Urinary Incontinence In Dogs

Urinary Incontinence In Dogs

by Jean Hofve DVM

Urinary incontinence in dogs, means your dog has the inability to retain urine in his bladder … in other words, bladder leaks.

The urinary system is quite elegant. Urine is produced by the kidneys and fed through the ureters to the bladder. A sphincter (circular muscle) keeps the passage to outside closed until it’s voluntarily opened during urination. At that point, urine flows through the urethra to whatever object your dog decides to gift with his or her scent.

When the sphincter doesn’t stay fully tightened, involuntary leakage occurs. If the bladder is too full, urine can overflow into the urethra and escape. This often happens while your dog is resting or sleeping, or when she gets up from lying down.

Dribbling urine can also be a behavior issue if it happens when your dog is frightened or being submissive.

Signs Of Incontinence In Dogs

I probably don’t need to tell you how you’ll know your dog is incontinent. It’s usually pretty obvious!

The most common sign of urinary incontinence in dogs is wet spots wherever your dog sleeps. 

You might also notice …

  • Dampness around the hindquarters and thighs
  • Dribbling urine as she walks
  • Irritated skin or redness from the dripping (urine is caustic and can burn)
  • Licking the vulva or penis more than usual
  • Dribbling urine when she is excited, frightened, submissive, or stressed

What Causes Incontinence In Dogs

There are many potential causes and contributors to incontinence, including:

What this adds up to is the need for adequate testing to pin down an accurate diagnosis.

Breeds Prone to Incontinence

Research shows that females are more prone to urinary incontinence in dogs than males. Two UK studies found that urinary incontinence affects 3% of females overall, but more than 15% in high risk breeds. These include …

  • Irish Setter
  • Doberman
  • Bearded Collie
  • Rough Collie
  • Dalmatian

Prevalence in males is less than 1%, with breeds affected including …

  • Bull Mastiff
  • Irish Red Setter
  • Fox terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Boxer

Spay/Neuter Increases Incontinence

Urinary incontinence in dogs is more likely in spayed females, especially if they’re spayed early.  One study of 492 female dogs concluded that …

“Neutering itself and early-age neutering (<6 months) are major risk factors for early-onset urinary incontinence.”

Another study found that size was a factor in spayed females developing USMI (urinary sphincter incompetence). For every month neuter was delayed in the dogs’ first year, the risk of USMI was reduced in dogs weighing over 25 kg. The risk did not change for dogs under 15 kg.

So, if you decide to spay your dog of 50 lbs or more, it’s best to defer the procedure as long as you can.

RELATED: Read about other risks of early spay/neuter.

How Vets Diagnose Incontinence

Your vet will do (at least) a thorough physical exam, standard blood tests and urinalysis.

If these tests don’t point to an answer, your vet may do more specialized blood tests, urine culture, radiographs, ultrasound, or other types of scans.

If leaks started when your dog was very young, and the vet suspects an anatomical abnormality like ectopic ureter (see below), she may do a dye “urography” that traces the course of the ureter.

You want to determine the cause of your dog’s incontinence so you can treat it appropriately.  For example …

  • An older spayed female dog is most likely to have estrogen-responsive incontinence from spaying. But you don’t want to waste time and money treating that when the real problem may be something else that requires very different therapies.
  • Ectopic ureters or other anatomical issues may be corrected with surgery.
  • Incontinent dogs are more likely to develop urinary tract infections. That’s because the presence of urine in the urethra can provide a route for bacteria to climb up to the bladder and set up housekeeping.
  • If the problem is a urinary tract infection or uroliths (stones), then resolving that problem may quickly take care of the incontinence.
  • The same applies to hormonal issues that can be treated appropriately.

PRO TIP

Before we get to the details, my #1 recommendation for any kind of bladder problem is protect your stuff! Managing a dog with incontinence, a UTI, or inappropriate urination for any reason is unpleasant and frustrating.

Waterproof dog beds and washable pee pads make clean-up easy and convenient. If your dog sleeps on the bed, at the very least get a waterproof mattress pad, and perhaps a flannel or comfy waterproof flat sheet to put over the covers. Temporary use of doggy diapers may also reduce the emotional toll on the human family.

Conventional Treatments For Incontinence

There are several conventional approaches to treating incontinence problems.

Phenylpropanolamine (Proin®, Propalin®)

This drug releases chemicals that strengthen the bladder sphincter muscles. It’s not a cure … so if your dog stops taking it, she’ll go back to leaking urine.

Side effects in the manufacturer’s clinical trials included …

  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Proteinuria (protein in the urine)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Restlessness or difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Lethargy

Some more serious side effects can occur, usually at higher dosages. These include cardiac issues, tremors and difficulty urinating.

At low doses the risk of side effects is minimal, so some holistic vets may use this drug along with other alternative therapies.

Estrogen (Estriol/Incurin, DES)

This synthetic estrogen drug is often used for females with spay incontinence.  It comes with quite a list of side effects. Studies show adverse effects like …

  • Vomiting
  • Swollen/itchy vulva
  • Lethargy
  • Aggression (leading to euthanasia in some cases)
  • Hyperpigmentation and lichenification of vulva (black skin spots and thickened skin)
  • Hair loss
  • Vaginal hemorrhage
  • Seizures

Those are quite unpleasant side effects. But this drug also has some even more serious risks. It may cause cancer and bone marrow toxicity. There are good non-pharmaceutical substitutes.

Surgery To Correct Anatomical Abnormalities

If your dog’s incontinence is caused by an anatomical abnormality, your vet may recommend surgery.

The most likely kind of abnormality is ectopic ureter. It’s fairly rare, with reported incidence of less than 0.1%.

The ureters transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Ectopic ureter means that one or both ureters by-pass the bladder and connect to the urethra, uterus or vagina. This can cause continual dripping of urine.

This problem is usually seen in 3 to 6 month old dogs, and females are 8 times more prone than males.

High risk breeds for this problem are …

  • Siberian Husky
  • Miniature and Toy Poodle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Collie
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Wire-haired Fox Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier

This condition may be corrected with surgery to redirect the ureter into the bladder.

A less invasive method is cystoscopic-guided laser ablation. It’s done under anesthesia and involves inserting a ureteral catheter into the ectopic ureter. A laser then “ablates” (removes) the wall of the ureter. This effectively moves the opening from the urethra to the bladder. One study showed a 47% success rate for this procedure.

PRO TIP

However you decide to treat your dog’s incontinence … adjust and increase your dog’s potty break time. This will help reduce the amount of urine in the bladder at any one time.  Make sure she goes out to pee before you leave for work or school, and right before bedtime.

Natural Treatments For Incontinence

These are some of my favorite alternative approaches for urinary incontinence In dogs.

Chiropractic, Acupuncture, And Osteopathy

These hands-on treatments are excellent choices that can be very successful in resolving incontinence. They’re especially effective if urinary incontinence in dogs is due to physical issues like spine misalignment, muscle spasms, or nerve injury or impairment.

Read how to find a practitioner under the “Find A Holistic Vet” section below. You may also be able to find a local veterinary rehab facility that offers these modalities.

Herbs And Nutraceuticals

These are some effective options, depending on the cause of your dog’s incontinence.

