Digestion and indigestion in dogs

Digestion and indigestion in dogs

Health & Safety

Because both dogs and people are mammals, there are a lot of similarities between the way in which a dog’s digestive system works and how our own digestive systems process food-and this also means that dogs can suffer from indigestion in much the same way that we do too.

However, much like people once again, it is not always self-evident what food product that your dog has eaten has caused indigestion, or is leading to a repeated or chronic issue that may potentially be quite debilitating over time.

In order to get a handle on indigestion or other digestive issues your dog might be suffering from, first it is important to understand the basics of how the digestive system of the dog works when everything is running as it should be.

In this article, we will provide a basic explanation of how the dog’s digestive system works, and the types of issues that can go wrong with it if your dog is suffering from indigestion. Read on to learn more.

Normal, healthy digestion

As soon as your dog takes food into their mouth, the digestive process begins, by means of the teeth masticating the food itself while the saliva in the mouth begins the process of softening up the food and breaking it down to be swallowed and further digested internally.

When your dog has chewed their food sufficiently, it is then swallowed, passing through the oesophagus and then down into the stomach, where bile and stomach acid gets to work to break the food down into its component nutrients.

The next stage of the journey takes place in the small intestine, which is where the valuable nutrients unlocked by the stomach are broken down further with the help of pancreatic and liver enzymes, and are then absorbed through the intestinal wall, before passing into the bloodstream.

Finally, what remains passes through into the large intestine, which breaks down any fibre remaining, and removes electrolytes and water that the body can make use of, before finally any solid waste remaining after all of this are expelled from the body as faeces and urine.

What is indigestion?

Indigestion is often used as a general umbrella term to describe any type of digestive upset or discomfort, including things like acid reflux, heartburn, flatulence and loose stools, and various other issues that can be directly attributed to something that the dog has eaten, or digestive process anomalies.

The term “indigestion” itself means something that has passed through the digestive system but that has been only partially digested, or in some cases, not digested at all-for instance, if your dog swallowed a marble or other non-food item and it simply passed through their digestive system, the item in question would be classed as indigestible.

Indigestion in all of its various guises occurs when, for whatever reason, the dog’s digestive system did not fully or properly digest the food that passed through it.

The can occur if a food is irritating to some part of the digestive system and so, expelled from the body faster than normal, leaving it only partially digested. Getting the right balance when it comes to your dog’s diet is a vital part of avoiding indigestion, and even an individual element of food such as proteins, fats and fibres can cause indigestion if the wrong amount of it is fed, or your dog is allergic to it.

For instance, dogs do not need grains in their diet, and grains are largely undigested in the body, being expelled by the large intestine after what fibre the body can use from it has been broken down. Dietary fats are an important part of the normal diet of the healthy dog, but we all know that too much fat in the diet can be bad. This is not just because it leads to weight gain, but also because the body can only properly digest a certain amount of fat, at a time, and what remains will be passed out through the bowels, which can cause loose stools and diarrhoea.

Indigestion in dogs is most commonly caused by an inappropriate diet-poor nutritional balance, too many treats, and other common problems. However, dogs that have a food allergy will be intolerant to one or more of the ingredients in their diet and will suffer from indigestion as a result of this, because their bodies cannot process it properly once again.

Common symptoms of indigestion in dogs

If your dog seems to suffer from indigestion regularly or their stools or something else indicates that something is not quite right, it is a good idea to talk to your vet about your concerns, as they can advise on your dog’s diet and also, investigate the possibility of allergies.

  • Being picky about food.
  • Refusing to eat.
  • Bloating and gas.
  • Loose, fatty or runny stools.
  • Needing to pass faeces or trying to pass faeces regularly.
  • Eating grass to induce vomiting.
  • Vomiting within a couple of hours of eating regularly or semi-regularly.
  • Bad breath that is not connected to dental decay.

While all of these symptoms may seem relatively minor in and of themselves, any of them will make your dog uncomfortable and unhappy, and over the medium term, will affect their health in other ways because they are not getting all of the nutrients they need.



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