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6-minute read

How to Reduce Digestive Problems in Dogs and Cats

cat eating from a bowl.
Dr. Dana Tomlinson

Global RNS Species Leader – Specialty
Zinpro Corporation

As pet parents, when we talk about digestive problems in dogs and cats we are usually talking about when our pets throw up or have diarrhea. However, digestive upsets can take on many forms and vomiting and diarrhea are just the most severe symptoms. Some less obvious symptoms include lack of interest in food, flatulence, or even showing signs of depression.

Mild digestive upsets in cats and dogs can be caused by a variety of physiological stress factors: pet parents feeding their pet rich human food, the pet eating something dead or something that their gastrointestinal tract doesn’t recognize. More severe digestive upsets, on the other hand, may be caused by bacterial infections from eating something that was contaminated with bacteria like salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, etc.

Let’s look deeper into symptoms and causes of mild to severe pet digestive upsets in cats and dogs.

Causes and Symptoms of Severe Digestive Upsets in Cats and Dogs

When a pet eats something that, for whatever reason, their gastrointestinal tract finds abnormal, they will vomit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a bacterial or viral infection. In fact, a dog or cat vomiting once a month should be judged as pretty much normal.

Pet parents should take notice if their pet starts to vomit or has diarrhea on a regular basis and more specifically if the content or feces begin to look abnormal.

Our pets have a very diverse microbiome in their gastrointestinal tract, which includes many different populations of bacteria. If one of these bacteria populations grows out of control in the GI tract, they will begin to produce toxin like substances that are recognized as abnormal by the gastrointestinal tract immune system and result in the gastrointestinal tract trying to expel them. If not expelled, they could possibly lead to irritation, inflammation and potential damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. If the vomit material doesn’t resemble what the dog or cat originally ate, contains blood or an excess amount of mucus, this could be indicative of an infection in the gastrointestinal tract and a more severe digestive upset.

The same can be said for the pet’s feces. A change in texture, consistency, color or smell could mean the pet has a potential bacteria problem growing in the gastrointestinal tract, causing a greater production of fatty acids that cause the off odor.

When an animal is on their regular, balanced diet and consuming food on a regular basis, everything stays homogeneous and normal digestion occurs.

Causes and Symptoms of Mild Digestive Upsets in Cats and Dogs

With a milder digestive upset, our pets may vomit but it will look fairly normal. Another indicator of a mild digestive upset is that the pet may show signs of depression.

When a pet is not feeling well because of a digestive upset, they have a natural instinct to isolate themselves by moving to a dark, quiet hiding place where they feel safe and secure. This is normal behavior and as pet parents we should help provide protection and comfort from other animals or stressors so they can recover more quickly.

Learn more: Inflammation in Cats and Dogs

Treatment and Prevention of Digestive Problems in Dogs and Cats

In many cases, the best course of treatment for digestive problems in dogs in cats is to be patient and watchful. Dogs and cats will usually eliminate the cause of the digestive upset naturally from their bodies within 12 to 24 hours and recover on their own under the watchful eye of the pet parent. For this reason, prevention is the best strategy when it comes to digestive upsets in cats and dogs.

The best thing a pet parent can do to prevent digestive upsets in cats and dogs is to feed a consistent balanced and nutritionally appropriate diet according to the animal’s body weight, stage of life and level of activity. Digestive upsets can occur when you change your pets’ foods, so it is best to stay consistent and feed the same food every day at the same time — or as close as possible. Establish a routine. If you must switch brands of food, do it slowly by mixing the old and new in increments while gradually increasing the new brand at each meal.

Learn more: Navigating the Pet Food Industry to Improve Pet Health and Well-Being

Feeding raw diets requires additional vigilance as they create an additional risk of food safety and handling due to potential contamination not only for the pet but also for the human caretaker. Bacteria consumed by our pets can continue to be shed for a week or more after a single contaminated meal through feces or saliva. Provide a pasteurized, well-cooked or extruded pet food option that has a healthy balance of protein, fiber, macro minerals, trace minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and vitamins.

Trace minerals, while required in very small amounts, are key to building a healthy, naturally functioning gastrointestinal tract that helps maintain an animal’s well-being from the inside out. Feeding a pet food containing Zinpro Performance Minerals® can help manage these additional gastrointestinal challenges to reduce digestive problems in dogs and cats, but also the associated inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and replenishment of the gastrointestinal tissue.

Additionally, make sure you are providing a comfortable environment for your pet to reduce stress factors. Ensure they are provided fresh, clean water to stay hydrated and avoiding anything that could be stressful for the animal when they are feeling vulnerable.

Finally, make sure you have your pets on a routine de-worming program, especially for outside dogs and cats. When animals go outside, they can pick up worms and parasitic infections from the soil and become infected. Those worms or parasitic infections can cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract that cause irritation, ultimately leading to digestive upset in cats and dogs.

If you think your pet has digestive problems, start by reducing or removing their food for 12 to 24 hours, but make sure they stay hydrated with fresh, clean water. Your dog or cat will benefit from the short break in food intake and may allow the gastrointestinal tract to calm down and re-establish its normal microflora population. It may help to offer your family companion some bone broth or clear soup to help maintain energy and provide hydration. If after a day or so they begin to show signs of wanting food, that is a good sign and it’s all right to offer them soup and solid food. If they continue to be sick, then it is imperative you take them to the veterinarian immediately.

Prevent Digestive Problems in Dogs and Cats with Balanced Nutrition and Care

Digestive problems in dogs and cats are a common occurrence and vary in severity. With proper care and nutrition, pet parents can reduce the prevalence of digestive upsets in cats and dogs and keep their companions happy, healthy and comfortable.

To learn more about including pet food with performance trace minerals in your pet’s nutritional program, contact your Zinpro representative today.

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