  • Wild Yam extract has estrogenic and anti-spasmodic effects, but may require fairly high doses (100 mg per 25 lbs. body weight). It’s often included in herbal blends with Rehmannia, licorice, red clover, cranberry, and other herbs. Follow package directions for products intended for dogs. If using a human product, the dose is based on a 150 lb person, so reduce the dose proportionally for your dog’s weight.
  • Soy isoflavones are the best natural substitute for estrogen, but be sure you choose an organic product, since most soy in the U.S. is GMO (genetically engineered). Vetriscience Vetri-Bladder chews are a good choice; give 1 chew per 30 lbs. body weight once a day. The same dose applies to their canine Bladder Strength tablet, which also contains supportive herbs.
  • Estroven® contains Rheum raponiticum extract. he dose is based on a 150-lb person, so reduce the dose proportionally for your dog’s weight. It may work by itself or need to be combined with estrogenic herbs. Estrogenic herbs include soy, Mexican wild yam, black cohosh, dong quai, red clover.  It’s best to ask a holistic vet or herbalist for help using these herbs.
  • Herbs that are good for urinary tract infections (if that’s the cause of your dog’s leakage) include cranberrygingerturmericolive leaf, and uva ursi. Cranberry prevents E. coli bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall; olive leaf has antibiotic properties; uva ursi is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory; turmeric and ginger are great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herbs. They are available in a wide variety of combinations, usually with other natural antioxidants.
  • Anti-arthritic herbs, such as turmeric, ginger, Boswellia, yucca, and barberry, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Antioxidants work best in combination; many such products are available, but my favorite (which I take myself!) is Boswellia Complex by Standard Process. A small or medium size dog can take 1/2 tablet twice a day; for large and giant breeds, give a whole tablet twice a day. CBD also relieves pain and may be a good adjunct.
  • Chinese herbs are very useful; but it’s important to work with a veterinarian trained and experienced in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. These herbs are powerful, and appropriate formulas must be individualized for your dog.
  • Glandular support. Here again, Standard Process shines. Symplex F is excellent as a replacement for hormones missing due to spaying. Symplex M is for neutered male dogs. Both products also support the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands. Both synergize well with Vasculin, which contains a multitude of herbs and vitamins that support healthy blood vessel and nerve function.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from a marine source have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Protein and collagen are both important for any muscle, including the bladder sphincter. The bladder itself is also a muscular organ. Protein is also a natural urinary acidifier. Bone broth and a higher protein diet may be helpful.

Homeopathy

A good homeopath can work virtual miracles. There are many remedies indicated for urinary incontinence in dogs, but it’s important to work with a qualified homeopathic veterinarian. The choice of remedy and potency must be highly individualized for not only incontinence, but also for the dog’s personality, environment, history, and many other factors. 

I have seen homeopathy restore bladder and bowel control in a dog who had been hit by a car, after months of unsuccessful medical management. Find a homeopath at The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH).

RELATED: Homeopathy Basic For Dogs

The next two approaches are newer and less common, but worth exploring with your holistic vet. Studies show promising results with these therapies.

Botulinum Toxin Injections

Research has found that injections of Clostridium botulinum toxin into the bladder wall (50-100 botulinum toxin units per animal in 10 injections) successfully prevented recurrence of incontinence in dogs for up to 5 months.

Electrical Stimulation

Researchers are currently experimenting with implants that provide electric stimulation to the nerves in dogs with a spinal cord injury. While it’s not likely to be coming to your local veterinary clinic, veterinary teaching hospitals may incorporate it in the not-too-distant future.

Safe-Sea

Green Lipped Mussel Oil

5efb7b4ad13a1614646853-safe-sea.png

 Safe-Sea is a sustainable and healthy combination of New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel Oil and Ahiflower.

Shop Now

Support Your Dog’s Overall Health

Finally, as with all chronic health problems, it’s important to keep your dog as healthy overall as you can.

Not all incontinent dogs can be completely cured. But with the right management and therapies, it can be well controlled … so you and your dog can enjoy a long, happy, and puddle-free life together.

What to Feed a Cat for Weight Gain

by Liz Bales DVM

When veterinarians talk about a cat’s weight, it’s usually focused on feline obesity.

While obesity is a prominent health issue among cats, many cats are also struggling with being underweight. And similar to losing weight, gaining weight gain can also be a tricky issue for cats. It’s not just about changing food portions.

First, you’ll need to find out why your cat is losing weight. Then you can determine a plan of action that includes a diet that will safely help your cat return to a healthy weight.

Create a Plan of Action for Your Cat

Once you and your veterinarian have a plan for treating the underlying disease, you can get to the hard work of weight gain. Your veterinarian will likely have specific suggestions for your cat based on their age and medical needs.

A diet that is customized to your cat’s specific medical condition is likely to result in the best outcome. Your vet will also identify your cat’s ideal weight, and can do regular weigh-ins to make sure that your plan is effective and that your cat does not exceed his/her ideal weight.

For sick cats, returning to a healthy weight is about more than just calories. Diets for specific conditions are customized to have the right macronutrients and micronutrients to provide weight gain while addressing the unique disease-related concerns.

What to Feed a Cat to Help Them Gain Weight

If your cat’s medical problem is under control—parasites are treated or painful teeth are pulled—correcting the calorie deficit may be the only treatment necessary.

Here’s what your veterinarian will look for in a healthy cat food for weight gain.

Find a Type of Food That Fits Your Cat’s Preferences

The most important first step is to find a food that your cat enjoys eating but that doesn’t cause stomach upset. You want a food that fits their dietary requirements but is also highly palatable so they will want to eat it.

It’s not unusual for a cat to have a strong preference for a specific flavor, type (canned/dry) or even texture of food. The same goes for a cat being repulsed by one or more of these factors.

Navigating your cat’s preferences is the first, and most important, step of getting your cat to eat well.

Make Sure the Food Fits Their Nutritional Needs

Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats need to get the essential nutrients for their health from animal products.

The natural prey for cats, such as small rodents, are estimated to contain around 55% protein, 45% fat and 1–2% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis.

Although the macronutrient breakdown of prey is only 1-2% carbohydrate, most cats can use up to 40% of their diet in the form of carbohydrates as a good source of energy.

In general, dry food contains more carbohydrates than wet food.

Cat Food Options for Weight Gain

Good quality kitten food is an excellent choice for weight gain in healthy cats. And most cats enjoy eating kitten food.

Royal Canin Feline Health nutrition dry cat food for young kittens is nutrient- and calorie-dense and tends to be highly palatable to most cats.

Your veterinarian can also prescribe high-calorie cat foods like Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Recovery RS canned cat food or Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care canned cat food.

These formulations are highly digestible and provide the extra calories your cat needs to gain weight.

Calculate How Much to Feed Your Cat

Once you have found a food that fits your cat’s needs and also gets them excited about mealtime, it’s time to work out the right portion sizes.

Math is our friend here. In general, for gradual and healthy weight gain, it’s best to assess your cat’s resting metabolic needs and then to feed this amount of calories plus 20% more.

Your vet can help you translate this into the correct amount of the food to feed.

Tips for Helping a Cat Gain Weight

Addressing the underlying health issues, selecting the right food and figuring out how much to feed are vital for success.

But that’s just the starting point. Once you have that sorted, you will need to establish a feeding routine.

Here are a few tips for getting your cat to eat reliably and gain weight safely.

Feed Small, Frequent Meals

A cat’s stomach is only about the size of a ping-pong ball. So it’s normal that your cat won’t eat a lot all at once.

Whether your cat prefers wet food, dry food or both, try feeding one tablespoon of food every few hours.

These small, regular meals are better tolerated than large meals and can reduce the risk of vomiting after a meal.

Try Warming Up Your Cat’s Wet Food

Cats are stimulated to eat by the smell of their food. Warming up wet food can help make the food more aromatic and enticing to your cat.

