Digestive Problems in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Digestive problems in dogs manifest themselves in many ways, but diarrhea is almost always one of the first clinical signs.

Digestive problems in dogs are three most common reasons their owners seek advice from a veterinarian. It is estimated that nearly 30% of dogs that are taken to the vet require treatment because they suffer from diarrhea.

The function of the intestinal system in dogs can fail on 4 very different but widely related fronts: digestion, absorption of nutrients, movement of food through the digestive tract and elimination of feces. A dog can have problems at any of these stages, depending on the causative agent.

Here is everything you need to know about digestive problems in dogs. While it is true that diarrhea is the main symptom of many diseases, not all of them manifest in the same way.

The most common digestive problems in dogs

As we have mentioned, not all diseases of the digestive system in dogs manifest in the same way. Therefore, in the following lines we present the peculiarities of the most common.

1. Colitis

The large intestine of animals is essential for their body’s water and electrolyte balance. Furthermore, it has a fundamental part in the absorption of nutrients and in the formation of feces. For this reason, when dogs’ colon – the final part of the large intestine – becomes inflamed, water reabsorption stops and diarrhea occurs.

Colitis can be acute or chronic, but it often does not have a specific causative agent. In most cases, bacterial infections, parasites, physical trauma to the intestinal tract or allergies are suspected. In general, treatment is about symptoms, but some conditions are chronic and have no cure.

2. Constipation, one of the most common digestive problems in dogs

Constipation in dogs is considered constipation when the dog is unable to pass feces for 5 days or more. The longer the stool remains in the dog’s intestines, the more hard and dry it will become, making the task of defecating more and more difficult.

Mild constipation can be caused by a lack of water in the diet, an absence of fiber in the feed, or a generalized nutrient deficiency in the dog’s food. In any case, severe symptoms result from physical obstructions – the animal swallows a solid object -, intestinal constrictions or neuromuscular problems.

If the constipation lasts for a long time, the dog’s life could be in serious danger.

3. Gastritis

Gastritis is acute or chronic inflammation of the dog’s stomach. It is one of the most common digestive problems in dogs, as it usually results from spoiled food, bacterial infections, parasites and poisoning.

In normal situations, the stomach lining is the animal’s first defense barrier, so when it fails, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness and abdominal pain usually appear. In prolonged cases, the dog may vomit regularly.

4. Tumors in the gastrointestinal tract

Unfortunately, dogs aren’t immune to cancer either . However, this clinical event is very rare, as stomach cancer accounts for less than 1% of malignancies in dogs. Furthermore, these pathologies usually appear when the dog is already quite advanced, between 6 and 9 years old.

Dogs with tumors in the gastrointestinal tract may exhibit bloody stools, difficulty defecating, abdominal pain, and even a tumor mass that is palpable to the touch. Depending on the type of cancer, the chances of recovery can be very high or almost nil.

General symptoms of the most common digestive problems in dogs

We took a tour of some of the most important digestive diseases in dogs. Even so, we find it particularly interesting to highlight a number of symptoms common to most of them so that you are able to detect any problems quickly and effectively. Take a look at the following list of clinical signs:

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort in the belly area.
  • Vomiting : If the vomiting includes blood, you need to go to the vet urgently. Blood can come from the gums, respiratory system, or gastrointestinal system but is usually indicative of a severe clinical picture.
  • Diarrhea: as we have said, pathologies such as colitis, gastritis and infectious diseases occur with diarrhea. When the permeability of the intestinal mucosa is changed, water absorption is not performed well.
  • Prolonged constipation
  • Generalized apathy, weight loss and lack of appetite.

A matter of calm and attention

As in humans, dogs’ bodies sometimes respond negatively when they consume a bad food. For this reason, vomiting and acute diarrhea can appear episodically simply due to something the dog has eaten, without needing to worry.

But if these symptoms occur continuously or particularly intensely, you need to go to the vet quickly. Many digestive problems in dogs resolve on their own within hours, but others can end the pet’s life if not addressed with proper treatment.

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