When your dog's digestive system is functioning smoothly, the typical meal takes 7- to 10-hours to pass through the digestive system. During this time, various organs reduce of food into nutrients (carbohydrates to simple sugars, fats to fatty acids, and proteins to amino acids) that your dog's cells can absorb and use. Unfortunately, most dog owners have experienced the unpleasant surprise of discovering the common consequences of canine digestive disorders - vomit and diarrhoea. 

Food moves from the mouth to the stomach via the esophageus. Inflammation or obstruction of the "food tube" or megaesophageus (a weakening and dilation of oesophageal muscles) may cause a dog to regurgitate food before it reaches the stomach. 

As the stomach churns food into a thick liquid (chyme), special glands secrete enzymes that break down proteins, hydrochloric acid that aids those enzymes, and mucus that protects the stomach from digesting itself. Vomiting is the most obvious sign of stomach inflammation. 

Just as food leaves the stomach into the small intestine, there is an organ that is attached to and parallel to the main digestive tract called the pancreas. This organ adds enzymes that help digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, plus sodium bicarbonate to help neutralize stomach acid. Also in the pancreas lies a tube attached to the liver call the bile duct. It is through this tube that the liver contributes bile, which breaks up fats into easily absorbed globules and promotes absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. 

Most of the digestion and nutrient absorption occurs in the convoluted small intestine, where more enzymes and mucus are added. Finger-like projections (villi) lining the small intestine absorb broken down nutrients for delivery throughout the body. In a medium-sized dog, villi provide an absorptive surface equal in size to the floor of a small room. If your dog has watery diarrhoea with no blood or mucus, does not strain when defecating, and eliminates on a normal schedule, its small intestine is probably inflamed. 

After absorbing some water from the remnants of digestion, the large intestine moves faeces (a combination of undigested food and water) to the anus. If your dog has mucousy diarrhoea tinged with fresh blood, strains when defecating, and has frequent urges to move its bowels, its large intestine is probably inflamed. 

Digestive disturbancesThere are many causes of canine digestive disorders - from sudden changes in diet and overeating to ingestion of garbage , toxins, food allergies, infection (bacterial or viral), inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, foreign bodies, metabolic diseases, organ failure such as kidney, liver, and pancreatic disease, and parasites. The above causes may stall digestive processes, causing constipation, while others rush food through the system too quickly, resulting in minimal nutrient and water absorption and a large volume of loose faeces. Or your pet may develop severe stomach irritation or spasms and cause vomiting. 

If your pet experiences any digestive disorders, it is important to call your veterinarian and discuss the situation. Depending on the seriousness of the problem and the demeanour of your pet, a trip to you pets doctor and an examination may be recommended. 

When vomiting and/or diarrhoea is infrequent and short-lived and not accompanied by more serious signs, finding the exact cause may be less important than relieving the condition. Many veterinarians recommend a 12- to 24-hour fast to rest the irritated digestive tract, followed by small amounts of bland, easily digestible food - such as rice mixed with boiled chicken or hamburger (with the fat drained off), or diets available at your veterinarians office fed in small meals several times a day. Initially, any deviation from this bland fare could cause signs to recur, but as things improve, you can gradually phase in your dog's regular diet over a week's time. We do not recommend self diagnosis and treatment. 

Sometimes periodic digestive distress evolves into a chronic problem. Cases of severe or frequent vomiting and diarrhoea that persist more than 1-2 days may leave a dog dehydrated and malnourished. In these situations, supportive veterinary care may include intravenous fluids along with drugs that inhibit vomiting, suppress diarrhoea, kill bacteria, and/or protect the digestive tract from further inflammation. 

But to definitely treat chronic digestive distress, diagnostic tests will be recommended to find out what's causing it. Doing so can be challenging because vomiting and diarrhoea can signal a wide range of disorders. You can help your veterinarian by providing a detailed account of the duration, frequency, and severity of your dog's signs. The presence of straining or abdominal discomfort, the colour and consistency of the vomitus and/or diarrhoea, and whether the your pet has committed recent dietary indiscretions are important diagnostic clues. 