To heat your cat’s food, put their food in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for a few seconds.

The optimal temperature for most cats is at, or near, their body temperature—38.5°C (101.5°F).

Offer the Right Snacks Between Meals

Healthy snacks between meals can aid in putting weight on your cat.

Try tempting your cat with a few high-protein, simple bites of freeze-dried chicken, like PureBites chicken breast freeze-dried raw cat treats, between each meal.

Decrease Your Cat’s Anxiety

A calm cat is a happy cat, and happy cats are more likely to have a good appetite.

Cats are solitary hunters and solitary eaters. That means that they prefer to eat their meals without being bothered.

When your cat has been unwell, it’s normal to want to hover over them. But your cat will likely eat better if you give them some space.

Talk to Your Vet About Appetite-Stimulating Medicine

There are a few medicines available from your veterinarian that can help stimulate your cat’s appetite.

An hour or so after talking the medicine, your cat will feel the urge to eat. You can even ask if your vet can get the medicine in a transdermal form (patch or gel for the skin or gums), so that you can avoid having to give a pill.

6 Appetite Stimulants for Dogs

By Sarah Wooten, DVM

A change in a dog’s eating habits, either up or down, is a clue that something is not right with your dog. When a dog refuses to eat out of the blue, he is telling you that he doesn’t feel well, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. There are many things that affect a dog’s appetite, such as dental disease, undiagnosed pain, stress and anxiety, upset stomach, infectious disease such as worms or influenza, or cognitive dysfunction.

In humans, we know that taste decreases with age, and humans on cancer treatment say that nothing tastes good. The same may be true for our canine companions. When your dog doesn’t eat, it is important to visit your veterinarian to figure out what isn’t right, and fix it. If it is going to take some time to resolve the underlying issue, then an appetite stimulant may be indicated to support your dog on the road to recovery.

When Can Appetite Stimulants Help My Dog?

Appetite stimulants are indicated when a dog refuses to eat long enough that it impacts his health, consistently does not consume enough calories to support a healthy weight, is on a medication (such as chemotherapy) that decreases appetite, is recovering from an illness and needs appetite support, or to help a dog eat a new diet. Dogs with kidney disease, for example, can have underactive appetites that lead to weight loss, or may not want to eat their therapeutic kidney diet. An appetite stimulant can help in this case to get the dog the nutritional support that he needs. There are several options that your veterinarian can suggest, including pharmaceutical, natural, and holistic options.

Ways to Stimulate Your Dog’s Appetite

Rotisserie Chicken

For a sick, debilitated, or geriatric dog who is picky about eating, one of the easiest (and cheapest) options to try is tempting him to eat rotisserie chicken. We all know how good rotisserie chicken smells in the grocery store when we walk by—and it smells even better to dogs. Even the pickiest eater will often gobble up his food if you doctor it up with a little white meat from a rotisserie chicken. Do not give dogs the bones or skin from a rotisserie chicken, and if they are instructed to eat a low-fat diet, only feed the white meat portions. Other easy strategies to try to increase appetite include hand-feeding and microwaving the food to warm it up.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture, while it cannot cure a condition, is known to reduce pain, inflammation, and nausea. Dogs with decreased appetites due to medical conditions such a diabetes, kidney or liver failure, inflammation of the pancreas, or hormonal conditions, such as Addison’s disease, are known to benefit and have an increase in appetite after acupuncture sessions.

Mirtazapine

When natural options stop working, it is time for pharmaceutical intervention. Mirtazapine is a common drug that is prescribed to dogs who have a decreased appetite due to other conditions that make them feel queasy, such as kidney disease or cancer, or medications such as chemotherapy. Mirtazapine acts on the central nervous system and increases serotonin levels, so it is important that it is not given to dogs who are on SSRIs (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors).

Meclizine

Meclizine can help with appetite in some dogs. Meclizine is an antihistamine that is known to reduce nausea due to vertigo. If your dog is not eating due to nausea, there are several other medications available, such as maropitant, a common drug available through your local veterinarian.

Ghrelin Receptor Agonist

There is a new medication on the market for dogs that mimics the effect of ghrelin, which is the hormone that makes a dog or a person feel hungry. The medication binds to ghrelin receptors and signals the brain to cause the dog to feel hungry.

CBD Products

Finally, for those of you living in states where it is legal, CBD (cannabidiol) products manufactured for pets are exploding onto the veterinary scene. The benefits include reduction of pain and increase in appetite. It is important to note that CBD from hemp is not THC, and marijuana is toxic to pets. Ask your veterinarian for product recommendations.

It is important to note that these suggestions do not replace medical advice. If your dog is not eating and you have not seen your veterinarian, you should make an appointment to rule out serious underlying health issues that are causing your dog not to eat.

What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

An old study from the 1970s identified 12 positions that 60 intact male and 53 intact female adult beagles used to pee:

  • Stand: Standing normally
  • Lean: The body is leaning forward and the hind legs are extended to the back.
  • Flex: The hind legs are partially flexed so the rear end is slightly lowered. The hind feet usually remain under the body (no straddle).
  • Squat: The hind legs are straddled and sharply bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is kept straight.
  • Handstand: Both hind feet are lifted off the ground. They may be unsupported or placed against a vertical surface.
  • Arch: The hind legs are usually spread and bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is rounded, and the tail is lifted away from the ground.
  • Raise: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground but the leg is kept relatively low.
  • Elevate: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground. The foot and leg is held high.
  • Lean-Raise: A combination of the Lean and Raise postures.
  • Flex-Raise: A combination of the Flex and Raise postures.
  • Squat-Raise: A combination of the Squat and Raise postures.
  • Arch-Raise: A combination of the Arch and Raise postures.

The researchers found that females squatted most of the time but that the squat-raise was also quite popular. Females used most of the other positions too, albeit on a limited basis. Male dogs, on the other hand, had a more restricted repertoire. All of them demonstrated the elevate posture and some used the raised position, but the squat-raise and lean-raise only occurred rarely and the other positions weren’t noted at all. Keep in mind, however, that all the male dogs in this study were mature and intact.

 

What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

 

Now that all the positions that a dog is likely to take to urinate have been identified, the question “Why?” has to be asked. What does it mean when a dog picks a particular posture at a particular time?

It’s important to remember that urination serves two purposes for dogs—elimination and marking. Both male and female dogs scent mark, but the behavior is more pervasive in males. Dogs who are marking preferentially urinate on vertical surfaces. If they urinate high up on that surface, the urine can flow downward covering a greater area, which leaves a stronger message to anyone who subsequently passes by. Peeing up high may even make a dog seem bigger than he actually is. This is probably why the elevate posture is so popular among males.

Interestingly, leg-raising is a behavior that only develops in male dogs as they mature. The authors of the study on beagles note that the lean posture, which deposits urine directly on the ground, “is typically used by male puppies and juveniles.”

But what about females? That’s where the handstand posture comes in. There’s no better way for a female dog to urinate at least as high as and maybe even higher than a similarly sized male can.

Research supports this hypothesis in female dogs. A paper published in 2004 looked at the urinary behaviors of six spayed and six intact female Jack Russell Terriers while they were being walked close to and further away from their “home area.” The scientists found that when away from their home area, these dogs were more likely to urinate frequently and aim their urine at objects in comparison to when they were walked close to home. The authors concluded “urination in female dogs does not function solely in elimination, but that it also has a significant role in scent marking…”

So, when dogs take a position that results in their urine hitting an object above the ground’s surface, chances are they are doing so to maximize the value of the scent they are leaving behind.

