Common dog digestive problems
While dogs tend to have robust digestive systems, there are some common issues they can suffer from caused by bacteria, 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 diarrhea in dogs
If your dog is suffering with diarrhea, it will move its bowels more frequently than normal and stools may be of a looser consistency. Your vet will make the distinction between diarrhea caused by small intestine problems, and those caused by issues in the large intestine; the latter generally results in more mucus-like diarrhea of a small volume, but frequent.
Diarrhea can be caused by your dog eating something which disagrees with them, a bacterial or viral infection, and worms or other parasites, or can be an indicator of an underlying condition. Puppies are particularly at risk as they have very vulnerable digestive and immune systems.
An infestation of parasites can cause diarrhea in your dog, including roundworms, flatworms, and protozoa, like coccidia. Although de-worming gets 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 diarrhea if they have a dietary hypersensitivity, or allergy, or if they are suffering from malabsorption—where their body is unable to get what it needs from their food.
Treatment of diarrhea in dogs
Depending on where the problem originates, your vet will prescribe different treatments for your dog's diarrhea. This may include further removal of parasites, medicine to treat an infection, and dietary management, such as restricting your dog's diet for at least 24 hours, then giving them a specialized diet to reduce the workload on the gut and improve stool quality.
Symptoms and causes of constipation in dogs
If you notice your dog struggling to move its bowels and showing increased strain, it may have constipation. Your dog's stools will be infrequent, hard or dry, and they may pass some watery stools that can give the impression of diarrhea.
Constipation can be caused by a physical obstruction in your dog's system—most often a mixture of feces, ingested hair and other foreign objects—but also by a lack of exercise, diet, trauma, a change of environment, and underlying diseases such as diabetes.
Treatment of constipation in dogs
Your vet is likely to prescribe laxatives 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 fiber 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 diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss, which often become more frequent over time.
Unfortunately, it's not clear what exactly causes IBD in dogs, and it may stem from multiple problems. Because of this, your vet will attempt to rule out all other causes of your dog's symptoms first. It has been suggested that dogs suffering with IBD have developed an intolerance to the "beneficial" bacteria in their gut, which means their diet plays a significant role in treatment.
Treatment of IBD in dogs
Dietary intervention is often used to treat IBD in dogs. The amount of fat is restricted or changed, and a highly digestible, high-quality protein source is part of their food 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.