Much like their human counterparts, dogs experience upset stomachs from time to time. Though not uncommon, it can be very upsetting to witness your furry comrade in his or her state of discomfort. Unlike people, dogs are unable to explain their symptoms or how they may be feeling. This can lead to owners feeling confused, helpless and worried. Fortunately, if you act quickly in identifying the cause of your dog’s symptoms, you will not only have the ability to prevent issues from worsening, but you may also prevent some digestive problems altogether.
Inflammation of the Digestive Tract
Dog digestive problems can range from simple things like overeating to more serious ailments like pancreatitis and sodium ion poisoning. That being said, often times owners are fortunate enough to avoid the scary stuff. The most common canine digestive problems are linked to inflammation of the digestive tract. The cause of the inflammation is usually due to dietary indiscretion. That is, when your dog ingests something he shouldn’t have. Dogs have a knack for winning over owners with those pouty looks and, on occasion, they can have success. However, when it comes to your dog convincing you to share some of your table scraps or surplus food, you should think twice before giving in.
Many of the basic foods you consume can have harsh effects on the digestive tract of your canine pal. Foods that are high in fat, including bacon, ham, and meat trimmings, can be difficult for your dog’s pancreas to handle and in some cases, can result in canine pancreatitis. The same goes for foods that are high in sodium content. Salt can cause a condition called sodium ion poisoning which can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures in dogs.
Foods containing substances called methylxanthines can be particularly harmful to dogs causing panting, excessive thirst, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, and even death. The most common food products owners consume that contain methylxanthines are chocolate, coffee, and caffeine products. Additionally, grapes, macadamia nuts, dairy, onions, garlic, chives, and Xylitol are very toxic to dogs and should be avoided at all costs. It is always a good idea to contact a veterinarian if you have questions about what your dog can safely consume.
Illness and Infection
Gastrointestinal illness and infection are also commonplace problems that can plague your pup. Much like people, dogs can catch “stomach bugs”. Though generally acute, they can come with a range of symptoms including changes in appetite, vomiting, weight loss, and lethargy in dogs. In adult dogs with chronic gastrointestinal upset, the two most common problems are inflammatory gastritis and inflammatory bowel disease. In most of the cases concerning inflammatory bowel disease, there are no specific causes known. It simply is an overactive immune response in the digestive tract. Though this disease is chronic, the symptoms come in waves and are generally intermittent.
Intestinal Parasites in Dogs
Another common canine digestive problem is intestinal parasites.
Intestinal parasites are generally seen in puppies that come from pet stores and shelters and they have an overgrowth in hookworms, roundworms, and/or protozoa, such as, giardia and coccidia. Parasites in puppies are transferred through fecal and oral methods and are associated with stress and overcrowding. These parasites live inside of the gastrointestinal tract and can run amok, causing vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and the infamous “scoot”.
Aside from making your dog sick, many of these parasites can affect people as well. Though detection of intestinal parasites often requires a veterinarian exam, the simple cure can be over-the-counter “wormers” or medication.
There are a number of digestive problems that can occur in the span of your dog’s long and happy life. These digestive issues can include allergies, parasites, inflammation, and gastrointestinal illness. Though ongoing digestive problems without treatment can result in complications, many are acute and have simple solutions. A good rule of thumb is that if any of your dog’s digestive problems continue for more than 48 hours (and/or intensify), you should call a veterinarian or visit an office. Luckily, most dog digestive problems stem from causes that you have control over. Remember, the next time you are tempted to toss your dog some popcorn or a piece of your candy bar, resist the urge and smother him with love and the occasional dog treat instead!