It’s important to note how many peeing positions are perfectly normal for both male and female dogs. Which ones they use depends on many factors including the dog’s location, age, sex, and possibly their reproductive status. The only time to be concerned is when a dog that usually pees in one position switches to another. This could be a sign of pain or another medical problem that needs to be addressed.

3 Remedies for Upset Stomach in Dogs

By Katherine Smith, DVM, CVA, CVSMT as seen in PetMD

When you have an upset stomach, you probably reach for ginger ale or crackers to settle your tummy. But what should you do when your dog’s stomach is out of sorts?

Here’s some information about the causes and symptoms of upset stomach in dogs and tips for how to make your pup feel better with natural remedies.

Common Causes of Upset Stomach in Dogs

There are many reasons your dog may have an upset stomach, though there’s one common cause: they ate something they shouldn’t have, says Kathy Backus, DVM, at Holistic Veterinary Services in Kaysville, Utah.

“Dogs are curious like kids; they’re always putting things in their mouth,” she says. “Vomiting and diarrhea are signs that a dog’s body is trying to expel something that shouldn’t be in their system. In a healthy dog, it’s a protective mechanism of the body that’s totally normal.”

These are a few (of many) things that can trigger an upset stomach in dogs:

  • Ingesting something that they shouldn’t
  • Bacterial imbalances within the digestive tract
  • Chronic conditions such as food sensitivities

Symptoms of Upset Stomach in Dogs

The most common signs of upset stomach in dogs are diarrhea and vomiting. If your dog is nauseous, you may also see him eat grass to soothe his stomach or try to induce vomiting, says Jody Bearman, DVM at Anshen Veterinary Acupuncture, Madison, Wisconsin.

Watch for other signs of upset stomach in dogs, such as:

  • Decreased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Drinking less water
  • Seeming depressed
  • Looking uncomfortable and stretching more often (like they are attempting a downward dog)
  • Gulping to combat reflux
  • Licking their lips, the air, or objects

When to Call Your Vet

Monitor your pup’s symptoms. If your dog is consistently uncomfortable, or if the signs worsen at any point, call your veterinarian.

Watch for these signs:

  • Increasing discomfort
  • Vomiting or having an episode of diarrhea more than twice
  • Blood in their vomit or stool
  • Toy or other foreign object in their vomit or stool
  • Weakness or collapse

These can all be signs of something more serious, including pancreatitisstomach bloating, a severe allergic reaction, or internal parasites.

If you realize that your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t have—a plant, food, toy, or chemical—you should seek immediate veterinary care.

If your primary veterinarian is unavailable, call your local emergency veterinary hospital. They will be able to advise whether your pet needs to be seen or whether you can continue to monitor him at home.

You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435 for a fee. They can also determine a poison’s level of toxicity and recommended care for your dog.

3 Remedies for Upset Stomach in Dogs

It is crucial to consult with your veterinarian before administering any home remedies to soothe your pup’s tummy troubles. If your veterinarian recommends at-home monitoring, these are a few ideas you can ask them about trying while you are at home with your dog.

Fasting

When your dog’s stomach is trying to get rid of something, it can be helpful to stop putting more things in their stomach for 12-24 hours, Dr. Backus says. “If the gastrointestinal (GI) system is having a tough time, you don’t want it to digest things.”

Fasting may seem simple enough, but it’s important to speak with your veterinarian first because some dogs (particularly small breeds or those with prior health conditions) cannot tolerate fasting as well as others.

If your veterinarian does recommend fasting, ask whether they would like you to start a bland diet (and what they recommend) after the fasting period is complete.

Ice Cubes

When your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, you want them to stay hydrated, but giving him too much water may make his stomach even more upset, Dr. Backus says.

Monitoring your dog’s water intake and discouraging gulping is important. Offer your dog ice chips to help encourage drinking.

If your dog can keep down small quantities of water or ice chips, you can gradually increase the amount and how often you are offering the water and ice.

Canned Pumpkin

When fighting indigestion and upset stomach in dogs, 100% canned pumpkin is a favorite of many holistic veterinarians.

“It has a low glycemic index, so it slowly absorbs, which helps with upset stomach and digestion,” Dr. Bearman says.

Make sure to get 100% canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix, as you don’t want to feed your dog spices and other ingredients, she says. Check that there are no ingredients listed other than pumpkin (such as sugar or sugar substitutes).

According to Dr. Bearman, smaller dogs (approximately 5 pounds) can be fed one-half teaspoon of canned pumpkin, while larger dogs (approximately 75 pounds) can be fed 1 tablespoon.

Is Upset Stomach in Dogs a Sign of Food Allergies?

An upset stomach every once in a while can be normal in a dog, but if it happens often, it could signal that something is wrong in their GI tract, says Randy Aronson, DVM, of P.A.W.S. Veterinary Center in Tucson, Arizona.

If digestive upset is a frequent occurrence for your dog, discuss the possibility of a food allergy with your veterinarian. When food allergies are diagnosed in dogs, it is often an allergy to a protein source, which is why a more “novel” protein (one that your dog has never eaten) may be recommended.

There are many options on the market, but examples may include beef, buffalo, venison, or lamb.

How to Help Prevent Upset Stomach in Dogs

To help your dog maintain a healthy gut, consider giving them a prebiotic and probiotic, Dr. Aronson says. There are both prebiotics and probiotics that are made specifically for dogs, some of which are available over the counter. Be sure to ask your veterinarian if they have a particular brand recommendation.

Always talk to your veterinarian first to find out the best course of action.

 

Dog Anxiety Help: How to Calm Down an Anxious Dog

by Megan Petroff, DVM (Clinical Behavior Resident) as seen in PetMD

 

For people, anxiety can feel overwhelming and debilitating at times. If you have a dog that struggles with fear, anxiety, or stress, it’s important to be supportive and patient.

Calming a frequently anxious dog is possible, but it may require collaboration between you and your veterinarian, or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

If you have a nervous dog, here’s some insight you can use to identify the signs and triggers, and steps you can take to help calm your dog’s anxiety and improve their quality of life.

Recognize the Signs of Dog Anxiety

“Dogs use body language to communicate how they are feeling,” says Ashley Atkinson, CPDT-KA and behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

For example, if your dog seems uneasy or is fixated on licking, they could be communicating nervousness, stress, or fear. There are many subtle signs of dog anxiety.

According to Dr. Susan Konecny, RN, DVM, medical director of Best Friends Animal Society, some clinical signs include:

  • Pacing
  • Trembling
  • Shaking
  • Hypervigilance
  • Lip licking
  • Frequent yawning
  • Decreased appetite

She also says that some physiological effects of anxiety can include:

  • Increased salivation or drooling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate and panting
  • Skin lesions from self-trauma
  • Over-grooming

Talk With Your Veterinarian About Your Dog’s Anxiety

Once you learn how to detect when your dog is anxious, you can begin to identify the triggers that are causing the anxiety. Write down the signs that you see and describe the situations and circumstances when your dog showed these signs. Then schedule an appointment with your vet so they can rule out underlying medical issues,and help you get the right treatment for your dog.

Anytime a behavior change is noted in a pet, medical problems in other areas of the body could be at play. Your veterinarian can perform diagnostic tests to confirm that your pet is otherwise healthy.

In all cases, it’s best to seek the help of your veterinarian to make sure you are doing everything you can for your dog. When no other cause is found, your veterinarian can prescribe anxiety medication if needed, and/or recommend a veterinary behaviorist.

Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorists

If your veterinarian thinks it’s necessary, they may refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to help your dog.

These veterinarians are specialists who have done a residency for three or more years in clinical behavior medicine, and passed a board-certification exam. Board-certified veterinary behaviorists are experts in treating fear, anxiety, and aggression in pets.

The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists has a directory on their website with the current board-certified veterinary behaviorists near you.

Tips for Calming Your Dog’s Anxiety

Your veterinarian can help create a plan for relieving your dog’s anxiety, and it may include the following steps. Some are simple actions you can try at home, and others require your veterinarian’s oversight.

Remove Triggers That Cause Your Dog’s Anxiety

If you’ve already gone to your veterinarian to rule out other illnesses, and they’ve helped identify possible stressors, then it may be as simple as removing those stressors and seeing if your dog’s anxiety lessens.

For example, if your dog is afraid of other dogs or people, you can skip the dog park. Alternatively, you can take your dog for walks when fewer people will be outside, play in a fenced yard if you have one, and play games inside the home.

Try Dog Appeasing Pheromones

Dog appeasing pheromones are synthetic pheromones similar to the calming pheromones that female dogs give off while nursing puppies.

These pheromones can help reduce anxiety in some dogs and are available in a few different forms. There are collars, sprays, and diffusers, so you can choose the best option for your dog.

Exercise With Your Dog

Exercise can help with our own anxiety, and research studies have shown that greater levels of exercise in dogs are associated with lower levels of aggression, fear, and separation anxiety.1

Create a Sanctuary Space

Some dogs get so anxious in certain situations that no amount of calming, praising, or rewarding will give them relief. “When this is the case, they need a quiet space with no stimulation where they can turn off all the input and simply unwind,” says Dr. Konecny.

This can help in many situations, such as if they are nervous:

Drowning out ambient sounds with white noise may also help them relax in their sanctuary room.

Ask Your Veterinarian About Anti-Anxiety Medications

If your dog is truly struggling with anxiety, you can talk to your veterinarian about whether anti-anxiety medications would be beneficial.

Some pet owners worry about using these medications:

  • Will it make their dog sleepy all the time?
  • Will it change their personality?
  • Will these types of medications shorten their dog’s lifespan?

When treated with the proper medications, your pet should exhibit less anxiety, seem happier, and still have the same personality. If your veterinarian isn’t sure what to prescribe, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist can help you find the best medication for your dog to help them thrive.

Try Behavior Modification

Sometimes, additional modalities are needed to treat behavior problems in pets. Behavior modification can help you change the emotional response your dog has to offending situations or triggers.

Through this cognitive therapy, your dog can learn to become less afraid of stressors and more calm. In some cases, behavior modification can help a dog to the point where they will no longer need to be on medications.

This is something a veterinary behaviorist can help you with as well.

Be Supportive

Learning and avoiding what causes your dog stress, ruling out possible underlying illnesses, and seeking professional help will all improve the quality of life for your anxious dog.

Scientific evidence has shown that stress has negative effects on health in people, and this is true in dogs as well. A 2010 study of 721 dogs concluded that, “The stress of living with a fear or anxiety disorder can have negative effects on health and lifespan in the domestic dog.”2 For this reason it’s important to be proactive to help your dog with their anxieties.

Don’t give up. The solution may not be quick or easy, but with dedication and the right professional assistance, you can help your dog be happier and healthier.

Citations

  1. Lofgren, Sarah E., et al. “Management and Personality in Labrador Retriever Dogs.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 156, 2014, pp. 44-53.
  2. Dreschel, Nancy A. “The Effects of Fear and Anxiety on Health and Lifespan in Pet Dogs.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 125, no. 3-4, 2010, pp. 157-162.

 

7 Signs of Tummy Troubles in Your Pet

7 Signs of Tummy Troubles in Your Pet

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Just like us, dogs can get the occasional upset stomach that makes them feel lousy. And since they can’t talk to us, often the first we know of a dog’s discomfort is when he suddenly starts vomiting. When it happens in your car, while you’re driving, it’s especially stressful for both you and your woozy furry friend.

Symptoms of Nausea in Dogs

The most common signs of upset stomach in dogs are diarrhea and vomiting. Many dogs will also eat grass given the opportunity, to either quell their nausea or induce vomiting. Other signs of an upset stomach include:1

Decrease in or loss of appetite Appearing depressed
Fatigue Gulping to combat reflux
Drinking less water Licking their lips, the air, or objects
Looking uncomfortable and stretching a lot

If your dog tends to suffer with sporadic bouts of nausea and vomiting, the first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is make an appointment with your veterinarian. There are many disorders that have vomiting as a symptom, so it’s important to rule those out before assuming your dog’s nausea is the result of motion sickness or another relatively harmless cause.

As long as he receives a clean bill of health from your vet and your dog is bright, alert and responsive (and otherwise acting normal) your vet will probably suggest some at-home remedies to help resolve the gastrointestinal (GI) upset. Here are my favorites:

6 Natural Remedies for An Upset Stomach

1.Bone broth fast — When the GI tract is irritated or inflamed, allowing the stomach and colon to rest is a wise idea. The body can’t digest, process or assimilate food while simultaneously attempting to heal and resolve inflammation. Skipping one or both of your dog’s daily meals and replacing regular food with bone broth can provide the much-needed GI tract rest needed to quickly recover from the incident.

2.Bland diet with slippery elm — When vomiting or diarrhea is noted, resting the GI tract allows the body time to heal a bit. When it’s time to introduce food again, a bland diet is wise. My favorite is canned or steamed pumpkin and cooked turkey (click here for directions).

Adding slippery elm (“nature’s Pepto-Bismol”) helps soothe irritated bowels and can be easily mixed into a bland diet, using ½ teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight.

3.Activated charcoal — If your dog has diarrhea, activated charcoal (active carbon, the carbon residue derived from vegetable material) can offer at-home help. The adsorptive ability of this natural substance is a function of its massive surface area. Activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body — it stays in the GI tract binding aggravating substances and irritants, excreting them in feces.

The only time it’s not safe to use activated charcoal is when a dog is constipated or may have consumed caustic materials (in which case you should be at the veterinary ER anyway). Recommended dose is 1mg/kg twice daily of coconut charcoal for intermittent episodes of diarrhea.

4.Homeopathic remedies — By far the most popular homeopathic remedy for nausea caused by motion sickness is cocculus (Indian cockles). It can be given right before you put your dog in the car. Other remedies that are often very beneficial, depending on her particular symptoms, include Nux Vomica, Carbo Veg, China, Arsenicum Album, Argentum, and Ipecac.

When giving homeopathic remedies, try not to touch the pellets with your fingers. Instead, shake 3 of the large pellets or a ½ capful of the smaller granular pellets into the cap and try to pop them into your pet’s mouth (they taste sweet, so most dogs don’t mind). Alternatively, you can dissolve the pellets in pure water and give orally. Make sure to give remedies away from food.

5.Herbs — Catnip is a very effective herb for calming a pet with an upset stomach. I recommend using a glycerine tincture, about 12 to 20 drops for every 20 pounds of body weight. You can also combine fennel with catnip to treat your dog’s nausea.

