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Diets for Pets with Gastrointestinal Disorders

When you have a pet that is suffering from digestive disorders, whether they are short term issues or more ongoing problems, what you feed them can make all the difference. For acute issues, relieving their symptoms will be most important, while for chronic conditions you will need to balance correct nutrition with foods that do not stress your pet’s digestive system.

What are gastrointestinal disorders?

Gastrointestinal disorders are any disease or condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract, meaning the stomach and intestines. These can be short-lived reactions to eating the wrong food or more serious issues that require medical treatment or ongoing care. Some of the most common complaints include:

  • Gastroenteritis
  • Colitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pancreatitis
  • Small intestine malabsorption
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Diagnosing the problem

The most important factor in treating your pet is to diagnose the underlying problem. This will help you to eliminate the cause where possible, as well as helping determine the best course of treatment. In many cases, you will need to consult your veterinarian to confirm a diagnosis, as the symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders can be very non-specific. The diagnosis will then affect the dietary requirements for your dog or cat.

Diet for acute GI disorders

An acute gastrointestinal condition is one that comes on suddenly and lasts a short time, but may be more severe. In this case, the goal is to relieve symptoms, particularly when they include vomiting and diarrhea. Some vets may suggest fasting your pet for up to 24 hours to give the stomach time to rest and repair – which can also be necessary if they’re not keeping for down anyway. It is important to note that fasting animals should still be given water. Consult your vet before fasting young or weak animals.

If you are not fasting your dog or cat, or when they are ready to return to eating, you may wish to feed them foods that are bland, easy to digest and low in fat. This usually includes things such as boiled chicken breast, white rice, and sweet potato. It is important not to season their food or use oil when cooking, as this can irritate the stomach.

Diet for chronic GI diseases

If your dog or cat suffers from an ongoing digestive complaint, you will need to consult your vet about their long-term dietary requirements. Depending on the type of gastrointestinal disorder, you will have to adjust their diet to account for the following:

Fiber – we know that fiber can aid digestion, but depending on your pet’s condition, this may mean including more soluble fiber or more insoluble fiber. Getting the fiber balance right can assist with both constipation and diarrhea.

Fat content – a diet that is too high in fat will exacerbate diarrhea and may cause nausea and vomiting. While some fat is needed, you will also need to make sure it comes from healthy sources.

Digestibility – for pets with ongoing gastrointestinal complaints, it is important that their food is easy to digest. This means that they get the most nutrients from their food, but also avoids placing stress on the bowel.

Digestive support – as well as including the right types of foods, you may wish to consider supplements that can support digestive health, such as prebiotics and probiotics.

Additives – be careful to avoid commercial pet foods that include artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, as these can sometimes cause adverse reactions.

There are also commercial pet foods available that are targeted to animals with digestive complaints. Speak to your veterinarian to see if this is a suitable option for your pet.

Diets for Pets with Gastrointestinal Disorders

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