Once I founded whole I had the chance to start again - we moved Noah onto our Superfood for Dogs (he likes both the English Country Duck and British Free Range Chicken varieties), it is now much easier to pick up his poo as his stools tend to be firmer and better formed, and we're always much happier for him to hang around us at the dinner table or on the sofa as his flatulence has disappeared! I'm convinced that moving to the grain free base, with single meat sources and the addition of prebiotics and superfoods has really made a massive difference, and one that I'm hearing in conversations with new customers all the time. I thought it would be useful to share some of the key things to be aware of and to watch out for in terms of your dog's digestive system...
There are multiple causes of loose stools/diarrhoea in dogs, some of which may not cause other significant symptoms or suffering, some of which require management or even prompt treatment. There isn't room to write about all of them, but here are 5 key causes:
1. Minor intolerance(s) - "not getting on" with certain diets or food ingredients. While relatively few dogs are truly allergic to grains, we've definitely seen a lot of dogs (and cats) doing much better in general on a grain free diet, potentially they have some mild degree of intolerance to certain ingredients which will settle relatively quickly on an improved food. All of our products are grain free, and we add prebiotics to most to help the friendly bacteria in the gut process some of the hard to breakdown nutrients. Noah is a great example of this.
2. Dietary Indiscretion "Mum I'm sorry I shouldn't have eaten it!" This can occur at any age but is common with puppies as they explore their environs with their mouths, and often don't know whether something is okay to eat or not. Later in life this can also involve scavenging rotting roadkill or other unhealthy but tempting discoveries. Symptoms will usually involve acute (sudden onset) vomiting and/or diarrhoea and might involve generalised illness and lethargy. It is often wise to consult a vet, particularly if your dog isn't drinking or if you notice their gums becoming paler. It may involve treatment with antibiotics or other therapies, but in a lot of cases the key is to fast for 24 hours (dogs can be starved for a period of time, unlike cats which MUST NOT and can become very sick) with plenty of fresh water, followed by the introduction of a "light & white" diet for a few (2-3 usually enough) days involving boiled chicken or white fish and rice, possibly with the addition of probiotics to help repopulate the gut. As poo becomes more normal the regular food can be reintroduced.
3. Parasites - especially Giardia, which is now common in a lot of areas in the UK and beyond (check with your vet team if you're not sure about your location). It is really important to use a trustworthy worming treatment, having worked alongside vets for years I will confidently recommend following their advice, whether you choose to buy from them or elsewhere is your choice but they are the experts and will advise based on your dog's circumstances. Most parasites (including Giardia) are relatively straightforward to treat once diagnosed but can cause unpleasant poo (often with noticeable worm eggs and/or fragments) and if untreated can leave pets underweight and unhappy or worse.
4. IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) - where the dog's system creates inflammatory mediators which then irritate and inflame the gut lining. This tends to be seen as chronic (long term, >4 weeks) symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, inappetence (reduced appetite), weight loss, flatulence and discomfort or tenderness. IBD has a range of causes, some being genetic (with breeds including German Shepherds & Rottweilers often diagnosed), some beginning with allergies and others featuring gradual sensitisation to protein type(s). Unfortunately owing to the complex nature of the condition it is often challenging and can take a long time to get under control, the good news is many cases do respond well once vets have the right path in place.
5. Allergies "I wish I could eat that but I can't" - less common than many pet parents think, nonetheless around 10% of allergies in dogs are caused by food. In most cases these actually cause skin problems but some can also impact on gut health and thus cause those awful poos we saw earlier. Food allergies are all caused by a protein (or in unlucky cases more than one protein source), which is probably a meat source but in some cases can be a vegetable protein. As such, whilst finding the right one can take time and a lot of effort and trial & error, once identified correctly the management is relatively simple in that one needs simply to avoid the offending protein source(s). Our foods are mostly made up of a single type of meat so should in most cases be more than suitable (owing to the high omega 3 levels, superfoods and natural antioxidants which help reduce inflammation) for your dog.
Ideally, we want our dogs to produce a smaller amount (achieved by highly digestible diets with high quality ingredients cooked gently) of "kickable poo" (quote from Adrian Nelson-Pratt MRCVS) ie well formed, firm but not hard stools which are easy to pass and easy to pick up. They shouldn't smell too bad (likewise for cats making litter trays less unpleasant) and nor should dogs be producing lots of nasty gaseous emissions. Feel free to contact us at email@example.com if you'd like to know more or to discuss your pet's digestion!