It is sometimes difficult to appreciate just how much the digestive tract can affect the general health of our pets, but if gut health is poor it can lead to a range of other problems. Even chronic diseases such as arthritis and skin disease can have digestive disturbances as an underlying cause. Similarly, the digestive tract is sensitive to an entire range of factors. Stress, anxiety and depression can have a negative effect, as can medications, lack of dietary fibre, parasites, food allergies or dysbiosis or disturbances in the gut microbiome.
Maintaining a healthy digestive system
The basic principle in maintaining digestive health is to feed a good diet. A real food diet can be commercial or home-made with a variety of ingredients to ensure a broad range of nutrients. There are health advantages to a diet comprised of whole foods rather than highly processed foods, but your veterinarian might prescribe a special diet if necessary. A veterinary nutritionist or integrative veterinarian can help to ensure a home-made diet is nutritionally balanced.
When making any changes to the diet, particularly when shifting from dry foods to fresh foods – where the form is quite different, do this over 4-5 days, gradually decreasing the existing diet and increasing the replacement diet.
It is important to include probiotics in the diet if your pet has undergone surgery or a stressful event, following any course of medications or if the stools are inconsistent. Probiotics help balance the microbiome in the gut and their by-products provide nutrition for cells lining the gut. Kelato’s GUT HEALTH CARE contains a Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii strain l-1079 probiotic to help with maintaining a healthy digestive system.
GUT HEALTH CARE is also great when your pet experiences change to their food, or when they eat things they shouldn’t have.
If your pet is stressed have this addressed, as stress and anxiety frequently underlie chronic and recurrent gut problems. Some animals will even get diarrhoea when stressed.
An effective way to monitor digestive health is to monitor stool quality. Check the kitty litter tray or follow your dog and check the poop regularly. They should be easy for your pet to pass, easy to pick up and dispose of, well-formed and consistent. Your pet should also be regular. The volume and frequency will depend upon their diet.
Avoid fasting unless your pet is unwell. In the wild, animals fast because they cannot find food or because they are unwell or are digesting a large meal from the day before. It is not fair to enforce a fast on a pet that has no choice and is otherwise normal. It can be stressful and counterproductive. However, there is evidence that pets can benefit from once daily feeding – a form of intermittent fasting that can improve metabolic health.
If you are not worming routinely, submit a stool sample to your vet, who can run a test and let you know what the worm status is.
When to call the vet
Always consult your vet if there is:
- Pain, crying or panting
- Straining to go to the toilet
- Blood evident in the stool
- Dark tarry stools
- Mucus in the stool
- Distended abdomen
Signs of Digestive system problems
- Bad breath
- Mucus or jelly in the stool
- Noisy gut rumblings
- Weight loss
- Fussy appetite
- Colour change in the stool
- Large volume of stool
- Loose stool
- Difficulty in passing stool
- Pale tongue with or without white coating
Supporting digestion and health can be as simple as modifying the diet and or adding in a dietary supplement such as GUT HEALTH CARE – with prebiotics, probiotics and fibre sources to enhance the natural microbiome in the gut and therefore the health of the digestive system. Maintaining the health of the gut reaps rewards in improving overall health and well-being.
Gut health is close to our hearts so when it comes to general health and well-being, we know that the gut has a significant role to play for us humans, our horses and our pets too.
Written for Broadreach Nature by In House Veterinary Expert Dr Barbara Fougere (BSc BVMS (Hons) MODT MHSc (Herb Med) BHSc (Comp Med) Adv Dip WHM, Grad Dip VCHM, Grad Dip VWHM, Grad Dip VA).
Dr Barbara Fougere graduated from Murdoch in 1986 and her integrative practice is based in Sydney Australia. She is a lead faculty member for the College of Integrative Veterinary Therapies and lectures on integrative medicine all over the world.