According to veterinarians, one in two dogs will be affected by at least one gastrointestinal problem throughout its lifetime. And, if you’re looking to find out more about the main digestive health problems of dogs, feel free to check it out here. Anything from poor diet choices to stress, bacteria, medication, allergies, and other external factors can cause gastrointestinal problems in dogs.
Dogs are omnivorous animals similar to humans, meaning they are used to eating almost anything to survive. However, they require more proteins than humans, so feeding the wrong ingredients can cause gastrointestinal problems.
Unfortunately, these health issues can be triggered by a series of internal and external factors, each requiring a different treatment. Let’s take a look at the most common factors of gastrointestinal problems, the affections they cause, and the treatment your pets should follow to live a long and healthy life.
What causes gastrointestinal problems in dogs?
As we previously mentioned, there are both internal and external causes of gastrointestinal problems. These digestive disorders prevent your dog’s ability to digest and absorb all the nutrients from the food that will keep them healthy, resulting in symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and others.
One of the most common causes of gastrointestinal problems is represented by an abrupt change in diet. A dog takes up to 6-8 weeks to fully adjust to a certain diet and suddenly switching between different brands and formulas will confuse your pet’s digestive system.
Although we don’t recommend sticking to the same food formula forever, dietary changes need to be made gradually to help smoothen the transition and prevent previously mentioned symptoms like bloating, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.
Another thing that can disturb your doggo’s digestive system is chaotic eating. In other words, your pet should be the subject of a strict feeding schedule and shouldn’t receive food whenever it wants. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to feed your pooch two-three times a day, you can easily invest in an automatic food dispenser that serves the right amount of food each time, preventing overeating and obesity in the long term.
As a general rule, if you offer your pet kibbles, you should stick to the feeding instructions printed on the label that are calculated according to your pet’s age, breed, gender, and personality. For instance, active dogs will require up to 10-15% more calories while senior dogs should eat 20% less than puppies or adults.
Medication can also cause gastrointestinal problems, especially if the dosage isn’t properly adjusted according to your dog’s weight. To prevent stomach burns and irritable bowel syndrome, your dog’s vet should prescribe it some probiotics, along with antibiotics.
Toxins and allergies represent other factors that can negatively impact your pet’s health and cause stomach problems.
Out of all the causes of gastrointestinal problems, infectious agents like parasites, fungi, viruses, and bacteria are the most common. They can easily be taken from contaminated food or surfaces and cannot be easily detected without tests. Puppies should pay regular visits to the vet to have all their vaccines and tests done to prevent further health problems.
However, the way your pet behaves also plays an important role in catching viruses or bacteria. If you leave your pet unattended in the park for too long, chances are it may find some interesting items to ingest or play with, increasing the risk of viral and bacterial infections.
What are the most common gastrointestinal and digestive disorders in dogs?
Although some breeds like great Danes, collies, golden retrievers, and German shepherds are more prone to develop digestive disorders, this doesn’t mean that individuals of other breeds are immune. Among the most common gastrointestinal problems, we can recall the following.
Colitis is a chronic or acute inflammation of the membrane lining the colon. It can be caused by parasites such as whipworms, as well as polyps, tumors, dietary changes, allergies (including food allergies), other diseases or by swallowing foreign objects.
According to specialists, almost 70% of the total cases of colitis occur in individuals under the age of 5 and cause inflammation of the large intestine. This is often followed by episodes of acute pain and the painful passing of feces. Diarrhea is another symptom of colitis and it can contain blood or mucus.
Unfortunately, constipation is one of the most common symptoms of many dog affections, so it is quite hard to correlate it with gastrointestinal problems.
Constipation can be caused by dehydration, lack of exercise or eating indigestible materials, including bones and foreign objects. A diet poor in fibers often leads to constipation as well.
Probably the most common symptom that “something is wrong” with your pet is diarrhea. It can be triggered by a series of factors, including internal parasites, stress, infections, a change in your dog’s diet or environment, eating spoiled food from unsanitary surfaces or body organ dysfunction.
As with constipation, it cannot be immediately linked to gastrointestinal problems so further tests must be conducted by vets.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas but its origins remain unknown. Some of the potential causes include infections, foods rich in fat, infections, trauma or diseases.
One of the most dangerous gastrointestinal problems, acute gastroenteritis is characterized by the infection or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, mainly the intestines and the stomach. Although it is usually short-term, this affection can be very dangerous and painful.
It is caused by a series of internal and external factors, including the consumption of spoiled or rancid food, internal parasites, the ingestion of toxic plants or high-fat people food, stress or food allergies.
What are the main signs of a digestive disorder?
The most common signs of digestive disorders in dogs include soft stools and diarrhea. Apart from that, you may also notice one or more of the following signs: regurgitation, vomiting, flatulence, constipation, weakness, abdominal pain, blood or mucus in the stools, weight loss, and a general loss of appetite.
Proper testing and diagnosis are mandatory if you want your pet to get better as soon as possible. Keep in mind that diarrhea and soft stools can also cause severe dehydration, which can further lead to kidney malfunctions.
To prevent these, you need to make sure your pet remains hydrated all the time, so offer it as much fresh water as possible and even try some chicken soups without too much fat or salt in them.
How can you treat gastrointestinal problems?
Regular visits to the vet play an important role in your dog’s overall health but not even they can properly diagnose all health problems in advance. Make sure your pet is vaccinated and that it follows the vet’s recommendations such as diet, rest, drinking more liquids, and taking its pills on time.
Many gastrointestinal problems can be treated by following a strict diet. It is important to know that these digestive disorders are quite common and, most often, won’t last more than a few days. Hydration is extremely important during the recovery, as well as a proper diet.
To prevent and treat these problems, your dog should follow a strict diet that includes plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and the consumption of clean sources of proteins. Fish such as herring and salmon are not only rich in proteins but also in vitamin E and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids which will promote healthy and strong bones, teeth, and a shiny coat.
Other sources of clean meat can include chicken, chicken meals, and turkey. Duck, bison, pork, and beef are not necessarily recommended as they are rich in fats and may cause further bloating or vomiting.
Fresh fruits and vegetables play an important role in your dog’s diet as they are a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants that fight against free radicals and boost your pet’s immune system. Berries, carrots, and legumes contain vitamins A, B complex, C, D, and E, and they are a great source of fibers.
As we previously mentioned, dogs require a few grams of fibers daily to promote healthy stools and keep their digestive system in order. Many gastrointestinal conditions are caused by foods rich in empty calories and salt and low in fibers, vitamins, and proteins.