Digestive disturbances in dogs
When your dog’s digestive system is functioning smoothly, the typical meal takes 7- to 10-hours to pass through the digestive system. . During this time, various organs reduce of food into nutrients (carbohydrates to simple sugars, fats to fatty acids, and proteins to amino acids) that your dog’s cells can absorb and use.. Unfortunately, most dog owners have experienced the unpleasant surprise of discovering the common consequences of canine digestive disorders – vomit and diarrhea.
Food moves from the mouth to the stomach via the esophagus. Inflammation or obstruction of the “food tube” or megaesophagus (a weakening and dilation of esophageal muscles) may cause a dog to regurgitate food before it reaches the stomach.
As the stomach churns food into a thick liquid (chyme), special glands secrete enzymes that break down proteins, hydrochloric acid that aids those enzymes, and mucus that protects the stomach from digesting itself. Vomiting is the most obvious sign of stomach inflammation.
Just as food leaves the stomach into the small intestine, there is an organ that is attached to and parallel to the main digestive tract called the pancreas. This organ adds enzymes that help digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, plus sodium bicarbonate to help neutralize stomach acid. Also in the pancreas lies a tube attached to the liver call the bile duct. It is through this tube that the liver contributes bile, which breaks up fats into easily absorbed globules and promotes absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Most of the digestion and nutrient absorption occurs in the convoluted small intestine, where more enzymes and mucus are added. Fingerlike projections (villi) lining the small intestine absorb broken down nutrients for delivery throughout the body. In a medium-sized dog, villi provide an absorptive surface equal in size to the floor of a small room. If your dog has watery diarrhea with no blood or mucus, does not strain when defecating, and eliminates on a normal schedule, its small intestine is probably inflamed.
After absorbing some water from the remnants of digestion, the large intestine moves feces (a combination of undigested food and water) to the anus. If your dog has mucousy diarrhea tinged with fresh blood, strains when defecating, and has frequent urges to move its bowels, its large intestine is probably inflamed.
There are many causes of canine digestive disorders – from sudden changes in diet and overeating to ingestion of garbage , toxins, food allergies, infection (bacterial or viral), inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, foreign bodies, metabolic diseases, organ failure such as kidney, liver, and pancreatic disease, and parasites. The above causes may stall digestive processes, causing constipation, while others rush food through the system too quickly, resulting in minimal nutrient and water absorption and a large volume of loose feces. Or your pet may develop severe stomach irritation or spasms and cause vomiting.
If your pet experiences any digestive disorders, it is important to call your veterinarian and discuss the situation. Depending on the seriousness of the problem and the demeanor of your pet, a trip to you pets doctor and an examination may be recommended.
When vomiting and/or diarrhea is infrequent and short-lived and not accompanied by more serious signs, finding the exact cause may be less important than relieving the condition. Many veterinarians recommend a 12- to 24-hour fast to rest the irritated digestive tract, followed by small amounts of bland, easily digestible food – such as rice mixed with boiled chicken or hamburger (with the fat drained off), or diets available at your veterinarians office fed in small meals several times a day. Initially, any deviation from this bland fare could cause signs to recur, but as things improve, you can gradually phase in your dog’s regular diet over a week’s time. We do not recommend self diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes periodic digestive distress evolves into a chronic problem. Cases of severe or frequent vomiting and diarrhea that persist more than 1-2 days may leave a dog dehydrated and malnourished. In these situations, supportive veterinary care may include intravenous fluids along with drugs that inhibit vomiting, suppress diarrhea, kill bacteria, and/or protect the digestive tract from further inflammation.
But to definitely treat chronic digestive distress, diagnostic tests will be recommended to find out what’s causing it. Doing so can be challenging because vomiting and diarrhea can signal a wide range of disorders. You can help your veterinarian by providing a detailed account of the duration, frequency, and severity of your dog’s signs. The presence of straining or abdominal discomfort, the color and consistency of the vomitus and/or diarrhea, and whether the your pet has committed recent dietary indiscretions are important diagnostic clues.
The diagnostic tests recommended to help in the investigation may include the following. First and foremost a fecal sample may be requested if possible. This test may show evidence of intestinal parasites, bacteria or other organisms.. Blood and urine tests may show infection or liver, kidney, pancreas, electrolyte abnormalities, etc. that may be contributing to digestive problems. X-rays, barium studies, ultrasound, and endoscopy. may also be requested to assist in the diagnostic work up. Again, because your pet can not talk to us, a complete diagnostic evaluation will help rule out many of the underlying causes of gastrointestinal diseases.
For example, if your veterinarian suspects a tumor or foreign body blockage, he or she may order an x-ray. If a more direct view is needed, your vet may recommend an endoscopic exam in which the practitioner uses a flexible scope with a fiber-optic light source to directly view digestive organs from inside the animal’s body and look for ulcers, tumors, and foreign bodies. Also, microscopic evaluation of tissue samples taken during endoscopy. (biopsies) can reveal the precise nature of the inflammation. Biopsies also help veterinarians determine if a tumor is benign or malignant. Biopsies can also assist in diagnosing if a bacteria or allergies are the cause of the GI disease. If the liver or other organ is suspected as the primary disease causing the digestive disturbance, an ultrasound may be recommended. These tests are non-invasive (non- surgical) and have been found to be very useful diagnostic tools.
The treatment your veterinarian recommends will, or course, depend on the diagnosis. A short course of medication usually does the trick for intestinal parasites. If tests show an abnormal proliferation of bacteria in the gut, antibiotics may be the treatment of choice. If your pet has ingested something poisonous, the vet may administer medication to either purge the poison from the dog’s system or counteract the toxic effects. And some problems, such as tumors and foreign-body blockages, are best treated surgically.
Some chronic digestive disorders, such as food allergies, require life-long dietary management. And if the dog’s large intestine is chronically inflamed (colitis), the vet may prescribe a carefully controlled diet along with medication (anti-inflammatory steroids or antibiotics) to manage flare-ups.
While digestive disorders are quite common in dogs, most upsets resolve quickly and easily. Successfully treating persistent problems depends on two things: thorough diagnostic detective work by both you and your veterinarian and strict adherence to the prescribed treatment program.
Here are some tips to help you can help protect your dog:
- Feed your dog a consistent diet appropriate for its age, weight, and overall health. Avoid fatty foods and abrupt changes in food or water sources
- Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date
- Have your dog’s feces checked routinely for parasites, and restrict the animal’s contact with other pets feces. We recommend fecal analysis at least twice a year
- Limit your dog’s access to bones, string, small toys, and other foreign objects that can harm its digestive tract
- Prevent your dog from scavenging garbage cans or compost piles by keeping it leashed and supervised
- Keep toxic substances (including antifreeze, drugs, and cleaning materials) out of your dog’s reach