A delicate digestive tract is more common than you may think but the causes behind it are often multifactorial, if you are lucky, the swapping out of a single protein source can help or it can become a game of trial and error to find out what is causing the irritation. Just like the causes of stomach upset, the severity of stomach upsets can vary greatly from the odd loose stool through to your dog showing visible and palpable discomfort and persistent episodes of diarrhea. Regardless if you choose to feed a kibble, wet or raw food it is important that you ensure it is balanced with the correct nutrient requirements for your dog.
Stomach sensitivities can manifest in so many different ways and it is important to monitor your dog’s eating and toileting habits to know what is normal and when a problem may be arising. The typical change in stool consistency or colour can indicate a change in gastric health, this may develop over time or when a diet is changed. Of course, small day to day changes are quite normal considering the bacteria and microorganisms that dogs pick up on a daily basis. It is important to note that stomach sensitivities and intolerances can also manifest as skin conditions.
Let’s begin with protein source, most dog foods will have meat or meat products listed as their primary protein source, a key source of amino acids- the building blocks of musculoskeletal and visceral development. Dogs can be intolerant to one or more protein sources, for example poultry or fish. The problem begins when incomplete digestion of the protein source occurs, the body’s immune system sends white blood cells called enterocytes to attack the foreign protein, from here symptoms such as obsessive licking, skin irritation, diarrhea and excess gas are common. Owners can begin an elimination diet which although can take time, can help to differentiate which proteins a dog can and cannot tolerate and in what quantities, for or example a dog may tolerate the addition of chicken fat as a source of omega-6 but not tolerate it as the main source of protein. If they cannot tolerate chicken at all it would be a good choice to ensure that protein is not present in any form- in this case a natural choice would be Autarky White Fish. Autarky adult diets are available in either salmon or chicken with the same protein sources available in our mature diets- to allow for continuity when your dog ages or perhaps needs a lower calorie option whilst allowing them to remain settled on the same protein source.
Next are carbohydrates, they are broken down by enzymes in to glucose and can be utilised by most of the body’s cells. The most common forms of grains used in dog food are barley, rice, oats and wheat and it is important these are ground or cooked in order for them to be efficiently digested and thus utilised as an energy source. They are a main source of energy for the brain, nervous system and red blood cells. Much like with protein source, the dog’s immune system recognises the carbohydrate source as a foreign body and attacks, often producing an allergic reaction.
Carbohydrates are also a source of fibre, although not a required nutrient it helps the dog feel fuller for longer and is a common ingredient in weight management diets. As well as our adult diets we have two further diets that are completely grain free, catering for those dogs who are intolerant to or cope better with an alternative source such as potato- this is still an excellent source of carbohydrate for optimum energy levels in your active dogs.
The whole Autarky range is hypoallergenic as well as being free of artificial colours, additives and preservatives with only natural antioxidants, although added in small quantities, artificial additives can be responsible for gastric sensitivity and be hard to differentiate as a problem in a dog’s diet.
It is important to note that whilst our nutrition and formulation team have worked hard to produce diets to suit several different types of sensitivity and dietary preference, our formulations will not suit all dogs, especially those with certain gastric conditions, intolerances and allergies which means that it is always important to seek the advice of your veterinarian so that they can further manage your dog’s condition. This article is really only the metaphoric tip of the iceberg when it comes to sensitive stomachs but hopefully this gives you an initial insight in to the complexed topic.
For more information on our range, see our Nutrition page for our most commonly asked questions!
Written by: Georgie White MSci, MNAVP, MAHPR, EEBW