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Upset Digestion

Does your pooch suffer with digestive problems?

Unfortunately, digestive issues are becoming increasingly common in dogs. The type of feed and the daily feeding amounts are particularly important when overcoming these problems.

Written by John Burns BVMS MRCVS

Common symptoms of chronic digestive problems are loose bowel motions, occasional vomiting, abdominal discomfort or swelling, flatulence, passing of blood or mucus or straining. Upset digestion can either be acute or chronic/recurring.  Acute upset is usually characterised by vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Other examples of acute upset are gastric dilation (bloat) and acute pancreatitis.

Bloat is more common in large breeds and will cause abdominal pain and may lead to collapse and even sudden death. Acute pancreatitis also causes abdominal pain and in severe cases can be fatal.

Whatever name is given to the disorder, be it colitis, gastroenteritis, indigestion, allergy, infection, persistent or recurring upset to the digestive system is usually caused by a diet which is unsuitable in some way:

  • food made using ingredients of low quality or poor digestibility is a major problem
  • overfeeding reduces digestibility and puts more demands on the digestive system
  • allergy/intolerance to a food ingredient should always be considered as a possible cause of a persistent problem
  • high fat content and chemical additives such as colourings are other possible causes

How can food help? Dogs prone to digestive issues need natural, wholesome foods.

Over the past 40 years I found that the best way to ensure a healthy digestive system is by feeding a highly digestible diet high in complex carbohydrate, usually wholegrains such as brown rice and maize but also potato and buckwheat. Buckwheat, despite the name, is not related to wheat and in fact isn’t a grain at all but delivers similar benefits to whole grains. This type of highly digestible diet means that feeding amounts are lower, which is more economical.  More of the food is absorbed so less material reaches the lower bowel. This means less poo which is easier to clean up because it is well formed.

Contrary to modern marketing methods, it is not true that dogs and cats cannot digest whole grains or that grains cause allergic reactions.

Feeding a simple, wholesome diet can also result in a healthy microbiome (the bacteria, protozoa and fungi in the gut). This is particularly important for dogs with digestive problems.  To read further, please see my blog on the microbiome.

A hypoallergenic diet will usually contain a single protein source and should not contain common causing food allergy ingredients such as dairy or wheat gluten.

  • If a dog has a very sensitive digestive system a diet containing novel ingredients may be beneficial.
  • A novel ingredient refers to an ingredient unlikely exposed to previously like duck, pork, fish or maize where an immune reaction is unlikely. Download the Natural Health Guide Below for more information.

How much food should I give my dog?

Giving the right feeding amount is just as important as having the right type of food.

Overfeeding reduces the efficiency of digestive function. Overfeeding contributes to toxic burden. Overfeeding can also cause adverse food reaction (intolerance). Manufacturers’ recommended feeding amounts should only be used as a starting point as every dog is an individual with different needs from all others. Daily feeding amounts should be adjusted to suit each individual’s needs.

Weighing the food each time is more accurate and effective than going by eye. Many pet owners believe they cannot be overfeeding as their pet is not overweight. Very often that is not correct; over-nutrition can cause many health problems other than excessive weight gain.

Speak to a Pet Nutritionist

Get in touch with the Burns Health and Nutrition Team for individually tailored advice on the right food type and amounts for your dog. At Burns we work to address pet health conditions brought about by unhealthy lifestyle and especially diet. Drawing on the link between health and nutrition, we developed dry pet food that offers the same benefits for your favourite furry friend as simple homecooked food.

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