ingredients at extremely high temperatures, which removes the moisture quickly but also destroys the ingredients’ nutritional value.

All three UnKibble recipes are complete and balanced for puppies and adults (according to AAFCO’s nutritional standards), and Spot & Tango also offer fresh food. However, we recommend the Duck & Salmon recipe if your dog’s colitis is aggravated by beef or chicken. Learn more in our full Spot and Tango dog food review.

What we like

  • Whole foods: Unlike traditional grocery store kibble, veterinarian nutritionists create UnKibble with whole-food ingredients that are gently dried to preserve the most nutrition. You won’t find any of the typical slaughterhouse remnants of traditional store-bought kibble.
  • Rich in dietary fiber: Each recipe is rich in soluble fiber foods like apples, sweet potatoes, and carrots. This is helpful for combating gastrointestinal issues. They also include plenty of vitamins and minerals for added nutrition.
  • Simple ingredient list: Finding a good diet for dogs with colitis can be tricky. UnKibble recipes are clear and don’t have a long list of strange ingredients, making that search easier. Two recipes are gluten-free and none of the recipes contain eggs. You’ll even find inflammation-reducing ingredients like fish oil and kelp.
  • Fresh is also an option: Spot & Tango also offers a line of fresh food, if you want to upgrade your dog’s nutrition even further.

What we’d change

  • The Duck & Salmon recipe includes chia seeds, which are great for most dogs, but could irritate some dogs with sensitive digestive tracts.

Premium option: Best fresh food for dogs with Colitis

A Pup Above Fresh Dog Food

  • USDA-certified organic ingredients like chicken and sweet potato are blended with superfoods like organic flaxseed and blueberries.
  • Absolutely no artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors, and no grains, soy, or corn.
  • Nutritionally balanced and complete with supplemental minerals and vitamins like Vitamin B12, which can be lacking in dogs with colitis.

A Pup Above takes dog food to another level. Their recipes are made by veterinary nutritionists and consist entirely of human-grade, holistic ingredients like whole beef, peas, and carrots. The company gently cooks these ingredients sous vide style, which locks in juices, vitamins, and minerals for maximum flavor and nutrition.

This fresh pet food isn’t our top choice because it’s not specially formulated for a canine colitis diet. However, it is free from common contributors to colitis, like high a fat content, low fiber, cheap fillers, and GMOs. But you’ll still need to make sure your recipe of choice is free from your dog’s specific allergens.

Learn more below or watch us unbox it in our full A Pup Above dog food review.

What we like

  • Great for food allergies: Choose from four human-grade, USDA-certified, single meat options that are either grain-free or grain-inclusive, egg-free, and only contain non-GMO produce from U.S. farms.
  • Real ingredients: Chopped produce like pineapple, turmeric, and sweet potato support digestion, minimize inflammation, and add soluble fiber to reduce colitis symptoms.
  • Added Superfoods: To maximize nutrition, each recipe contains added vitamins and minerals as well as superfoods, such as turmeric, thyme, and parsley for joint, immune, and digestive support.
  • Absolutely NO: No fake ingredients, preservatives, wheat, corn, soy, fillers, added colors or flavors, or overly-processed foods.
  • Super convenient: A Pup Above will regularly ship you your pre-selected meals, so feeding your dog is easy and you’ll never have to run to the pet store to stock up on food.

What we’d change

  • More expensive than kibble: Costs will be higher with fresh food as pet nutritionists take human-grade meats and produce and create nutritionally balanced, high quality meals. 
  • No custom portions: Some other fresh dog food brands, such as Nom Nom Dog Food or Ollie, pre-portion your dog’s meals so you only receive exactly as much food as you need.
  • No gut health products: A Pup Above only sells food. Nom Nom also sells microbiome gut health kits and digestive probiotic supplements.

Best vegan dog kibble for colitis

Halo’s Holistic Ocean of Vegan Recipe
1,506 Reviews
Halo’s Holistic Ocean of Vegan Recipe

  • This vegan recipe is a great meatless option for protein-sensitive dogs or pet owners who want to maintain a plant-based lifestyle.
  • The plant-based protein content is obtained from highly nutritious sea kelp, micro-algae, and chickpeas.
  • The recipe is supplemented with DHA Omega-3, L-carnitine, and taurine to ensure your adult dog has all the vitamins and minerals they need for a healthy life.

