Cats and dogs often develop digestive problems which have unpleasant consequences for both the animals and their owners.
The organs of the digestive system include the stomach, liver, pancreas, and intestines. These organs, along with enzymes and the body’s own beneficial bacteria, work together to transform food into energy.
In Chinese medicine, many digestive problems can be attributed to disharmony in the Stomach, the Spleen or both organ-meridians, which may lead to symptoms such as indigestion, nausea, burping, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain and loose bowel movements / diarrhea.
When the gastrointestinal tract is working properly, your pet will have fresh breath, a good appetite, formed stools, and plenty of energy.
Fortunately, many digestive disorders are temporary and resolve themselves in a day or two. In other cases, where parasites, bacteria, food allergies or other food sensitivities are to blame, your pet may benefit from some holistic advice.
Here are some things to consider when your pet is having digestive difficulties.
Constipation or Diarrhea – Things to consider: food sensitivities, parasites, bacteria, candida, recent vaccination or medications, antibiotics*
Probiotics – According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, probiotics help repopulate the intestine with healthy bacteria and lead to a desirable intestinal microbial balance. When an animal is stressed or sick, the balance between the healthy and disease-causing microbes may be disrupted. This can lead to diarrhea, gas, cramping, and bad breath. Probiotics also help build a stronger immune system. As much as 80% of your dog’s immune system is based in her gut. When using products intended for dogs, follow label suggestions for dosage. When using human probiotics, give 1/4 tsp. for larger dogs and half that amount for smaller dogs.
Prebiotics – Prebiotics are insoluble fiber that feed the probiotics in the colon. Feeding your dog prebiotic foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables helps the probiotics stay active and do their job.
Pumpkin Puree – This helps with both constipation and diarrhea. Add at least 1 tablespoon to your dog’s meal. Make sure to use PURE pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling. Of course, you may also cook up your own pumpkin and puree it in the blender. Store leftovers in an ice cube tray and freeze for future events.
Bone broth – Bone broth is also an excellent source of important minerals and is also loaded with glycine, which aids digestion. Great for dogs who are dehydrated or lack appetite and are convalescing.
Slippery Elm – helps with both constipation and diarrhea by reducing inflammation and lubricating the digestive tract. Slippery Elm Dosage: Give a ¼ tsp of powder for every 10 lbs of body weight. Mix the powder into food or bone broth. Note: In rare cases, a dog may be allergic to slippery elm and it shouldn’t be used in pregnant animals, otherwise the herb is generally safe.
Activated charcoal – especially good for diarrhea caused by bad food or ingestion of toxic substance. Depending on your dog’s size, mix ½ to 1 teaspoon of powder OR 1 to 3 tablets with water and feed by mouth every 3 or 4 hours. If no change after 24 hours, consult your practitioner. Note: stools may appear very black for a few days after taking activated charcoal.
Homeopathics such as arsinenicum album or nux vomica
Vomiting – Things to consider: undigested food, ingestion of foreign object, motion sickness, reaction to drugs, empty stomach, food sensitivities, parasites, bacteria, stress, antibiotics* , ingesting poison
Puppies and older dogs are especially susceptible to dehydration due to continuous vomiting. Lethargy, glazed over eyes, and dry gums are all signs that fluids need to be replaced. If the vomiting goes on too long, your dog may need emergency IV fluids to help until the stomach settles.
Bile based vomiting is usually associated with an empty stomach. You’ll usually see this vomiting first thing in the morning or the middle of the night. I’ve found that feeding a small amount of food before bed helps stop this type of vomiting.
Some examples of common poisons are for dogs are household cleaners, Arsenic, Antifreeze, Pesticides, Pharmaceuticals, Xylitol, Chocolate, Toothpaste, Gum, Toxic household plants like mother’s tongue and easter lily.
Common sense is also needed when dealing with at-home care and vomiting. If your dog is lethargic, can’t keep liquids down, isn’t eating or drinking and you’ve tried multiple remedies, don’t delay. Go to the vet.
Ginger – considered to have a warming herb in Chinese medicine and moves energy in the body upwards and outwards therefore better for dogs who are energetically cool and love warm places.When using ginger, use 1 tbsp of fresh ginger root. Slice and chop it and infuse it in 1 cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Let it cool and give by the teaspoon full. Give your dog 1 tsp for every 15 lbs of body weight.
Fennel – considered to have a cooling affect in Chinese medicine and moves energy downward, dissolving gas in the intestines and soothing digestion.Great for dogs that seek out cool places and may have a difficult time regulating body temperature.To use fennel, infusion of 1 tsp of ground fennel seeds at the first sign of nausea. Let it steep for 20 minutes covered in almost boiling water, cool and give 1 tsp for every 15 lbs of body weight.
Homeopathics – Helpful remedies include Ipecac root or Nux Vomica. Use the 6x or 30c potency. Dissolve pellets in water or crush them and place the remedy onto gums or tongue. If your pet is drinking water, you can also add it to their water bowl. A few drops given at one time is still a single dose, so don’t worry if you accidentally empty a full dropper into your dog’s mouth. As long as some ends up in your dog’s mouth, you’ve given the remedy.
If you are unfamiliar with homeopathics, consider working with a holistic practitioner.
Leaky Gut – Things to consider: poor diet, food sensitivities, vaccinations, steroids, chlorinated water, dewormes, flea and tick treatments, antibiotics*
Leaky gut happens when the gut’s mucosal, semipermeable intestinal lining becomes damaged. While there is some debate as to what exactly can cause the damage, most experts agree that it has a lot to do with the gut’s natural flora or balance of healthy bacteria. Leaky gut has been linked to digestive ailments along with a variety of other diseases, including allergies, arthritis and autoimmune disorders.
Diet- It should be no surprise that diet will play a huge role in healing leaky gut. Keep in mind the two things closely tied to the syndrome: an overpopulation of bad bacteria and yeast, and inflammation. AVOID grains, especially gluten. If feeding a kibble, check ingredients. Consider switching to a grain free kibble or raw food diet.
Probiotics Helps repopulate the intestine with healthy bacteria and lead to a desirable intestinal microbial balance,” according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. When an animal is stressed or sick, the balance between the healthy and disease-causing microbes may be disrupted. This can lead to diarrhea, gas, cramping, and bad breath. Probiotics also help build a stronger immune system. As much as 80% of your dog’s immune system is based in her gut. When using products intended for dogs, follow label suggestions for dosage. When using human probiotics, give 1/4 tsp. for larger dogs and half that amount for smaller dogs.
Digestive Enzymes – A natural form of enzyme supplementation can come in the form of feeding whole, raw foods since these contain their own enzymes. However, you might still need to supplement, especially in the case of leaky gut.
*Medications: Antibiotics and long-term steroids are known culprits in causing diarrhea by killing good bacteria.
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