Managing Digestive Problems In Senior Dogs
Digestion problems can affect a dog at any age. However, senior dogs suffer from digestive problems more often, pet parents need to be more alert and keep a close eye on their senior dog so that helpful medical intervention can be sought before the problem could become worse and serious complications set in.
Aging wear and tear over the years can be cruel to senior dogs. As they enter their senior twilight years, they start to slow down and their bodies undergo physical, mental, emotional, and physiological deterioration. Their digestive system and function are not an exception. This means, that their bodies are not as strong to combat medical issues compared to when they were younger. Thus, even mild digestion issues can easily become major problems if not properly addressed.
Symptoms of Digestive Problems In Senior Dogs
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain or the stomach may be bloated
- Rapid loss in body condition
Causes Of Digestive Problems In Senior Dogs
The list of potential causes of digestive issues that can affect senior dogs is quite long. The most common ones are:
- Food allergies
- Food intolerance
- Infection (bacterial, viral, fungal)
- Reduced ability to absorb nutrients
- Side effect of medications
- Pancratitis attack - dog consumed a food that is rich in fat /oil
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Liver Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Heart Disease
- Endocrine Problems, such as Addison’s Disease
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)
- Emotional Stress
How Digestive Problems In Senior Dogs Are Treated
While most digestive problems in dogs are relatively minor and will resolve on their own within a few days, you should still keep a close eye on your senior dog. You should bring your dog to your veterinarian if he’s lethargic, depressed or is displaying signs of pain. Other reasons that warrant prompt veterinary attention include:
- Blood or mucus in the dog’s stool
- Refusing to eat
- Persistent diarrhea and/or diarrhea for over 24 hours
- Worms are present on your dog’s stool
- You are aware that your dog has eaten something toxic or contaminated
- Symptoms don’t resolve within a couple of days
After a thorough examination, your vet may deem it necessary to put your pet on a special elimination diet for a few days until the symptoms clear up. If it’s not a food allergy or food intolerance, you may be instructed by your vet to gradually transition your pet back to his regular diet. Certain medications may also be prescribed to address the primary cause or as symptomatic treatment. If your dog is vomiting and/or has diarrhea, he may be suffering from fluid and electrolyte imbalance which calls for fluid replacement therapy.
Tips To Minimize Digestive Problems In Senior Dogs
Given that senior dogs are more prone to developing digestive problems, this should not have a significant impact on their quality of life. There are ways to minimize these issues in senior dogs so they can have healthier and happier lives before they finally cross the rainbow bridge into Dog Heaven. Here are some tips that pet owners should keep in mind when it comes to digestive system concerns in senior dogs:
- Divide your senior dog’s daily ration into 4-5 smaller portions so you can feed your dog several times a day instead of just once or twice. Less food during each feeding can help prevent overwhelming the senior dog’s digestive system. Take note that your senior dog’s ability to digest and metabolize food is not as efficient as before
- If your senior dog suffers from frequent bouts of digestive problems, you should work with your veterinarian in creating a long-term management plan. The regimen may involve switching your pet to easily digestible foods. Digestive Enzyme Supplements may also be necessary to help ensure that your senior dog is able to much better digest food and extract nutrients adequately to met their daily requirments. Probiotics and Prebiotics Supplements have also been shown to be very beneficial to digestive system health.
- Make sure your pet has easy access to fresh, clean water at all times. Monitor your dog’s water intake. A sudden increase or decrease in your dog’s water consumption should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian. Dehydration can be a serious problem in senior dogs and may require admittance to the veterinary clinic to correct fluid and electrolyte imbalance.
- Senior dogs benefit from regular physical activity that is appropriate for their age and health status. Create opportunities for your dog to stay active and be physically and mentally stimulated. Exercise has been shown to help in the normal movement of the gastrointestinal tract. If your pet’s joint pains make him unwilling to move around, you should ask your vet for medication to address the source of the pain.
Digestive problems in senior dogs are a common issue. At the onset, a digestive issue may appear relatively mild and benign, but with older dogs, the problem can easily escalate and become complicated if prompt veterinary attention is not given.