Other herbs that help with indigestion and nausea include peppermint, chamomile, fennel, and one of my personal favorites, ginger. I recommend using fresh ground ginger or the dry herb, in the following amounts mixed into a delicious meatball or in canned pumpkin:

  • Dogs under 10 pounds — 1/8 teaspoon
  • Medium-size dogs — ¼ teaspoon
  • Large dogs — ½ teaspoon
  • Giant breeds — ¾ to 1 teaspoon

Give the ginger 1 to 3 times a day as needed, mixed into bone broth or a bland diet. If you’re using it to help with motion sickness, be sure to give it to your dog at least an hour prior to travel. Alternatively, you can add ¼ cup ginger tea per 20 pounds to food daily as needed.

6.Kefir — Some pet parents swear by the benefits of kefir to soothe their dog’s indigestion. Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that contains beneficial probiotics. Although regular, pasteurized cow’s milk can be irritating to pets’ gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, fermented milk is different.

It’s easy to convert raw milk to kefir yourself. All you need is one-half packet of kefir starter granules in a quart of raw milk (preferably organic and if possible, unpasteurized), which you leave at room temperature overnight.

You can offer the kefir once an hour over the course of 3 hours after your pet stops vomiting. Give 1 to 2 teaspoons to small dogs, 1 to 2 tablespoons for medium-sized dogs, and 2 to 4 tablespoons for large dogs. Going forward, you can add 1 to 3 teaspoons of this super probiotic to your pet’s food once or twice a day for overall improved GI defenses.

What if My Dog’s Upset Stomach Doesn’t Resolve?

It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog’s symptoms, and if her tummy issue doesn’t improve throughout the day or the signs worsen at any point, call your veterinarian. Be alert for:

  • Ongoing or increasing discomfort
  • More than two episodes of vomiting or diarrhea
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • A toy or other foreign object in vomit or stool
  • Weakness or collapse

Any of these can be a sign that something more serious is going on, including bloat, pancreatitis, a foreign body, a severe allergic reaction or internal parasites. If at any point your pet exhibits additional symptoms or a worsening of symptoms, it’s important to seek medical care immediately.

If you know or suspect your dog has ingested something she shouldn’t have (e.g., a toxin of some kind or a foreign object), or if the problem is bloat, it’s important to seek immediate emergency veterinary care and not wait.

In the case of a potential poisoning, you can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435.

 

Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Decline

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Veterinar­ians sometimes use the acronym DISHA to evaluate evidence of dementia in a senior dog:

• Disorientation — Is your dog walking aimlessly about the house, staring at the walls, or even losing her balance and falling? The key here is that even when she’s in her normal, familiar environment, she gets disoriented, for example, she goes out her doggy door to the backyard, and then seems to forget how to get back in. There can also be a loss of spatial awareness.

• Interactions — Is your dog interacting differently with family members or other pets in the home? This can involve sudden or increasing irritability or even aggression in a dog who’s been friendly and social all her life. It can also take the form of withdrawal from family members and the features of daily life she was once very interested in, such as a knock at the door or the appearance of her leash, meaning she’s about to get a walk.

• Sleep — Is your dog no longer sleeping through the night, or is restless or wakes frequently? Like many older people, senior dogs can experience changes in sleep patterns or even a disruption in circadian rhythms. Your dog may begin pacing at night instead of falling into a deep slumber as he once did. Some dogs even reverse their schedules entirely, doing during the daytime what they used to do at night and vice versa.

• House soiling — Is your dog no longer alerting you when he needs to go out? Is he urinating or leaking urine indoors? When a dog seemingly “loses” his housetraining, there’s no clearer evidence that something’s amiss with either his health or his cognition.

• Activity level changes — Does your dog seem restless, agitated, or anxious? Does she have a decreased appetite? You may notice she’s no longer coming to the door to greet you or loses focus and no longer responds as she once did to familiar stimuli.

Some dogs seem to forget how to get the food or water out of their bowls or forget where the bowls are located. There can also be periods of restlessness, or repetitive behaviors such as pacing in circles, head bobbing or leg shaking.

Suggestions to Help Your Older Dog Stay Mentally Sharp

1. Offer lots of opportunities for exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation — Senior and even geriatric dogs still need daily exercise to maintain good health and physical conditioning.

While older dogs can’t exercise or compete with the same intensity as their younger counterparts, they still derive tremendous benefit from regular walks — especially gentle, unhurried sniffaris — and other age-appropriate physical activity on a daily basis. There are also a variety of strengthening exercises that can be of tremendous help to aging canine bodies.

No matter how old your dog is he still needs regular social interaction with other pets and/or people. Short periods of socialization and playtime in controlled situations are ideal. Food puzzle and treat release toys provide fun and a good mental workout, as does nose work and brief training sessions to refresh his memory or teach him a new skill.

2. Schedule regular senior wellness check-ups — I recommend twice-yearly wellness visits for pets no matter the age, but this becomes even more important for dogs getting up in years. Ask your functional medicine veterinarian to perform a blood test, including an A1c test to check your pet’s internal organ and metabolic health to make sure you’re identifying possible issues early on.

Alzheimer’s is also called Type 3 Diabetes because so many patients have insulin resistance and persistent hyperglycemia. Keeping your dog’s A1c low and steady means you’re controlling for this variable. If you notice A1c rising in your senior dog, it’s time to take action. Keeping abreast of your animal companion’s internal metabolic changes as she ages is the best way to catch any disease process early.

Over-vaccinating is something older animals do not need, so advocate for your older dog by refusing additional vaccines and insisting on titer tests instead. A titer is a blood test that measures protective immunity against disease. Chances are your dog is very well-protected.

3. Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-specific fresh food diet — A species-specific, nutritionally balanced diet that is rich in healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids such as krill oil and others such as MCT oil, is very important for cognitive health.

The best fuel for an aging dog is a variety of living, antioxidant-rich whole foods suitable for a carnivore. Eliminate all refined carbohydrates (which are just unnecessary sugar), as well as grains, potatoes and legumes.

Calculate how much starch your dog is eating and keep it under 20%. Replace those unnecessary carbs with extra high-quality protein and healthy fats. Eliminate extruded diets (kibble) to avoid the toxic byproducts of the manufacturing process that have been linked to neurodegenerative disease.

Processed dog foods are manufactured in a way that creates byproducts that can affect cognitive health, including heterocyclic amines, acrylamides and advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

Fresh, biologically appropriate foods provide the whole food nutrients your pet’s aging brain requires. The right diet will also support the microbiome, which has been linked to improved cognitive health in humans, and I’ve seen an improvement in dogs as well.

4. Provide beneficial supplements — In dogs with CCD and older pets in general, nutraceuticals can significantly improve memory, and the effects are long-lasting. Studies of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) such as coconut oil show they can significantly improve cognitive function in older dogs.

Supplementing with MCTs is a great way to offer an instant fuel source for your dog’s brain. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil for every 10 pounds of body weight, added daily to food. If you use MCT oil instead of coconut oil start slowly and use less, as loose stools aren’t uncommon when beginning this supplement.

I also recommend providing a source of methyl donors, such as SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine), which can assist in detoxification and reduce inflammation. Other supplements to consider are jellyfish extracts, glutathione and resveratrol, which is Japanese knotweed. Japanese knotweed has been proven to help reduce free radical damage and beta-amyloid deposits.

Lion’s mane mushroom has some impressive research tied to improved cognition and vinpocetine has been trialed on dogs with positive results. Phosphatidylserine and ubiquinol, which is the reduced form of CoQ10, feed your dog’s mitochondria and improve cellular energy.

When it comes to general senior health supplements, I typically recommend digestive enzymes and probiotics for all older pets. I also recommend an omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as sustainably sourced krill oil (my favorite, because it’s the cleanest) or algal DHA for pets who can’t tolerate seafood. Curcumin is another supplement that benefits the brain and body.

