Digestive Issues in Pets
Why is addressing digestive issues critical for pets?
Pet nutrition and diets are deeply connected to the composition and diversity of the microbiome, which, in turn, plays a significant role in the proper function of the digestive tracts and immune systems of dogs and cats, ultimately affecting their overall health and well-being.
The microbiome is more than just a “hot topic” in scientific research. Every living organism — including humans and pets — have all kinds of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa) living both on and within their bodies. These microorganisms live together as communities, and the collection of their genomes is known as the microbiome. Microbiomes are unique to certain habitats, such as the skin, lungs and gut, and can be crucial for pet immune health.
The digestive process in pets begins immediately
The process of digestion begins when your pet picks up food and starts chewing. Enzymes that are found in saliva begin breaking down the food chemically. The process continues with swallowing, the additional breakdown of food in the stomach, the absorption of nutrients in the intestines, and the elimination of waste. Digestion is critical, not only for providing nutrients, but also for maintaining the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body.
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Aids for digestive balance in dogs and cats
Are digestive issues connected to weight management in pets?
In short, yes. Research has shown that the diet affects each individual person’s digestive system, and the same is true for your pets! The composition and diversity of gut bacteria will change based on the diet. For example, if the diet is high in carbohydrates, gut bacteria that favor carbohydrates will be found at higher levels.
Interestingly, research has also shown that, because bacteria play such a major role in energy metabolism, the microbiomes of lean dogs and obese dogs differ dramatically. The link between the digestive system and weight management in pets may be worth considering, especially with the rising pet obesity epidemic. While more scientific research is warranted, protecting your pet’s gut health may be a proactive step to take in terms of weight management.
Common signs of digestive problems in pets
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Abdominal bloating
- Lethargy and/or depression
- Decreased willingness or desire to play, walk, etc.
Preventing digestive problems in dogs and cats
Utilize the tips below to help keep your pet’s digestive system in top shape:
- Resist the urge to feed them table scraps. Even though your pets are part of your family, they do not need to eat as such. In fact, this habit could be detrimental to their gut health. Feed them only pet food, specific to their species, and fight the urge to feed them from your plate.
- Avoid overfeeding. With pet obesity quickly becoming a global issue — just as it is with humans — it is important to remember that food is not love. Overfeeding can lead to many issues, from digestive upset to increased pressure on joints and systemic inflammation. Feed according to the label on your pet’s food, and monitor their body condition to make adjustments as needed.
- Decrease stress. Changes in their environment, diet or routine can be stressful for your pet. Sometimes, change is inevitable, but do your best to stick to a normal schedule as much as possible to keep your pet’s gut functioning optimally. When you know that a stressful situation may be on the horizon, use gut-supportive nutrients in advance of the event to minimize any digestive risk or microbiome imbalance.