Why digestion and gut health is so important.
It is sometimes difficult to appreciate how the digestive tract can affect general health, but if food is not digested properly it can lead to a whole cascade 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 affected by a whole range of factors. Stress, anxiety and depression can have a negative effect, as can many medications, lack of dietary fibre, parasites, food allergies, sensitivities or dysbiosis (an imbalance of bacteria).
Maintaining a healthy digestive system
- The basic principle in maintaining digestive health is to feed a good diet. A balanced, unprocessed food diet with lots of variety in ingredients will ensure a broad range of nutrients. Some animals with sensitive stomachs may react to their food, in which case your veterinarian can help.
- Ingested food has a profound effect on the types of bugs, their numbers and activity in the gut; dysbiosis is associated with gut inflammation in dogs and cats.
- If you are concerned about the diet as a cause of gut issues, consider asking for a referral to an integrative veterinarian experienced with nutrition and/or a veterinary nutritionist.
- 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 a little inconsistent. The good bacteria help balance the bugs in the gut, and they produce nutrients for the lining of the gut that improve gut health.
- If your pet is stressed, have this attended to. In my opinion, stress and anxiety frequently underlie chronic and recurrent gut problems. When animals are relaxed they digest better.
- Monitor stool quality. Check the kitty litter tray or follow your dog and check the faeces 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. If they are not, seek veterinary help.
- When making any changes to the diet, particularly when shifting from dry foods to fresh foods or canned to dry for example, where the form is quite different – then aim to do this over 4-5 days, gradually decreasing the existing diet and increasing the replacement diet. This will minimise the risk of diarrhoea or tummy upset.
- Cats that are fed once a day may be metabolically healthier than those that snack according to a recent study. Cats that ate just once a day had higher levels of three key appetite-regulating hormones after their meal, suggesting they were more satisfied. This may be one means of reducing the risk of obesity. Likewise feeding once a day may be beneficial in dogs for similar reasons. Research into intermittent fasting in dogs and cats is quite new.
- Have regular (3 monthly) worm checks by submitting a faecal sample to the vet if you choose not to worm routinely or want to reduce worming medications.
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 stools
• Loose stool
• Difficulty in passing stool
• Pale tongue
When to call the vet
Always consult your vet if there is:
• Pain, crying or panting
• Straining to go to the toilet
• Blood evident
• Distended abdomen
Gut health supplement can help!
GUT HEALTH CARE is a proprietary, synergistic blend of natural plant nutraceuticals developed and approved by vets with fibre, prebiotics, and probiotics to support a sensitive digestive tract and maintain gut health in dogs and cats.
- Encourages daily regularity
- Supports pets with sensitive digestive tracts
- Assists maintenance of general gut health
- Offers support to diets containing insufficient dietary fibre
Supplements like GUT HEALTH CARE can be incorporated into your pet’s diet when you are changing between food types to encourage microbial balance, to promote the growth of healthy bacteria, or to use alongside medication that is known to cause dysbiosis or impact stool quality and consistency (always check with your vet before supplementing alongside medication).
Want to find out more? Head to the GUT HEALTH CARE page, get in touch on 1800 KELATO or email our team at email@example.com.
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.