5. Minimize stress in all aspects of your dog’s life — Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize anxiety and stress in your older dog.

Senior and geriatric dogs, especially those with dementia, are often disoriented, so sticking to a consistent daily routine your pet can count on can help him stay oriented, which will in turn reduce his anxiety. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, feed him at the same times, and go for walks on a set schedule.

Keeping him at a healthy weight and physically active will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease as he ages. Acupuncture and chiropractic care, stretching, and hydrotherapy (exercising in water) can also provide enormous benefits in keeping dogs mobile in their later years.

Regular massage can help keep your senior dog’s muscles toned and reduce the slackening that comes with aging. Massaged muscles are looser, which makes it easier for him to move around comfortably. Massage also improves circulation and encourages lymphatic drainage.

It can ease the stiffness of arthritis, which helps him maintain his normal gait and active lifestyle. Massage also loosens the muscles around joints, which helps promote ease of movement.

If your dog is having some urine dribbling or incontinence as a result of his age (and not caused by an underlying condition that should be addressed), provide him with more frequent potty trips outside. You can also reintroduce him to a crate if he was crate trained initially. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for age-related incontinence.

If your dog has problems hearing or seeing, use odor cues like pet-friendly essential oils or pheromone products to help him find his way around. Also consider purchasing or building ramps if he’s having trouble getting into the car or up on the bed or a favorite chair, and if he’s slipping or unsure on bare floors, add some runners, yoga mats or area rugs.

For sleep problems, try increasing his daytime activity level. Let him sleep in your bedroom. Sleeping near you should help ease any anxiety that may be contributing to his nighttime restlessness. Melatonin supplementation can also be beneficial.

Guide him with clear cues and easy-to-follow instructions, and when you talk to him, keep your voice quiet, calm and loving.

What to Feed a Cat With a Sensitive Stomach

By Liz Bales, DVM

 

Does your cat have a sensitive stomach? Do they consistently vomit or cough up hairballs? Believe it or not, hairballs aren’t normal for cats; their bodies are made to pass the hair that they ingest from grooming.

So these could be signs that your cat is sensitive to something in their food.

Gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances are commonly caused by poorly digestible foods, food allergies or food additives/flavorings/preservatives.

Many times, a diet that’s formulated to address your cat’s sensitive stomach can ease and even resolve the problem. But it’s important to not immediately jump to changing your cat’s diet without getting your vet’s input.

Here’s what you should do if your cat has a sensitive stomach and how you can help them find the right diet.

Talk With Your Veterinarian to Rule Out Other Medical Issues

Vomiting can be a sign of many different illnesses, not just a sensitivity to food. And coughing up a hairball can look very similar to general coughing and sneezing in a cat—which could actually be signs of feline asthma.

If your cat is vomiting food or hairballs once a month or more, or is also losing weight, a veterinary visit is recommended.

You should also try to get a video of your cat when they are exhibiting these behaviors so that your veterinarian can see what you see at home.

At the vet’s office, your veterinarian will check for clues as to what is causing the stomach upset. They may recommend diagnostic tests like blood work, X-rays or an ultrasound to find the cause of the GI upset.

By ruling out other medical issues, you can make sure they get right medical treatments for any underlying issues.

How to Find the Best Food for Your Cat’s Sensitive Stomach

Once you’ve dealt with any other health issues, you can work with your vet to figure out the best food for your cat’s sensitive stomach.

Your vet will be able to guide you towards foods that fit your cat’s nutritional requirements, while you can narrow it down by your cat’s food preferences to find the perfect match.

Here are some options your vet might suggest for finding a food for your cat’s sensitive stomach.

Start With a Diet Trial

Once your cat gets a clean bill of health from the veterinarian, a diet trial is the logical next step. Diet trials are a way to narrow down your cat’s food options until you find a food that suits their sensitive stomach.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet for every cat. Your cat will have an individual response to each diet. So, work with your veterinarian to find the most suitable food for your cat’s needs.

It can take up to three or four months for your cat to clear the old diet from their system so that you can completely evaluate the new diet.

What to Look For in the New Diet

The best foods for a cat with a sensitive stomach will be highly digestible and contain no irritating ingredients. Highly digestible diets have moderate to low fat, moderate protein and moderate carbohydrates.

Many of these diets have additives that improve intestinal health, like soluble fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and increased levels of antioxidant vitamins, and they contain no gluten, lactose, food coloring or preservatives.

Try a Hypoallergenic Diet

Cats can experience food allergies that cause gastrointestinal upset. Of all the components of the diet, the protein source is the most likely to cause food allergies.

Your cat can be allergic to any protein that they have been exposed to. For example, rabbit and chicken may both cause a food allergy. But, if your cat has never eaten rabbit before, their immune system hasn’t been sensitized to it, and they are unlikely to be allergic to it.

Some studies show that beef, chicken and fish are the most likely to cause allergies. The best cat food for helping cats dealing with food sensitivities for certain protein allergies are hypoallergenic diets.

Types of Hypoallergenic Diets for Cats

There are three main types of hypoallergenic diets:

  • Limited ingredient
  • Veterinary prescription food with a novel protein
  • Hydrolyzed protein

Limited ingredient diets typically contain only one protein source and one carbohydrate source, and they can be purchased without a prescription, like Natural Balance L.I.D. Chicken & Green Pea Formula grain-free canned cat food. However, these diets are not regulated to ensure that they don’t have cross-contamination.

For more highly allergic cats, veterinary prescription diets with novel animal proteins contain a single-source protein and are produced in a facility that prevents cross-contamination.

Hydrolyzed protein diets, which also require a veterinary prescription, break down the protein to a size that’s less likely to be recognized by the immune system, like Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein HP dry cat food.

Try Simply Changing the Form of Cat Food

Your cat’s stomach sensitivity may improve by just changing the type of food that you feed.

For example, if your cat is experiencing stomach sensitivity on dry food, it is reasonable to try a low-carb, higher-protein canned food diet, like Royal Canin Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie canned cat food or Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula canned cat food.

Likewise, if you are feeding wet food, you may do a trial of a dry food diet with a dry food like Royal Canin Sensitive Digestion dry cat food.

Try a Different Feeding Routine

Cats that eat large meals are more likely to vomit very soon after eating—tongue-in-cheek, we call this “scarf and barf.”

With a stomach the size of a ping-pong ball, cats, in particular, are physiologically and anatomically designed to eat small, frequent meals. They are designed to hunt, catch and play with many small meals a day. Eating one large bowl of food a day can lead to frequent regurgitation.

In general, small, frequent meals are best. This results in less gastric retention of food and increases the amount of food that is digested and absorbed.

You can recreate this natural feeding behavior with the award-winning, veterinary recommended Doc & Phoebe’s indoor hunting cat feeder kit.

Instead of filling the bowl twice a day, use the portion filler to put the food into each of the three mice and hide them around the house. This natural feeding style provides portion control, activity and stress reduction that has shown to decrease or eliminate vomiting.

By: Dr. Elizabeth Bales, DVM

 

The Best Food to Avoid Shrinking Kitty Syndrome

By Dr. Karen Becker

If you’re a cat person, you’ve probably noticed that many kitties seem to get thinner as they get older. This isn’t your imagination — in fact, research shows that a decrease in body weight is quite common in kitties over 11 years of age.1

There are a variety of reasons older cats lose weight. Today I’m discussing dietary considerations, but it’s important to note that other factors, such as stress and certain diseases can also play a role. For more information on those issues, read Shrinking Kitty Syndrome.

