Digestive Problems In Dogs

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Any dog lover knows that they can be messy. From booty-scooting to diarrhea, all of us have seen our fair share of digestive issues. Fortunately, we’re not powerless in the battle against gastrointestinal upsets. Today, we’ll be exploring common canine digestive issues, their causes, and what us doggy guardians can do to stop them.

An Introduction to the Canine Digestive System

On its journey to the anus, our dog’s food will pass through five organs:

Digestive Problems In Dogs | Vet OrganicsThe Mouth. Adult dogs have 42 teeth, each of them designed to crush, scrape, tear, and slice. As their jaws lack the ability to shift from side to side, as ours do when chewing leafy vegetables, canines are unable to chew. Furthermore, though they produce a lot of it, a dog’s saliva lacks digestive enzymes and provides little digestive benefit. After food is adequately cut, Rufus tongue will guide it to the next stop on the digestive journey.

The Esophagus. This long muscular tube connects our dog’s mouth to his stomach. Though humans possess zero control over our esophageal muscles, dogs can direct theirs to initiate processes like regurgitation.

The Stomach. This organ uses hydrochloric acid to break food down into chyme. With a PH between one and two, the acid found here is way more acidic than our own. Once the food is adequately mixed, it is released into the lower digestive system.

The Small Intestine. This stop on the digestive journey is perhaps the most important. Through the use of finger-like protrusions called villi, the small intestine absorbs the nutrient from our pup’s food. At just four times the length of the body, our dog’s small intestine is far smaller than our own.

The Large Intestine. Better known as the colon, this organ is responsible for absorbing electrolytes and keeping the body hydrated. After being further digested by some friendly bacteria, the remnants of our dog’s food will be pushed out as feces.

From start to finish, the entire process takes between 12 and 30 hours. A breakdown at any point in the GI system can leave our fur babies with an upset tummy or diarrhea.

Common Digestive Issues in Dogs

Canine GI issues run the gambit from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening. Though there are more than a dozen symptoms of digestive issues, we’d like to highlight a few of the most common:

Acute Gastroenteritis. Usually lasting a few days to a week, acute gastroenteritis is a condition characterized by the inflammation or infection of the GI tract. Though often caused by parasites, this condition can also be triggered by eating fatty people food, high levels of stress, parasitic infections, or the swallowing of foreign objects.

Diarrhea. While nothing to worry about if it happens sporadically, chronic diarrhea can lead to dehydration and other life-threatening illnesses. Characterized by loose or watery stools, this condition is most often triggered by food allergies, parasites, viral infections, and high levels of stress.

Vomiting. Defined as the expelling of matter from the stomach through the mouth, vomiting in dogs can be kickstarted by a variety of things. Some common causes include cancers, intestinal blockages, infections, IBD, parasites, toxin exposure, stomach ulcers, and food intolerances.

Colitis. Often thought of as the chronic version of gastroenteritis, this disease is caused by an inflammation in the lining of the colon. Pet guardians like us often do not notice it until it leads to mucus-coated or bloody stools. Though most often caused by whipworms, dietary changes and food intolerances can also lead to colitis.

Digestive Problems In Dogs | Vet OrganicsFlatulence. It’s okay for Rufus to pass gas every once in a while. But, if he starts sounding like the brass section of an orchestra, something direr may be at work. Common causes of chronic flatulence in dogs include fatty diets, stomach cancers, spicy foods, and overconsumption of soybeans.

Constipation. This is the other end of the GI Goldilocks zone. Instead of having watery stools, constipation results in our pooch having a hard time passing anything at all. When not properly treated, this can lead to stomach pain and strained muscles. The most common causes of constipation include a lack of dietary fiber, anal gland tumors, matted fur near the rectum, dehydration, and a lack of exercise.

Five Easy Ways to Combat Canine GI Issues

While it’s important to talk to our vet if any of the above issues become chronic, there are a few things we can do at home to ease our pup’s discomfort. These holistic remedies include:

Digestive Problems In Dogs | Vet OrganicsChanging Our Dog’s Diets. Table scraps and cheap, filler-heavy dog food lay at the root of many of our dog’s GI issues. Switching to a food that’s free from these ingredients, such as EcoEats dehydrated dog food, can help put an end to chronic stomach problems. Just be aware that doing so abruptly may lead to a slight uptick in tummy aches. Also, please note that it may take up to 8 weeks to notice the benefits of such a change.

Affixing Lids to Trash Cans. Dogs have a bad habit of digging in the garbage. This often leads to them eating things they shouldn’t. By making sure our trash cans are always covered, we can lessen the possibility that our pup will get ahold of something spoiled or rancid.

Deworming Regularly. Parasitic infections often lead to upset stomachs. Ensuring our pups are protected against things like whipworm and tapeworm can cut down on diarrhea and vomiting. It also helps stop things like heartworms from taking root in our dog’s body.

Using Dietary Supplements. Whether it’s fiber or a probiotic, adding a supplement to our pooch’s diet can ensure their stools flow regularly. If we’re unsure how such things might interact with our dog’s medication, it’s important that we consult with the nearest veterinarian.

Our dogs are faithful friends and invaluable companions. But, just like kids, they can get sick to their stomachs. Although many of these issues will clear up on their own, pet guardians can take some actions to prevent them from reoccurring in the future. By making simple dietary changes, and doggy-proofing our table scraps, we’ll lessen the likelihood of vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea.

Michelle Lievense

Michelle is a writer and ghostwriter, specializing in wellness, sustainability, and global social change. She is particularly fond of serving ethical organizations who contribute to a better life for people and animals through humane and environmentally responsible missions. At Vet Organics, Michelle uses her time as a vet tech, her academic studies in animal science and behavior, and nearly a decade working on a ranch teaching animal husbandry to write on a variety of cat and canine health topics. When she isn't writing, Michelle can be found hiking in the mountains of Colorado with her dogs or snuggled up with a good book and her cats.

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