Digestive Disorders

Digestive problems are one of the most common reasons people bring their pets to the veterinarian. Vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and flatulence often plague our beloved pets, but the good news is there are numerous safe options for treating these common problems holistically and many of the solutions are inexpensive.

Symptoms Requiring Veterinary Care

  • vomiting is continuous over several hours
  • acts lethargic or depressed
  • vomit contains blood (yellow or white is the usual color, not red)
  • cannot pass stools for more than two days
  • cannot keep water down

If the answer is “yes” to any of the above questions, take your pet to your veterinarian, but otherwise fast them for 24 hours (no food, but water is okay). The reason you need to go the vet is that your pet could potentially have a poisoning, foreign body obstruction (requiring surgery), bloat (an emergency condition) or even organ failure. All of these require radiographs, blood work and, at the very least, intravenous fluid therapy. IV therapy is one of the best things that Western medicine has to offer, since gastrointestinal problems often cause dehydration.

The fasting period is extremely important because it allows the intestinal mucosa to rest and the digestive system to utilize its own secretions to promote healing. If the animal has “garbage gut” (e.g. got into the garbage or ate something unmentionable outdoors), you can administer two doses of Nux Vomica 30C (available at most health food stores) during this fasting period. After the fast, start the animal on a bland diet of boiled chicken and overcooked brown rice in very small amounts spread throughout the next day.

If a fast and bland diet cures your pet, you may consider a diet change. In general, commercial pet foods are not optimal for dogs and cats. To a delicate mucosal surface, kibble can be harsh and extracts a large amount of fluid in order to process correctly. Canned food is often preferable to dry, especially for cats, but a homemade diet may be the best. Let your pet’s digestion be your guide. Vomiting, diarrhea or even soft stools are not normal for any pet, and neither is binging on grass (an animals’ natural emetic system). It’s normal for pets to graze, but when they eat large amounts of grass there is generally a problem. They are trying to self-medicate.

Underlying Causes

Here’s a partial list in order of prevalence of the underlying causes of chronic or recurrent, digestive problems. The symptoms are often the same.

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – a catch-all diagnosis that usually, but not always, is another indication of food allergies. It’s entirely curable using only holistic medicine, diet changes, NAET and herbal remedies.
  • Gastroenteritis – an older term for what is essentially the same thing as IBD, but infers the inflammation may be located more in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
  • Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas as opposed to the gastrointestinal tract. This would be suspected in a pet with diabetes, or a known pancreatic condition.
  • Ulcers, polyps or tumors.
  • Organ failure, or liver or kidney imbalance.

At-Home Protocol

Here’s a safe protocol that you can try for your dog or cat with chronic or recurrent vomiting or diarrhea.

  • Make your own homemade meals by following these recipes for dogs or cats.
  • Add a high quality digestive enzyme supplement to assist the pancreas by providing additional exocrine digestive enzymes.  Common brands include Prozyme, Wobenzym and OptaGest.
  • Probiotics: Jarrow’s Pet Dophilus is one brand but there are many. Choose products that require refrigeration and keep them refrigerated.
  • Marshmallow root powder: 1/2 tsp per 10 lbs. body weight twice a day. Marshmallow root is more ecological than slippery elm and more effective.