Studies show that both protein and fat digestibility decrease in cats after age 10.2,3 Dietary fat contains more calories per gram than either proteins or carbohydrates, so if older cats’ ability to digest fat is limited, it can have a major effect on their ability to extract calories from food.4

Research also shows that about 20% of cats 14 years of age and older don’t digest protein efficiently.5 A compromised ability to digest both fat and protein is likely a major reason senior and geriatric cats lose both fat and muscle mass.

The cause of this phenomenon hasn’t been identified, but in my opinion, long-term consumption (often a lifetime) of ultra-processed cat food containing poor quality, hard-to-digest ingredients plays a significant role.

Reducing Your Older Cat’s Protein Intake Isn’t the Answer

For many years, the veterinary community’s answer to the problem of reduced protein digestibility in older cats was reduced protein diets to mitigate compromised kidney and liver function. However, reduced protein cat food can be a recipe for disaster, because we now know aging cats actually need more protein than their younger counterparts.

In the 1990s, retired veterinary nutritionist Dr. Delmar Finco discovered protein requirements actually increase as pets age. He demonstrated that even in animals with kidney failure, restricting protein didn’t improve their health or longevity.6

In fact, Finco’s research proved cats on low protein diets develop hypopro­teinemia, which is an abnormally low level of protein in the blood. The cats had muscle wasting, became catabolic (lost both fat and muscle mass), and lost weight. The more protein was restricted, the sicker these kitties became.

Finco discovered it was the level of phosphorus in foods, not necessarily the amount of protein that exacerbated kidney disease, and thanks to his groundbreaking research, veterinary recommendations have changed.

These days, we recommend a diet containing excellent quality (human grade) protein that is highly digestible and assimilable for animals struggling with under-functioning kidneys and livers. We also recommend restricting phosphorus in the diet, but not necessarily protein.

If your cat is in the later stages of kidney failure, as defined by the International Renal Interest Society (IRIS), a reduced amount of protein is suggested, but should still be offered in a high-quality, kidney-friendly fresh food format.

We now know that cats, as true carnivores, require lots of high-quality, human grade animal protein not only to maintain good organ and immune function, but also to maintain healthy muscle mass as they go through life and the aging process.

Not All Protein Is Created Equal

The quality of the protein you feed your senior cat is of utmost importance. Highly digestible and assimilable protein, coupled with high moisture content, is the type of nutrition that causes the least amount of stress on your kitty’s aging organs.

It’s sort of a well-kept secret, especially among ultra-processed pet food manufacturers, that protein quality is extremely variable. There are highly assimilable and digestible animal proteins (proteins your cat’s body can easily absorb and derive nutrition from), and there are plant proteins that are both biologically inappropriate and difficult to process.

All protein has a biologic value, which is its usable amino acid content. Eggs have the highest biologic value at 100%. Fish is a close second at 92%. Feathers, as you might guess, have zero biologic value. They are technically animal protein, but they are neither digestible nor assimilable.

There are also foods that are high in (plant) protein but biologically inappropriate for cats. Soy is a good example, with a biologic value of 67%. Many popular pet foods contain soy as a protein source, as well as corn. This is an inexpensive way for pet food manufacturers to increase protein content on the guaranteed analysis printed on the label. But because soy and corn are not species-appropriate, they don’t belong in your cat’s diet.

Since digestion and assimilation are not always measured for pet foods, manufacturers are not penalized for adding protein that has little to no nutritional value for the species of animal eating it. Call your pet food manufacturer and ask if their meat is human-edible quality. “Feed-grade” meat is substantially cheaper (and potentially much less assimilable), which is why 99% of pet food companies use it.

In addition to corn and soy (as well as other grains) that are inflammatory and incomplete proteins for carnivores, there are many other reasons not to feed carbohydrates to cats. Mycotoxins, GMO’s, glyphosate exposure and sugar load (which leads to lifestyle-induced diabetes), as well as obesity and arthritis are all solid reasons to avoid offsetting high quality protein with cheap fillers.

The Best Diet for Most Older Cats

Some foods are metabolically stressful; for instance, grains and potatoes prompt a big insulin release. The nutrition that generates the least amount of metabolic stress for most cats, regardless of age, is whole, unprocessed, organic, non-GMO, and minimally processed (raw or poached). This of course includes human quality animal meat, which should be the foundation of your kitty’s diet throughout her life.

Foods that have not been highly processed are the most assimilable for a cat’s body. All the moisture in the food remains in the food, whereas foods that have been extruded (most dry food) can have drastically depleted moisture content — as low as 12%.

If you can’t feed fresh food (raw or gently cooked), second-best is a dehydrated or freeze-dried balanced diet reconstituted with plenty of water. Your cat’s kidneys and liver can be further stressed as a result of chronic low-grade dehydration, so all foods served dry can pose a problem long term.

I recommend serving your cat food in its natural state to provide needed moisture, and to insure the highest level of biologic assimilation and digestion. That means feeding a nutritionally optimal, antioxidant rich, species-specific diet that includes omega-3 essential fats, such as krill oil.

Moisture is an aging cat’s best friend, so encourage yours to drink by offering a variety of glass, metal or food grade ceramic water bowls around the house or a drinking fountain, in addition to minimizing (or preferably eliminating) dry food.

However, if your kitty is addicted to terrible food, adding a whole body supplement, such as Feline Whole Body Support is a good idea. Adding bone broth to a dry food addict’s meal is also a great way to increase hydration and fluid balance.

Additional beneficial supplements include SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) as a safe and effective way to stall mental decline, improve mobility and assist in liver detoxification. Consult your integrative veterinarian for the right dose size.

Periodic detoxification with milk thistle, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and dandelion can also be very beneficial, as can providing super green foods in the form of fresh cat grass to nibble on. Chlorophyll, chlorella or spirulina can also be offered in supplement form to enhance your cat’s detoxification processes.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to be safe for cats and can improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older pets. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs and may also reduce hairball issues. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support, if your cat will voluntarily eat it.

For aging kitties with a cognitive shift that makes them prowl the house at night and vocalize, consider low dose melatonin, which is not only a sedative with a calming effect, but also an antioxidant. I also use rhodiola, chamomile and l-theanine with good results.

Tips for Encouraging Your Cat to Eat

If your kitty is eating ultra-processed pet food, again, my first recommendation is to try to slowly and safely transition her to a balanced, fresh, organic, non-GMO, species-appropriate diet made with human grade ingredients. Whether her diet is fresh or processed, however, the goal should always be to make sure your cat eats something.

Unlike dogs and humans, it’s dangerous for kitties to go any length of time without nourishment, as it can lead to a potentially fatal liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. Keeping your older cat well-nourished can require creativity along with some gentle prodding, and lots of patience. Things you can do to tempt her include:

Warming her food to bring out the aroma
Offering gently cooked food with a strong smell or topped with a sardine (packed in water)
Offering new food from a paper plate in case she’s developed an aversion to her food bowl for some reason
Offering a small selection of different flavors and textures of canned cat food or home cooked meat or bone broth
Enticing her with species-appropriate human food she has enjoyed in the past, such as warm baked chicken or salmon
If she’s addicted to dry food and refuses everything else, try adding warm water to each meal or add an aromatic enticement like tuna juice, warm goat’s milk, chicken broth or bonito flakes

It’s also important to make kitty’s mealtime a very low-stress, pleasant experience. Make sure you feed her in a calm, quiet environment that is optimally comfortable.