Our pets are like our children, we want the best for them and we do not like to see them in pain. One of the biggest issues our pets can face is having irritable bowel disease (IBD) which affects your pet’s gastrointestinal system in the form of recurrent upset stomach. You may have heard of budesonide being used to treat IBD in humans, but did you know it can be used in our cats and dogs too? How and is it safe? This easy read will break down IBD and its signs, and answer your questions to best help treat your fur-baby.

What is IBD?1-4

Not only is IBD common in humans, but it also is a problem for cats and dogs. IBD is a chronic condition where the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed and disorganized due to the body’s immune response. When toxins, bacteria, parasites, or certain proteins your pet digests reach the intestines, it may cause the body to create an inflammatory reaction and irritate your intestines. The genetic make-up of your pet can make them more likely to get IBD. Your pet may be more susceptible to certain triggers or not be able to control the immune response. Breeds like Basenjis, Wheaten Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, Boxers, German Shepards, and Norwegian Lundehunds are at an increased risk of IBD. The gastrointestinal membranes and cells are highly organized to digest your food, so when this is destroyed, this creates an issue with your pet’s ability to move and absorb nutrients. This is not irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is a collection of gastrointestinal symptoms that is linked to stress. Unfortunately, pets are rarely cured of IBD because it is hard to determine the exact cause.

What are the signs of IBD?3,5

IBD affects the gastrointestinal tract, so the signs include diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and poor appetite. If the stomach is the issue, your pet will typically experience recurrent vomiting while if the intestine is the issue, your pet will experience recurrent diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea will present at least weekly, so this is a chronic condition instead of presenting every now and then. IBD is diagnosed once all other possible causes have been ruled out – it is a tricky diagnosis! Your veterinarian will diagnose it after examining your pet’s blood, feces, and intestine imaging reports.

How is IBD treated?3,5

The treatment goal is to provide relief that can be done through a combination of diet changes and medications. Typically a new diet is started like a high fiber, hypoallergenic, or low residue diet. Many pets start a hydrolyzed protein diet that includes proteins that are already digested and are too small to be recognized by the immune system as a threat. A hydrolyzed diet prevents your pet’s immune system from causing an inflammatory reaction and upset stomach. When starting a new diet, it takes about 6 to 12 weeks to determine your pet’s response and diet changes. After the 12 weeks, your pet may be able to return to the previous diet. When starting a new diet, you should not give your pet other foods or treats. Sometimes a diet alone is not enough and corticosteroid drugs like budesonide are used to help treat your pet’s symptoms. Probiotics may be recommended to restore your pet’s healthy gut bacteria and digestive functioning since IBD disrupts the normal bacteria. Depending on your pet’s vitamin B12 levels, your pet may need vitamin B12 injections to help absorb nutrients from food.

What is budesonide?1

This name may sound familiar to you because budesonide is also used orally to treat IBD, and inhaled to treat asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in humans. Budesonide is a steroid or glucocorticoid that is used for treating inflammatory diseases like IBD. It is commonly used for pets that do not tolerate other steroids like prednisone. Budesonide works locally in the intestines after giving it instead of traveling all over the body to have effects because of its poor absorption. Budesonide does not cure IBD, but it helps relieve your pet’s symptoms.

How do I give budesonide to my pet?1,6

Give budesonide just like your veterinarian told you. It comes in the form of a tablet, capsule, oral suspension, and gel. If it is a capsule, do not crush or let your pet chew it. If your pet misses a dose, give the dose as soon as you remember it and return to the normal dosing schedule. If it is close to the next dose, skip the missed dose and return to the normal dosing schedule. Never give double doses. After giving the medication, be sure to wash your hands.

What are the side effects of budesonide?1

Side effects include increased appetite, thirst, urination, and hair color change. If your pet shows signs of weakness, black and tarry stools, bloody stools, or an inflated belly while taking budesonide, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. However, do not stop giving this medication abruptly because it could cause weakness, collapsing, vomiting, and death. This medication should not be used if your pet is allergic to it. 

What happens if my pet overdoses?1,6

If you think your pet has overdosed on budesonide, immediately contact your veterinarian and bring the medication with you or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center

What could budesonide interact with?1

Budesonide should not be used with the following medications: erythromycin, cimetidine, ketoconazole, itraconazole, fluconazole, and diltiazem. If used with these medications, budesonide could cause toxicity because it will be inhibited from being metabolized and eliminated from your pet’s body.

When will my pet feel better?5

After taking the medication for a couple of days, the medication should start working. It is more difficult to see how your pet is feeling, but your veterinarian will continue to monitor and do tests to see how your pet is improving. Most pets remain on medication and a fixed diet for life.

What other safety information should I know?1,6

If you have any questions about treating your pet’s IBD or budesonide use in animals, contact your veterinarian or pharmacist today.


  1. Budesonide for veterinary use – IBD in cats and dogs. Wedgewood pharmacy website. https://www.wedgewoodpharmacy.com/learning-center/professional-monographs/budesonide-for-veterinary-use.html. Accessed October 13, 2021.
  2. Inflammatory bowel disease in dogs and cats. Veterinary partner website. https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4951476. Accessed October 13, 2021.
  3. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in dogs and cats. Today’s veterinary practice website. https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/inflammatory-bowel-disease-dogs-cats/. Accessed October 13, 2021.
  4. Irritable bowel disease. Brookfield animal hospital website. https://www.brookfieldanimalhospital.com/project/inflammatory-bowel-disease-in-cats/. Accessed October 13, 2021.
  5. Inflammatory bowel disease in dogs. VCA hospitals website. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/inflammatory-bowel-disease-in-dogs. Accessed October 13, 2021.
  6. Budesonide for dogs and cats. Wedgewood pharmacy website. https://www.wedgewoodpharmacy.com/learning-center/medication-information-for-pet-and-horse-owners/budesonide-for-dogs-and-cats.html. Accessed October 13, 2021.
Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Monthly Newsletter

Get notified about latest news, promotions and events.