Dog Digestive System

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Gastrointestinal upset: a common problem in the dog digestive system

Gastrointestinal disease is one of the most common reasons dogs are brought to their veterinarian. Some digestive problems can be a result of dog food allergies. You can find more information on gastrointestinal issues caused by food allergy, and how to address them, at our dog allergies page.

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There can be a wide range of symptoms of dog digestive problems, including:
  • loss of appetite
  • excess gas
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty swallowing
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Some dog digestive problems may resolve once the dog digestive system is given a chance to rest. But more serious conditions could result in weight loss, dehydration and debilitation. Your veterinarian can determine the appropriate treatment.

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Understanding dog digestive problems

Gastrointestinal disorders generally affect the dog digestive system and impair a dog’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. These problems can be caused by a wide range of factors, including:
  • an abrupt change in diet
  • trauma
  • indiscretionary eating
  • toxins
  • allergies
  • foreign objects
  • parasites
  • medications
  • infectious agents
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Proper diagnosis of dog digestive problems is often a difficult challenge

With so many potential causes, diagnosing your dog’s problem can be a challenge for your veterinarian. To complicate matters even more, the disorder can originate in any part of the dog digestive system, from the mouth and esophagus, to the stomach, liver, pancreas and intestinal tract.

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Effective treatment for your dog

Depending on the severity and type of problem, your dog’s treatment can involve dietary management (with a special dog food for sensitive stomachs), medical management or even abdominal surgery.

If additional diagnostic tests are needed, your veterinarian may recommend laboratory analyses, radiographs, or a procedure like endoscopy, which involves inserting a tube with a small video camera into your dog’s digestive tract. This can help visualize the problem.

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Since many gastrointestinal disorders can irritate the stomach and intestine, a diet that’s easily digested can help ensure your dog gets the nutrient balance necessary to support recovery.

Two approaches to dietary management help resolve digestive system problems

Diet can play an important role in helping your dog recover from gastrointestinal distress. Some gastrointestinal tract conditions respond to a low fat, highly digestible diet. Other gastrointestinal conditions are fiber-responsive and require a diet with moderate fiber content. Your veterinarian will know which is best for your dog.