Preventing Digestive Problems in DogsIf you own a pet, you have experienced digestive problems: vomiting and diarrhea. Digestive problems can be caused by serious diseases, such as cancer, or by a serious obstruction in the digestive tract. However, most digestive problems are far simpler in origin—a change in diet, stress, a virus and most commonly, eating something that upsets the system.
What is Happening in the Gut?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, causing 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 receiving the right treatment.
Avoid Feeding Off the TableSome pet owners think they are giving their pet a treat by giving them table food. 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. Stick with vegetables and dog treats and limit meat to less than 10 percent of the diet.
OverfeedingDogs 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.
Foreign Body ObstructionEverything 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.
StressYou 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 his routine as consistent as possible. But if this is unavoidable, you can use a natural pheromone diffuser, spray or collar such as ThunderEase® Dog Calming Collar to help them feel more comfortable. In some cases, feeding probiotics one week before and during a stressful situation can help prevent stomach upsets.
DiseaseDigestive problems may also be caused by illness due to disease, parasites, 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 it.
Assist in Their RecoveryThere are a few things you can do to help your dog get back to normal in the midst of a stomach upset. Using a coating agent will help slow diarrhea and prevent your pet from dehydrating. Replacing lost electrolytes will speed recovery. Replacing the good bacteria in the intestinal tract with probiotics will help regain normal gut flora. Probiotics are also good to use with antibiotic-induced GI upset, as well.
Although digestive problems are a normal part of life, they should not be ignored. Prevent setting pets up for digestive issues. When they do happen, early treatment will speed recovery and comfort to an uncomfortable family member.
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Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.