Common dog digestive problems

Dogs can suffer from a variety of digestive issues, but there are some common ones which are easily spotted and treated. Find out about the symptoms, causes and treatments of these common problems in this article.
Adult Dachshund standing on an examination table in a vets office with its owner.

While dogs can have robust digestive systems, there are some common issues they can have which can be caused by infections, diet, lifestyle and other factors. The symptoms of these issues can point to a number of potential causes, so it’s important to consult your vet for further advice and treatment.

Symptoms and causes of diarrhoea in dogs

If your dog has diarrhoea, it will move its bowels more frequently than normal and stools may be of a looser consistency. Your vet will make the distinction between diarrhoea caused by small intestine problems, and those caused by issues in the large intestine; the latter generally results in more mucus-like diarrhoea of a small volume, but frequent.

Diarrhoea can be caused by your dog eating something which disagrees with them, a bacterial or viral infection, worms or other parasites, or can be an indicator of an underlying health condition. Puppies are particularly at risk as they have very vulnerable digestive and immune systems.

An infestation of parasites can cause diarrhoea in your dog, including roundworms, and protozoa, like coccidia. Although de-worming can help get rid of worms in the digestive tract, your dog is still at risk as not all treatments are effective against all parasites.

Your dog may also have diarrhoea if they have a dietary hypersensitivity, or allergy. Gastrointestinal symptoms caused by food allergies are usually more chronic than diarrhoea, caused by something like dietary indiscretion. However, if your dog has chronic diarrhoea, talk to your veterinarian before changing their diet as there are many causes.

Treatment of diarrhoea in dogs

Depending on the underlying cause, your vet may prescribe different treatments for your dog’s diarrhoea. This may include de-worming, medicine to treat an infection, and dietary management, such as giving them a specialised diet to help reduce the workload on the gut and help improve stool quality.

Puppy Poodle standing indoors eating from a ceramic bowl.

Symptoms and causes of constipation in dogs

If you notice your dog struggling to move its bowels and straining, it may be constipated. Signs of constipation include having stool that is infrequent, hard or dry.

Constipation can be caused by a lack of exercise, diet, trauma, a change of environment and underlying diseases.

Treatment of constipation in dogs

Your vet is likely to prescribe medication as immediate relief for your dog, and may also suggest gentle surgical procedures depending on the severity of the problem. Dietary changes can also help manage this condition in your dog; for example, balancing the types of fibre in your dog’s diet can help improve stool quality and the overall health of their digestive system.

Symptoms and causes of IBD in dogs

Like humans, dogs can suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The symptoms can include chronic diarrhoea, vomiting and weight loss, which often become more frequent or severe over time.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear what exactly causes IBD in dogs, and it may stem from multiple problems. Because there can be many possible underlying causes, your vet will attempt to rule out all other causes first. Their diet can play a significant role in treatment.

Treatment of IBD in dogs

Dietary intervention is often used to manage IBD in dogs. The amount of fat may be changed, and a highly-digestible, high-quality protein source included as part of their diet so they get the energy they need without putting undue strain on their system.

If you notice your dog suffering from one of these digestive problems, make sure to visit your vet – they’ll be able to conduct a thorough examination and advise you on the best treatment possible.

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