What we like

Although most dogs should eat meat, a vegan diet may be well-suited for a dog with chronic colitis. In fact, some vets have observed the most improvement in GI issues when animal products are completely eliminated.2 This recipe only contains non-GMO produce, like oat groats and lentils. 

It’s 100% complete and balanced as well as highly digestible. Halo has included ingredients such as inulin (soluble fiber), turmeric, and B12, that may help soothe and subside acute colitis symptoms.

What we’d change

This recipe is not gluten-free as it contains barley. We also would prefer that the recipe contain a variety of whole veggies and fruits.

Food for senior dogs with colitis

On Sale
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet
441 Reviews
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet

  • This single-protein, limited-ingredient recipe for seniors makes eliminating problematic foods easier.
  • Turkey and turkey broth are complimented with pumpkin and foods rich in Omega 3s like fish oil and flaxseed.
  • Contains no chicken, beef, poultry by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, artificial preservatives, or flavors.

What we like

Blue Buffalo’s wet dog food contains a single animal protein, turkey, which is great if your dog is sensitive to beef or chicken. The third ingredient is potato, which sometimes gets a bad rap as an imposterous filler. But this fiber-rich root vegetable has an abundance of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and phytochemicals offering some nutrition that meat can’t provide. In fact, it may even help the integrity of your dog’s microbiome.

To add even more antioxidants, which may be helpful in treating colitis, Blue Buffalo added blueberries and cranberries. The recipe is completed with a number of minerals and vitamins, particularly B vitamins.

What we’d change

Although both are rich in soluble fiber and nutrients, we’d love for the potatoes to be substituted for sweet potatoes which are a powerful anti-inflammatory food.

Food for small dogs with colitis

On Sale
Halo Small Breed Adult Dog Formula: Holistic Wild Salmon & Whitefish Recipe
589 Reviews
Halo Small Breed Adult Dog Formula: Holistic Wild Salmon & Whitefish Recipe

  • No meat meals—just whole, high-quality fish sourced from Marine Stewardship Council Certified sustainable fisheries.
  • To maximize digestion, Halo only uses non-GMO fruits and vegetables—never any artificial ingredients or preservatives.
  • For balanced nutrition, Halo includes added minerals and vitamins, such as B12, which can be low in dogs suffering from colitis.

What we like

Since common meats, such as chicken and beef, can often trigger an immune response in dogs with colitis, we chose this salmon and whitefish recipe. Not only is it rich in omega 3s, but it also contains probiotics and dried fruits and vegetables, like sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots.

This small breed formula has perfectly sized, nutrient-dense pieces made for small mouths. With Halo dog food, you can count on there never being GMOs or animal meals and byproducts. And yet, it’s still an affordable dog food. 

What we’d change

While all Halo food is free of meat meals and animal byproducts, many Halo recipes—including this one—contain ingredients that could be potential allergens (e.g. soy and egg) and potential irritants (flaxseed) for some dogs with chronic colitis.

How can I soothe my dog’s colitis?

There are a few things you can do for your dog that may calm colitis symptoms. However, they do not stand alone. Proper treatment of colitis in dogs will need to address the root of the problem; we’ll discuss this later.

Eliminate problem foods

Elimination diets can have a great impact on acute colitis. In two dog studies, the elimination of specific inflammatory foods was effective in minimizing symptoms of IBD (which includes colitis) in almost all of the dogs with a mild case. This is because the intervention of an elimination diet changed the gut microbiome existing in the mucosal layer of part of the small intestine and colon.

