The digestive system includes all the organs that are involved in taking in and processing food. It begins with the mouth and includes the oesophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines, rectum, and anus.
The process of digestion begins when your pet picks up food with its mouth and starts chewing. Enzymes found in saliva begin breaking down the food chemically. The process continues with swallowing, additional breakdown of food in the stomach, absorption of nutrients in the intestines, and elimination of waste. Digestion is critical not only for providing nutrients but also for maintaining the proper balance of fluid and electrolytes (salts) in the body.
Healthy digestion is essential for your dog to be able to use the nutrients from his food to build and repair tissues and obtain energy.
Let’s look at some of the common digestive problems found in dogs:
Gastroenteritis: Inflammation or infection of the gastrointestinal tract, primarily the stomach and intestines. Acute gastroenteritis is usually short-term, caused by a dog eating spoiled or rancid food, high-fat people food, swallowing foreign objects, eating toxic plants, internal parasites, stress, food allergies or substances not intended as dog food.
Colitis: Colitis, another digestive disorder in dogs, is the inflammation of the colon (also known as the large intestine). Colitis can be ‘acute’ (beginning suddenly and ending quickly) or ‘chronic’ (where it will last longer and keep returning). Signs of colitis in your dog include seeing blood and/or mucus in their stools, diarrhoea, and frequently passing small amounts of stool. If your dog has chronic colitis, they may lose weight too.
Stress diarrhoea: Dogs can suffer from diarrhoea just like we do. Stress diarrhoea in pets is a common response to stress or anxiety – that is, your dog’s diarrhoea might happen because they’re worried about something. Examples of stressful situations that can trigger digestive problems in dogs are wide ranging – and it depends on what your dog finds particularly anxiety-inducing! Some causes include:
Constipation: Another treatable digestive disorder in your pet is constipation. If your dog is straining to pass stools, or if they are hard or particularly small, this might be the problem. There are many reasons why your dog might become constipated. These include:
However, constipation can also indicate more serious digestive disorders in dogs such as a growth, a tumour or neurological problems. These wouldn’t be the most common causes of constipation by any means, but your vet will happily check your dog over to make sure.
These problems mentioned above are only a few of the common digestive problems found in canines. Some problems may simply resolve themselves once your dog’s digestive system is given a chance to rest. However, as more serious conditions could result in weight loss, dehydration and debilitation, you should see your vet with any concerns – they can easily advise you and determine the appropriate treatment for your dog.