A healthy gastrointestinal tract is a critical part of your pet’s overall health and happiness. The most common function of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is digestion of food and the subsequent absorption of nutrients. The GI tract also plays a large role as part of the immune system. The intestines contain thousands of different types of bacteria, referred to as microflora, and many of these bacteria provide support for intestinal health and protect against harmful bacteria. Beneficial bacterial are therefore necessary to maintain the overall well-being of the intestines, and proper digestion is critical to ensure nutrients can be processed and used properly to keep your pet healthy.
A high quality diet is a key component to keeping your pet’s GI tract healthy, but choosing a “good” diet for your pet can be a very challenging task. As a pet parent you can be overwhelmed with advertisements, commercials, hundreds of different brands, flavors, ingredients and kibble sizes. There are also many fads and misinformation about which diets would be considered better for your pet. For example, we often hear negative information about corn in diets, fillers, and food allergies that have promoted a grain free trend in the pet food industry. Unfortunately most of what you hear is seldom correct and studies now show some of these diets are linked to serious health issues.
So before you choose what you think is a “good” diet, please consult with one of our clinics to help you make the “best” decision for your pet. Our veterinary team can help you choose a diet for your pet based on activity level, lifestyle, and other factors that will keep them happy and healthy.
Digestive disorders may occur for many reasons. Regardless of cause, these disorders often result in reduced digestion and absorption of nutrients, dehydration and malnutrition. GI disturbances are rather common and may resolve on their own within a day or two, however some pets may have continued or worsening symtpoms. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, lethargy, weight loss or inadequate weight gain. These symptoms may worsen or wax and wane depending on the underlying cause. Some causes may include predominantly GI associated issues such as eating inappropriate foods, sudden changes in pet diets, food allergies or dietary intolerances, infections, intestinal parasites, foreign bodies, and toxins. Occasionally GI symptoms may occur secondary to stress or other organ related issues such as pancreatitis.
Given the numerous possible causes of the GI tract symptoms, we always recommend contacting one of our veterinary clinics if any of these symptoms occur. Any pet whose symptoms have occurred for more than 24 hours should be examined by one of our veterinarians as soon as possible for diagnotics and appropriate care. Diagnostics may include fecal testing, blood work and xrays. Treatment options depend on the underlying cause but may often include the use of prescription diets, anti-nausea medications, antibiotics and probiotics and deworming medications.