How to Prevent Common Digestive Problems in Dogs

If you own a pet, you have experienced digestive problems: vomiting and diarrhea. Digestive problems can also be caused by serious diseases, such as cancer, or by a serious obstruction in the digestive tract but most are far simpler in origin. A change in diet, stress, a virus and most commonly, eating something that upsets the system is the usual cause.


Vomiting and diarrhea are the natural ways the body eliminates harmful toxic substances. In a typical intestinal upset, bad bacteria start to overpopulate the intestine. Bad bacteria secrete harmful toxins that can damage the villi lining of the gut. The cells of the villi recognize these invaders and respond by secreting fluid in an attempt to flush the bacteria from their cell wall, diarrhea. This sudden loss of fluid can dehydrate the animal and cause the intestine to lose its flexibility if left unchecked. In most cases of diarrhea, your pet's symptoms are temporary. When diarrhea lasts longer than 12 hours you need to intervene in order to prevent dehydration. Early treatment is easy and will ensure quick recovery. Should your pet’s symptoms continue, see your veterinarian immediately to ensure he is getting the right treatment.


Some pet owners think they are giving their pet a treat by giving them table food. I once witnessed a Samoyed eat a one-dish-dinner that the owner thought she’d enjoy. Unfortunately, the Sammy spent the rest of the night eliminating the overload out the other end! The food gave her diarrhea almost immediately. A Shih-Tzu eating one steak is like a human eating five steaks at one setting. We would have issues digesting that much protein as well. I know people feed off the table, I treat my dogs the same. Stick with vegetables and dog treats and limit meat to less than 10% of their diet.


Dogs generally eat calories not volume as humans do. If a dog runs out of calories today they'll eat more tomorrow. But when a dog starts eating volume, they become overweight and have more digestive upsets. It’s best to stick to a normal feeding regiment for your pet’s health.


Everything goes in the mouth of a dog! Small toys and plastic bags seem to be the most common items dogs ingest, especially in the first year. Most dogs can pass these foreign objects without causing any harm. Occasionally, these objects cause damage or obstruct the digestive tract leading to vomiting and surgery to correct. One way to prevent this from happening is to provide your pet with toys that are pet safe. Child or puppy proofing their surroundings will also help. If you suspect your pet has an obstruction, see your veterinarian immediately. The right treatment may avoid a surgery.


You may not realize it but change of diet, environment or simply a change in routine can cause stress for your pet. Diarrhea may be your pet’s natural response to these situations. You can minimize stress in your pet by keeping their routine as consistent as possible. But if this is unavoidable, you can use a natural pheromone diffuser or spray such as D.A.P.® to help them feel more comfortable. In some cases feeding probiotics one week before and during a stressful situation can help prevent stomach upsets.


Digestive problems may also be caused by illness due to disease or virus. If your pet does not respond to typical treatment, see your veterinarian to determine what is causing the symptoms and the best way to treat.


There are a few things you can do to help your dog get back to normal in the midst of a stomach upset. Use a coating agent to slow diarrhea and prevent them from dehydrating. Replacing lost electrolytes will speed recovery. Replace the good bacteria in the intestinal tract with probiotics to regain normal gut flora. Probiotics are also good to use with antibiotic induced GI upset as well.

Know that digestive problems are a normal part of life and should not be ignored. Prevent setting pets up for digestive issues and when they do happen, early treatment will speed recovery and comfort to an uncomfortable family member.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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