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What Causes Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats

What causes diarrhea in dogs and cats? Below, we provide the answer to this question that includes the most common factors that could be contributing to your pet’s diarrhea.

Poor Quality Food

The majority of processed pet foods contain highly refined and low-fiber ingredients. These often poor quality ingredients facilitate the condition of diarrhea in our dogs and cats. Very often ingredients such as tomato pomace or beet pulp are added to pet foods as a source of fiber, however, being by-products (or waste products) of the human food industry, they generally make poor additions to pet foods. In the wild our canines and felines would consume fur, providing ample fiber, and bone, providing bulk, to create normal stools and prevent diarrhea. Ingredients such as ground bone are found in commercially available raw foods and help to create healthy stools and naturally express anal glands.

Additionally, processed pet foods contain so many often low-quality ingredients along with flavors, colors and other synthetic ingredients that it can be quite hard to tell which ingredient(s) may be contributing to your dog or cat’s diarrhea. For example, chelated proteinate minerals found in most pet foods are marketed as being more easily absorbed. Unfortunately, Nature’s Logic, a natural pet food manufacturer, being able to review ingredient data from companies that produce proteinate minerals for the pet product industry discovered some interesting information. First off, all the trace mineral salts used to make metal proteinates (like copper proteinate, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, calcium proteinate, etc) are synthetic substances. In addition, without exception, all the proteinates they reviewed used hydrolyzed soy as the protein molecule. The hydrolyzation process also converts protein to MSG. So, in virtually every commercially available canned and kibble pet food you have synthetic substances, soy and MSG. Considering soy products and MSG are often at the top of the list of substances that can cause inflammation and allergic reactions, do you think it is possible that these commercial pet foods could be contributing to your pet’s diarrhea and other health issues? Of course they could!

Incomplete Digestion

Poorly digested food is a common problem in our dogs and cats and often contributes to diarrhea. This occurs because larger food particles are not broken down properly into their smaller constituents that allow for normal absorption through the digestive tract and healthy elimination. Instead, these larger food particles can contribute to damage and disease in the digestive tract resulting in inflammation. The body’s reaction to these undigested, inflammatory particles is to eliminate them from the body as quickly as possible resulting in diarrhea.

Infection

There are various species of bacteria, viruses and parasitic protozoa that can enter your animal’s digestive tract and cause diarrhea. Diarrhea occurs as the body tries to eliminate these invasive organisms along with undigested, fermenting food often related to infection by speeding removal through the digestive tract and out of the body. For example, one particular organism, called Giardia, causes diarrhea by infecting the cells of the small intestine interfering with nutrient and water absorption resulting in diarrhea and other unpleasant symptoms.

Food Allergies

Chronic diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms of a dog or cat’s allergic response to the food they are eating. This reaction is due to the release of inflammatory chemicals, such as histamine, by white blood cells that line the intestinal tract. This is an immune system reaction to what the body views as an invading substance and can produce a powerful laxative effect.

Drugs / Supplements

Certain drugs can cause diarrhea for a number of different reasons. One reason is the body’s desire to remove offending substances from your animal’s body as quickly as possible. This results in digestive waste being moving through the digestive tract more quickly with less time spent in the colon where healthy stool is formed. Another reason is the altering of the balance of digestive flora. This certainly is the case with antibiotics that destroy colonies of beneficial organisms allowing the overgrowth of invasive, opportunistic organisms like Candida albicans. These unwelcome organisms often secrete toxins and interfere with proper digestion. If your dog or cat’s elimination behavior changes soon after the addition of a new medication there is a very good possibility that the drug is contributing to the diarrhea. If you aren’t sure you can do an online search to check for the side effects of the medication you are using.

Another type of diarrhea, called osmotic diarrhea, occurs when certain substances cause excess water to be retained or drawn into the bowels based on the principles of osmosis. Excessive sugar (as with lactose intolerance - a milk sugar) or salt intake can cause osmotic diarrhea as can the use of too much water-soluble molecules, like magnesium or vitamin C, that result in increased fluid retention in the bowel.

When Should I Bring My Pet to the Vet?

Bring your dog or cat to the vet if their diarrhea continues for more than a day, or if you observe lethargy, vomiting, fever, dark-colored or bloody stools, straining to defecate, decreased appetite or unexplained weight loss. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice your puppy has diarrhea, as it can be an important indicator of serious disease in young dogs.

Natural Treatment for Diarrhea

Natural treatment for diarrhea can be as simple as changing your dog or cat over to a more natural, less processed diet, supplementing with digestive enzymes and probiotics and including some organic herbs and soluble fibers to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. We have a Natural Diarrhea Protocol we developed to assist you with some helpful product recommendations and lots of useful information. We are here to help so feel free to contact us by email or toll free at 888-683-3339 if you need more personalized attention.

References

Are the chelated proteinate minerals added to my pet food I use better than a non-chelated form of a mineral? Retrieved from http://www.natureslogic.com/bl_faq/are-the-chelated-proteinate-minerals/

Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Kidd, R. (2000). Dr. Kidd’s guide to herbal dog care. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Messonnier, S. (2001). Natural health bible for dogs & cats: You’re a-z guide to over 200 conditions, herbs, vitamins and supplements. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Murray, M. T., & Pizzorno, J. E. (1998). Encyclopedia of natural medicine (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Pitcairn R. H., & Hubble-Pitcairn S. (1995). Dr. Pitcairn’s complete guide to natural health for dogs & cats. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc.

Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing with whole foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Puotinen, CJ. (2000). The encyclopedia of natural pet care (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Keats Publishing.

Tilford, G. L., & Wulff, M. L. (2009). Herbs for pets: The natural way to enhance your pet’s life. (2nd ed.). Irvine, CA: BowTie Press.

Thibodeau, G.A., & Patton, K.T. (2008). Structure & function of the body. St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

This information is for education only and is not meant to diagnose, treat or prescribe for any disease or medical condition.
Information on herbs and supplements has not been evaluated by the FDA.

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