To begin your own elimination diet, you can start by targeting dairy and foods high in unhealthy fat. A malfunctioning immune system is most likely to target proteins in food.2 Here’s a list of common allergens: 

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Fish
  • Soy 
  • Wheat 

Many times, immune responses minimize when switching from one protein source to another. But, unfortunately, they usually reoccur. According to Dr. Pitcairn, the most relief has come from switching dogs to a plant-based diet.2

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Add probiotics

Since the composition of the gut microbiome is strongly linked to colitis, adding a good daily probiotic, like Dr. Mercola’s Complete Probiotics, to your dog’s food can have multiple profound benefits. Results from several studies found clinical remission possible with the multi-strain probiotic treatment.5 Researchers also noted a reduction in inflammation, the reproduction of inflammatory cells, and leaky gut, among other improvements.

For a probiotic with seven full spectrum strains, try Nom Nom’s Probiotic Supplement. With Nom Nom, you can get the benefit of fresh, healthy food coupled with a probiotic supplement. And as an added benefit, you don’t have to think about it—it automatically shows up on your doorstep every month. To learn more, read our review of Nom Nom dog food.

Try supplements or homeopathic remedies 

While many of these treatments help with constipation and diarrhea, they may not be best suited for your dog’s specific needs. Speak with your vet before using any supplements, homeopathic remedies, or adding or changing food.

  • Quercetin: A natural plant pigment known to have an anti-allergy effect. When quercetin is taken with glutamine and probiotics, the combination has been shown to reverse damage to the intestinal tract (commonly called “leaky gut”)[2]. Have your vet approve it with proper dosage before using. It should be avoided by pets with kidney disease.
  • Slippery elm powder: This fibrous substance soothes the membranes in the gastrointestinal tract with lubrication while reducing inflammation and allowing waste to be efficiently eliminated. 
  • Digestive enzymes: These proteins assist in breaking down complex nutrients into their smaller parts so they are usable for absorption in the intestine.
  • Roasted carob powder: This powder can help firm loose stools.
  • Pumpkin: This fibrous food acts as a prebiotic supporting good gut bacteria. It can reduce both diarrhea and constipation. 
  • L-glutamine: This amino acid can reduce inflammation and infection and promote the appropriate growth of intestinal cells.
  • Inulin: A soluble fiber that promotes healthy gut bacteria.
  • Homeopathic remedies:  A homeopath or holistic veterinarian can give you guidance in using these remedies. They can help minimize diarrhea: Arsenicum album 6c, Podophyllum 6c, Phosphorus 30c, or Mercurius vivus, or Mercurius solubilis 6c.

*For supplements that combine a number of probiotics, try one of the following: 

Ingredients that can help soothe your dog’s colitis

Soluble fiber

In addition to probiotics, look for foods with soluble fiber. While both insoluble and soluble are beneficial to promote healthy bowel movements, too much insoluble fiber for dogs with colitis could cause intestinal irritation due to the roughness of the fiber. Examples of insoluble fiber are skins on produce, whole grains, green beans, and potatoes.

Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is gentler, smoother, and forms into a gel-like substance when it enters the small intestine. Soluble fiber exists in the meaty part of many fruits and vegetables, such as apples, sweet potatoes, and foods like oat bran.

Feed your dog healthy food 

Perhaps the most important part of the treatment plan is feeding your dog minimally processed, high-quality food that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Dr. Pitcairn advises that pet owners shouldn’t focus on a “specific diet as much as that the food be natural and of good quality.”2 Of course, you’ll still want to identify if a specific allergen is provoking your dog’s colitis.

One study examines how an abundance or lack of nutrition has the potential to significantly affect disease conditions. It does so directly through the nutrients received and indirectly by the way those nutrients shape the health of the pet’s gut microbiome. Further, the gut microbiome then affects the way the body interacts with nutrients. To put it simply, good nutrition can holistically improve your dog’s health.

Take sweet potatoes, for example. Just to name a few of the benefits, sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and minerals that help digestion, reduce inflammation, support a healthy gut microbiome, and maintain healthy eyes, muscles, and skin. Since real food is packed with nutrition, we highly suggest choosing a fresh pet food, such as Just Food For Dogs (recommended earlier) or The Farmer’s Dog, or another type of premium food that is less processed and has digestible protein, fruits, and vegetables.

