Help for Dog Digestive Disorders
The Canine Digestive System and Common Disorders
Digestive disorders in dogs are a common problem and often the root cause of many other issues that dogs encounter. Digestive disorders, or gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are defined as any problem in the stomach and/or intestines that reduces the ability to absorb food or alter its passageway through the digestive tract. Healthy digestion is critical for a dog to be able to use the nutrients in his food for energy and for maintaining and repairing healthy tissues in his body.
Because digestive disorders can cause or contribute to other serious health issues in dogs, it’s important to pay attention to any signs of digestive issues and seek any necessary assistance quickly.
Types and Causes of Dog Digestive Disorders
There are several different types of dog digestive disorders – be sure that your vet runs tests to figure out the exact cause of your dog’s problem. Be prepared… sometimes the exact cause of a digestive disorder may be difficult to find, even after running several blood tests – however, the root of the problem can range from eating something that isn’t meant to be digested (like a household item), to intestinal infections, food intolerance or lack of digestive enzymes in the body. A few dog digestive disorders that are commonly diagnosed are:
This is normally a short-term problem that is caused by a dog eating something he shouldn’t have. This can include spoiled food, plants that are poisonous to animals, human food that is high in fat or substances that are not meant for consumption. Occasionally this digestive problem comes from high stress or a parasite in the intestines. This causes inflammation or an infection in the GI tract.
Colitis also causes inflammation in the digestive tract but is characterized by specific inflammation in the membrane that lines the colon. It can also be caused by parasites or eating foreign objects. Colitis is more common in younger dogs, under the age of five and will cause a very painful process of pooping. Diarrhea is a common symptom of colitis and may cause bloody loose stools or mucus in the feces.
Many things can cause constipation in a dog. Dehydration is one of the more common causes, so be sure to keep your dog’s water dish available. If a dog’s diet is too low in fiber or he doesn’t get enough exercise, constipation can happen. If this problem persists for more than a few days, have your vet check to if see the dog ate something indigestible as well.
Diarrhea is the most common symptom of dog digestive disorders and can be caused by infections, parasites, high stress or even a change in dog food. Be sure to transition your dog from one brand of food to the next over at least a one week-long period to avoid any tummy upset and possible diarrhea. It is not normal for a dog to have diarrhea for a prolonged period of time, so be sure to pay attention and treat the problem if need be.
The cause of this digestive problem in dogs is actually unknown. There are theories that pancreatitis comes from high fat ingredients in the food, but there is not much supporting evidence as to the origin of this disease. Pancreatitis attacks the pancreas (the organ that helps digestion and controls blood sugar) and causes vomiting and lack of appetite. The onset of an attack can be sudden and often passes quickly. If the illness lasts a day or two, it’s time to go to the vet. Unfortunately, finding the right treatment can be as difficult as trying to find the cause – most vets will try to treat the symptoms to keep your dog comfortable until the illness passes.
Treatment Options and the Importance of Nutrition
Some digestive problems can be very severe and/or permanent. These will require medical attention and a treatment plan that will be specific to your dog’s needs. But many of the common digestive disorders listed above can be addressed within a few short days.
The food you feed your dog has a huge impact on his overall digestive health. Be sure that you’ve researched the food that you are feeding to understand the digestibility of the ingredients within it.
The best way to treat and even avoid digestive disorders is with nutrition, digestive enzymes and regular supplements to give the body the nutrients it needs to better absorb the food. If your dog has a digestive disorder, be sure to monitor his hydration closely during the recovery process and keep him as comfortable as possible.
“Health begins in the gut.” This is as true for dogs as it is for humans. Untreated digestive problems can lead to skin problems, heart problems, liver problems and more. Keeping your dog on a healthy nutrition program can make the digestive difference needed to optimize all body functions.