The diagnostic tests recommended to help in the investigation may include the following. First and foremost a faecal sample may be requested if possible. This test may show evidence of intestinal parasites, bacteria or other organisms. Blood and urine tests may show infection or liver, kidney, pancreas, electrolyte abnormalities, etc. that may be contributing to digestive problems. X-rays, barium studies, ultrasound, and endoscopy. may also be requested to assist in the diagnostic work up. Again, because your pet can not talk to us, a complete diagnostic evaluation will help rule out many of the underlying causes of gastrointestinal diseases. 

Digestive disturbancesFor example, if your veterinarian suspects a tumour or foreign body blockage, he or she may order an x-ray. If a more direct view is needed, your vet may recommend an endoscopic exam in which the practitioner uses a flexible scope with a fibre-optic light source to directly view digestive organs from inside the animal's body and look for ulcers, tumours, and foreign bodies. Also, microscopic evaluation of tissue samples taken during endoscopy. (biopsies) can reveal the precise nature of the inflammation. Biopsies also help veterinarians determine if a tumour is benign or malignant. Biopsies can also assist in diagnosing if a bacteria or allergies are the cause of the GI disease. If the liver or other organ is suspected as the primary disease causing the digestive disturbance, an ultrasound may be recommended. These tests are non-invasive (non- surgical) and have been found to be very useful diagnostic tools. 

The treatment your veterinarian recommends will, or course, depend on the diagnosis. A short course of medication usually does the trick for intestinal parasites. If tests show an abnormal proliferation of bacteria in the gut, antibiotics may be the treatment of choice. If your pet has ingested something poisonous, the vet may administer medication to either purge the poison from the dog's system or counteract the toxic effects. And some problems, such as tumours and foreign-body blockages, are best treated surgically. 

Some chronic digestive disorders, such as food allergies, usually require life-long dietary management. And if the dog's large intestine is chronically inflamed (colitis), the vet may prescribe a carefully controlled diet along with medication (anti-inflammatory steroids or antibiotics) to manage flare-ups. 

While digestive disorders are quite common in dogs, most upsets resolve quickly and easily. Successfully treating persistent problems depends on two things: thorough diagnostic detective work by both you and your veterinarian and strict adherence to the prescribed treatment program. 


The digestive system includes the stomach, intestines, pancreas and liver. These organs work together to convert the food that your pet eats into the energy they required for everyday. Just as human lives are becoming ever more artificial and stressful so the same is true for domestic pets, with a resulting increase in irregular digestion. Dogs and cats will often eat grass in order to induce vomiting and remove any toxic food they have eaten.

Here are some tips to help you can help protect your dog:

  • Feed your dog a consistent diet appropriate for its age, weight, and overall health.

  • Don't change your dog's brand or type of food frequently, and feed him smaller meals several times a day. Avoid giving him table scraps, and do not feed your dog any of the following: bones from meat, poultry, or fish; baby food; cat food; calcium supplements; chocolate; hops (beer); coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks; fat trimmings; grapes or raisins; vitamin supplements for humans; macadamia nuts; milk or cheese; mushrooms; onions or garlic; citrus oil extracts; persimmons; raw eggs; raw fish; sugary foods; tobacco; or yeast dough.

  • Make sure fresh water is always available

  • Making sure your dog gets enough exercise is key to his digestive health - but avoid exercise right after a meal. Ideally, exercise should be taken before eating, and never sooner than two hours after a meal.

  • Avoid fatty foods and abrupt changes in food or water sources.

  • Make sure your dog's vaccinations are up to date.

  • Have your dog's faeces checked routinely for parasites, and restrict the animal's contact with other pets faeces. We recommend faecal analysis at least twice a year.

  • Limit your dog's access to bones, string, small toys, and other foreign objects that can harm its digestive tract. 

  • Prevent your dog from scavenging garbage cans or compost piles by keeping it leashed and supervised. 

  • Keep toxic substances (including antifreeze, drugs, and cleaning materials) out of your dog's reach. 

The following supplements can be added to your pet's diet to aid digestion:

  • Dandelion which is a mild laxative and source of Vitamin B.

  • Peppermint helps relieve gut spasms by relaxing the muscles in the bowel walls and relaxing the gut. Peppermint also promotes the production of bile, thereby stimulating the digestion as well as improving the appetite. There is evidence that peppermint has some antimicrobial action which can help prevent abnormal food fermentation in the stomach.

  • Dill seed which helps relieve gas.

  • Ginger which helps to promote the digestion of fats. 


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