It’s a common problem many dog owners face out on a walk – trying to deal with clearing up their dogs’ “sloppy poohs”! His motions were perfectly alright this morning, and now they’re loose again. No matter what diet change you try, they’re alright for a while and then it all starts to go wrong again.
If that sounds a familiar story with your dog then you’re not alone. It’s pretty much the standard discussion most Vets have with clients at some stage during their ownership of a canine companion. And the consistency of their dogs’ stools is often only mentioned (sometimes in passing) at the annual health checks. Which tells us something about the way an owner stoically puts up with the situation. Well, the good news is that it isn’t normal, and the even better news is we can almost always improve the situation very easily. Learn more about Annual Checks.
Why have things gone wrong?
First of all, we need to understand what is happening. When our dogs (and for that matter us) eat food they eat foreign material. That much is obvious. The body, however, isn’t over keen on the idea of foreign stuff getting inside the body (hence all the immune defences that have evolved over millions of years) but it’s necessary to survive, so we have come to an agreement with the body that ’s just about OK. However, our defences are very aware of the chance that things can get a bit problematic, so the gut lining is dotted with heaps of extra defence areas ready to leap into action if the “stuff” our dogs eat is just plain wrong. And due to the many eating indiscretions that many dogs embark on, it often can go wrong. In dietary terms, dogs are described as hunter/scavengers.
Us humans, on the other hand, are hunter/gatherers. The difference is that we will pick our food somewhat carefully and examine it before eating whereas a dog just throws it down and lets the gut decide if it was a good or bad idea. Left to their own devices, most of the scavenging that dogs do is a pretty bad idea. The gut will try and quickly exit the ‘bad stuff’ from the system, either by ejecting it out of the front end in the form of vomit or more commonly out of the back end in the form of diarrhoea. Over time, with the repeat insults following these dietary indiscretions, there is a gradual erosion of the gut’s ability to overcome the onslaught of these repetitive errors. Eventually, a chronically damaged situation persists – hence the altering state of a dog’s motions, even during the course of a day!
What to do to stop it?
In the face of a horrendous diarrhoea veterinary advice is always best sought. The problem is usually dealt with very quickly with a short course of treatment and the use of a low-irritancy diet. Most of our concerns with these acute episodes of gut disturbance are directed at ensuring the problem doesn’t progress into pancreatitis. But in many instances, the loose stool doesn’t seem all that bad, which makes it much more likely to become a chronic, low-grade issue that may become persistent. The approach to all these types of problems is invariably dietary in the first instance. There is now a range of excellent low irritancy prescription diets that are the mainstay of the treatment regime. They effectively get beneath the radar of the highly sensitized gut defence system.
In a fair number of cases, the introduction of one of these types of diets can stop the problem in its tracks. The work then is to determine just how long to keep a dog on the special diet. For the majority though the food won’t overcome the problem on its own. The treatments are directed at allowing the gut to self-heal as best as it can whilst still allowing the gut to perform its normal function. And that isn’t easy. With a broken leg, once the surgery has been completed, most of the effort is directed at resting the healing area. Not an option for the gut. So it has to continue its function whilst trying to heal at the same time. This is why it can take a long time to mend. But with the close discussion between owner and Vet at each stage of the healing process, the treatments available often lead to a very good recovery. For a few individuals they may need to stay on a prescription diet, but that is not a great problem compared to the daily chore of dealing with sloppy poos!
© Copywrite Dai Gittins MRCVS.