A common topic when discussing nutrition and diets is how well dogs digest their food. Raw diet proponents brag about small, hard stools that blow away in the wind. Home cooked advocates remark on similar attributes, including fewer odors and commercial dog food supporters look for fewer ingredients and/or no grains for smaller stools. But occasionally, any dog on any diet can develop diarrhea.
What Causes Diarrhea?
The first question is what causes diarrhea and loose stools? The 3 most common causes are too much food, too much fat or too much fiber.
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A dog needs about 2% to 3% of their body weight daily in food. When we over feed them, loose stools can result. Try reducing the amount food given by a little bit. You don't want to reduce the amount by more than 10%.
A second most common problem is having too much fat in the diet. This can be caused by feeding foods that are too fatty (whole eggs, fattier meats such as lamb, pork and chicken WITH the skin on). Simply reducing the amount of fat by using lower fat food choices will help.
Too much fiber creates too much bulk in the diet. This creates larger and messier stools. Fiber sources include carbohydrates, especially grains and starches (such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and winter squash). Try using fewer carbohydrates (no carbohydrates are needed in a raw diet, but cooked diets should be comprised of about 25% carbohydrates). In commercial diets, add some fresh animal based protein and whole foods such as yogurt or cottage cheese. Fresh animal based proteins can include lean meats and canned fish such as mackerel or sardines.
Loose stools can develop in raw diets, if not enough raw meaty bones are fed. Remember, the diet needs to be approximately 50% raw meaty bones. Using chicken necks, skinless backs, turkey necks and pork neck bones can help firm the stool. Conversely, too much bone can cause constipation so remember the 50% rule. Should the stools get too hard on 50% raw meaty bones, use meat with more fat and less boney cuts such as chicken leg quarters, pork ribs, lamb ribs and pork tails.
There are some home remedies you can try for upset stomachs. For diarrhea, try giving plain, canned pumpkin. For small dogs, use about ½ to 1 teaspoon per meal. Medium sized dogs would use 1 to 2 teaspoons and a large dog would get a tablespoon.
For vomiting, boil a cabbage and save the liquid. Let the liquid cool. Give one cc per ten pounds of body weight as needed.
Sometimes diarrhea can be a chronic problem. In this event, it may be something that requires a visit to your veterinarian. This is especially important if the dog has liquid diarrhea as it can result in dehydration. The first step is to have the stool checked by your veterinarian. Certain parasite problems can cause loose stools, including hookworms, whipworms, giardia and coccidea. A fecal float will be able to identify if any of these problems are present. Once diagnosed, all of these parasite problems can be resolved with wormers specific to each parasite. If any of these are present, it would be important to test any of your other dogs, to prevent reinfection.
If the fecal tests are clear, then further testing may be needed. This may include blood work and a urinalysis. There are a variety of digestive problems that might cause diarrhea. Some include colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and Irritable bowel disease. An irritated intestinal lining can cause these problems. As the intestinal lining becomes more inflamed, food is harder to digest and spasms can occur in the colon. This can cause loose, 'cow patty' type stools and if it progresses, can also result in vomiting. The key in this situation is to help reduce the inflammation and help the intestinal lining heal. Switching diets, such as from a dry food diet to a home cooked or raw diet can help heal the digestive tract. Dry food can be irritating on the digestive system, as it is high in carbohydrates (fiber) and harder to digest. Home cooked or raw food diets are easier to digest and diets that are lower or have no carbohydrates are easier on the dog's digestive tract.
SIBO – (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) causes large, gassy stools sometimes accompanied by vomiting. A blood test can diagnose this problem. Bacterium that causes this problem feeds on starches and sugars, so a diet change, along with the addition of B vitamins can help resolve this problem. For more on this, go here: http://www.gsdfederation.co.za/articles/sibo.htm
EPI – Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is another digestion problem, which can cause large fluffy, greasy grey stools along with gas. Blood work testing can diagnosis this problem, for more information go to: http://www.globalspan.net/epi.htm#Diagnosis
HGE – Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis with HGE – Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis is when there is bloody diarrhea which is often red and clotted in appearance. Vomiting and lethargy can develop later. A high packed cell volume (PCV) in a blood panel will confirm the diagnosis. Toy breeds are more at risk, but HGE has good recovery outcomes. http://vetmedicine.about.com/cs/dogdiseasesh/a/HGEindogs.htm
What supplements are helpful for diarrhea and gastric problems?
There are several important supplements that help with digestive problems. Here are a few that are most helpful:
These are a blend of beneficial bacteria that help in digesting food, preventing gas and discomfort, and also help to boost the immune system. Antibiotics indiscriminately kill the good bacteria, along with the bad, and it is important to replenish these with good flora and fauna bacteria such as acidophilus, streptococcus and enterococcus. These also help to fight yeast overgrowth and keep bacteria from multiplying into harmful amounts by keeping a balance in the digestive tract. Healthy amounts of these friendly bacteria help fight spasms and cramping. Probiotics can be given daily, to help with current digestion and to prevent future digestion problems.
This is an amino acid that has shown promising results in the last few years to provide healing in the digestive system. Studies have shown it helps to repair intestinal tissue at the cellular level and it is a precursor to glutathione, an antioxidant. L-glutamine is also an aid to help restore muscle atrophy. It also induces the large intestine to remove excess water, which is helpful for dogs prone to diarrhea. Dose at 1,000 mg per 20-40 lbs of body weight twice daily, with meals.
There are several types of digestive enzymes that help break down certain foods. Protease help breaks down proteins, lipase helps to break down fats, and amylase assists in breaking down carbohydrates. There are many enzymes that fall under each category and different enzymes assist with the various stages of digestion. The two most common enzymes are those from either animal or plant sources. Both are necessary to aid in all phases of digestion.
Dogs with irritated or inflamed digestive tracts have difficulty breaking down the food for the nutrients, and digestive enzymes can help with this process and offer better nutrition in the small intestine. Some plant enzymes help fight inflammation and reduce swelling. The one that is most useful is Bromelain, an enzyme that comes from pineapple. Important enzymes for fat digestion include pancrealipase. Trypsin is also helpful for gastric retention and fighting inflammation and helps to speed healing of the digestive tract. Bertes Zymes (editor’s note: Use Food Science All Zyme) are a helpful blend of all of these, and are given with each meal to help break down fats and proteins before the food reaches the small intestine. The digestive enzymes are also helpful for dogs prone to pancreatitis and have trouble digesting fats.
B-Naturals carries a product called Bertes Digestive Blend, which not only contains probiotics, Bertes Zymes and l-glutamine, but also ginger and N-Acetyl Glucosamine (NAG, which helps restore permeability to the digestive tract lining). This product comes in a convenient powder mix and can be sprinkled on each meal. Start at half dose for the first week and slowly increase to full dose during the second week.
Happy Mother's Day!!
I hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather and taking the opportunity to walk and exercise their dogs!
Texas 200 Mom with her babies.
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