While cats are known for their dietary finickiness, dogs are known to eat just about anything. Despite the difference in their eating styles, both cats and dogs often develop digestive problems which have unpleasant consequences for both the animal and caretaker.
Diarrhea and vomiting in cats and dogs are some of the more common symptoms of digestive disorders. Peptic ulcers, colitis, enteritis, IBD and IBS, bloating, excessive gas (flatulence), gurgling or rumbling in the stomach, watery stools or constipation are also common symptoms of GI problems in pets.
Natural pet products containing probiotics, glutamine, digestive enzymes and other nutrients can help to heal the intestinal lining and prevent some of these symptoms from reoccurring in dogs and cats.
The Digestive System
The digestive system is made up of the stomach, liver, pancreas, and intestines. These organs, along with enzymes and the body's own beneficial bacteria, work together to transform food into energy and healthy tissue.
When the gastrointestinal tract is working properly, your pet will have fresh breath, a good appetite, firm stools, less flatulence and plenty of energy.
When the GI tract and digestive organs become compromised, the result can be constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), flatulence and other disorders.
Fortunately, many digestive disorders are temporary and resolve themselves in a day or two. In other cases, where parasites, bacteria, food allergies or other food sensitivities are to blame, your pet may benefit from taking supplements which contain glutamine, fiber, probiotics or enyzymes to help restore their digestive system to a healthy state.
There are a wide range of symptoms associated with gastrointestinal disorders. Here are some signs to watch for:
- Weight loss usually the result of vomiting or diarrhea. The weight should easily be regained when the digestive system becomes healthy. If the animal continues to loose weight, your veterinarian should investigate other causes.
- Excessive gas, burping or rumbling in the stomach.
- Change in the stools.
- Mucus indicates an imbalance in the colon.
- Black stools indicate bleeding in the upper part of the intestinal tract.
- Gray stools indicate liver problems.
- Yellow or orange stools indicate an imbalance.
- Large volume* of stools indicate improper absorption of nutrients. (*Unless you are feeding your pet a vegetarian diet or one high in fiber, which will normally result in a larger volume of stools.)
- Disinterest in eating.
ALERT: If your animal is experiencing the following symptoms, see your veterinarian immediately:
- Blood in the animal's stool or vomit.
- Excessive panting or shaking are signs of distress and may indicate an obstruction or ingestion of a toxic material.
- Dehydration as a result of severe vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than a few hours.
- Dry heaves.
Inability to keep water down.
If your pet shows any of the general signs for more than a few days, a veterinarian should be consulted to rule out other causes such as food allergies, foreign objects or internal disorders resulting from endocrine, pancreas, liver or kidney diseases.
Your veterinarian will test the blood and urine to rule out liver or kidney conditions and may perform a fecal exam to rule out parasites, giardia and bacterial infections.
Natural Treatments for Digestive Problems in Pets
While the causes and symptoms of GI problems are varied, most dogs and cats can benefit from a more healthful diet and the inclusion of nutrients that help repair the intestinal wall, reduce inflammation and restore the proper balance of good bacteria.
Maintaining cell wall integrity (not allowing food particles to pass through) and having the proper balance of beneficial bacteria will help to get your pet back on tract to having a properly working digestive system.
Probiotics are the great equalizers.
Probiotics are useful to help repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria. These "good" bacteria are essential to proper digestion and help convert food into nutrients. They also compete with harmful bacteria for intestinal wall space and nutrients which allow them to grow and reproduce, thereby controlling the amount of bad bacteria found in the intestinal tract.
Bacteria gets out of balance when an animal experiences frequent bouts of diarrhea, regularly eats a poor-quality diet and/or has been taking antibiotics for long periods.
Probiotics are a safe and effective way to restore the healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. When taken regularly, they reinforce the beneficial bacterial colonies in the intestines and help to keep the harmful bacteria in check.
Additional support may be needed to reduce inflammation of the intestinal lining or to aid with digestion.
- Lactobacillus sporogenes - A probiotic that has been shown to help treat diarhea caused by bacterial overgrowth.
- L-Glutamine - An amino acid which fuels intestinal cells and helps maintain mucosal cell integrity.
- Slippery Elm - An emollient that provides soothing protection for the mucus membranes of the intestinal tract.
- Saccharomyces boulardi - a beneficial yeast that decreases intestinal permeability.
- N-acetyglucosamine - Helps heal the inflamed bowel lining by supporting glycoprotein synthesis.
- DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) - supports the healing process in the intestinal lining by increasing blood flow and reducing muscle spasms.