Good Guts! - Part One

4 CommentsFriday, 15 February 2013  |  Kate

It goes without saying but a healthy digestive system is vital to our dogs. It breaks down the food they eat, identifies and absorbs the nutrients present by distributing them throughout the body and keeps toxins out of the bloodstream. The digestive tract defines the whole of the dog's digestive system from front to back!

The Digestion

Research and studies have shown that 70% of a dog's entire immune system is part of the digestive tract. The stomach is where digestion begins and is extremely acidic. This environment breaks food down into what's called "chyme" which is a fluid of partially digested materials. Chyme is sent from the gut to the small intestines where it is broken down further by digestive enzymes sent from organs like the pancreas and the liver.

My Itchy Dog Blog Digestion The Digestion System

Like our own digestive systems, a dog's digestion breaks their food down into the usable nutrients by the digestive enzymes. These nutrients are passed over the bloodstream where they can be sent to different parts of the body. Only waste is left after this which makes its way through the ascending colon in the large intestines.

Note: Interestingly dogs have no digestive enzymes in their saliva; it only serves as a lubricant to ease the passage of masticated food down the oesophagus.

Digestive Upsets

Dogs can experience digestive upset for a number of reasons and they can have more serious health risks in some cases if they aren't addressed. Food Allergies, food intolerance, worms, and poor diet among others can all be causes of gastrointestinal distress. Commons signs that your dog has an upset stomach include: vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive gassiness and stool. If your dog appears to be too 'regular' then this could be an indication of too much dietary fibre. Vomiting and diarrhoea can be indicative of more serious problems so you should contact your vet if these symptoms appear.

A poor diet and imbalance in the gut can lead to a systematic weakening of the dog's immune system. This in turn could lead to other maladies having an easier time causing problems for your dog. Food allergies could become a problem if the immune system is significantly weakened.

Food Allergies

Food allergies can affect any dog of any age and it is usually the result of prolonged exposure to a certain ingredient. The difficulty in identifying a food allergy is that its symptoms are similar to a lot of other canine ailments.

The symptoms include: hair loss, recurring infections, hot spots, itchy skin and extreme scratching. It is important to rule out all other possibilities with your vet if these symptoms occur before treating for a food allergy.

Food intolerance is usually indicated by vomiting and diarrhoea but it is different to a food allergy. Food intolerance in dogs is akin to how we might react to spicy foods. Upset stomachs can be caused by a variety of different things but can be as simple as eating something that doesn't agree with them.

Click here to read the solutions in part two.

Terri Jennings
Friday, 25 August 2017  |  11:38

Hi, my 4 year old lurcher is on a raw diet of Natural Instinct and Bulmers. Bulmers is meat and ground bone only, no fruit or veg, so would the Dorwest Keepers mix be good to add to it, to balance his diet? Thanks

Friday, 25 August 2017  |  12:23

Hi Terri

Yes it's a great supplement and I add it to my dog's diet now matter what she eats: raw, home cooked, or wet.


Vivien Finch
Thursday, 31 August 2017  |  16:18

Hi thanks for sending out these articles - they are so informative and presented in bitesize parts, is ideal. We read your Itchy Dog book + try to use the wisdom with our 2 dogs. The small terrier suffers with a 'sensitive ' skin in particular in the Spring but we are now playing a 'long game' with the Ekoneem shampoo/soap products. Thanks

Caroline Finch
Tuesday, 18 September 2018  |  14:42

There is a great deal of research into the benefit of a varied diet which facilitates varied gut bacteria. This could apply to all mammals. I am working towards this by using both a natural instinct raw meat diet and Lily’s kitchen organic dried food which has a wider herbal ingredients base.. I also feed organic rolled oats to round it out nicely. Each dog is an individual so diets always must take individual ness into account.