Vitamins

Since chronic colitis can cause improper nutrient absorption, ask your vet about adding supplemental vitamins, like B12, to your dog’s food. Or, you may be able to save yourself a step and look for dog food with some of these vitamins added into the food.

Omega 3

According to Dr. Rania Gollakner, Omega 3s, such as EPA and DHA, have an anti-inflammatory effect and are often used to help certain inflammatory health issues like skin allergies, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Is pumpkin good for colitis in dogs?

Yes, pumpkin can be beneficial for colitis, but it also has the potential to add to the irritation. So, before you give your dog pumpkin, take stock of what else they’re eating and ask your vet. Here’s why:

Pumpkin has a mixture of both soluble and insoluble fiber. According to Dr. Freeman, these two types of fiber have different effects on the body, particularly the GI tract. Depending on what other foods you are feeding your dog, it may not be the correct amount of the right kind of fiber. When dealing with colitis, always consult your vet before changing your dog’s diet or adding in any other food.

What meat should I give a dog with colitis?

The meat you should provide depends on the dog and what food sensitivities that dog has. Consult with your dog’s vet to find a meat that does not trigger an immune response. 

Switching to a new meat often offers relief from the symptoms of colitis, at least for a while. Some dogs also do well on hydrolyzed proteins, which are proteins chemically broken into small enough pieces that they no longer get flagged by the immune system.

What causes colitis in dogs

Researchers have varying theories of the causes of colitis in dogs. But an increasing amount of literature shows a correlation between microorganisms in the gut and inflammatory bowel diseases like colitis.1 It is generally thought to be caused by a highly complex abnormal interaction between the immune system, gut bacteria populations, diet, and other environmental factors.

More specifically, colitis is caused by the ‘right’ combination of a variety of the following:2,3

  • Parasitic or bacterial infection: Ex: Salmonella, E. coli, or Giardia.
  • Imbalance of gut bacteria: Changes to the makeup of the GI microbiome can lead to IBD, including colitis.4 Dr. Pitcairn cautions against drinking water with high chlorine levels as it may negatively affect the good bacteria that is necessary in normal, intestinal functioning.1 
  • Genetic predisposition: Genetic abnormalities of the immune system.
  • Poor diet: Ex.: Low quality foods, a low-fiber diet, and high amounts of fat.
  • Genetically modified foods & herbicides: Recent studies have found that GMOs and herbicides can be irritating to the stomachs of animals. Common examples include corn, canola oil, soy, and sugar beets.
  • Antibiotics & other pharmaceuticals: Antibiotics damage the microorganisms that live in the GI tract. Avoid these unless necessary and prescribed by your vet. 
  • Stress: Stress has been associated with other inflammatory diseases and may play a part.

Colitis, IBD & IBS: which is which?

Due to the common symptoms, it can be confusing to distinguish between these health issues. To summarize, here’s the difference among these GI problems. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a non-inflammatory issue that occurs due to gut motility problems. During diagnostic exams, there are no visible signs of disease.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an umbrella term that describes several diseases, including colitis. These diseases cause inflammation within the intestinal tract. IBD can lead to the destruction of the intestinal wall, sores, or narrowing of the intestines. The various diseases under this umbrella term describe the location of the inflammation. For colitis, the intestinal inflammation exists in the innermost lining of the colon.

To learn more about the differences, symptoms, and treatment of these issues, as well as the best dog food for intestinal problems, you can read our guide to IBS and IBD in dogs or our roundup of the best dog foods for IBD & IBS.

>> Read more: IBS & IBD in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

References

  1. Randomized, controlled trial evaluating the effect of multi-strain probiotic on the mucosal microbiota in canine idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28678609/ 
  2. Pitcairn, R. H., & Pitcairn, S. H. (2017). Dr. Pitcairn’s complete guide to natural health for dogs and cats. Rodale. 
  3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/inflammatory-bowel-disease-in-dogs 
  4. The Effects of Nutrition on the Gastrointestinal Microbiome of Cats and Dogs: Impact on Health and Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7329990/#B136 
  5. Randomized, controlled trial evaluating the effect of multi-strain probiotic on the mucosal microbiota in canine idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19490976.2017.1334754

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