Digestive issues on a raw diet – here is what to expect

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I’m sure you have taken your dog to the vet more than once because his tummy was upset. The three most common vet visit triggers are constipation, vomiting and diarrhea  It is not uncommon most raw diet ‘newbies’ expect that their dog’s bowel movement will be perfect in every way including consistency, volume, odor and regularity. This is not always possible.

Several factors can cause a dog’s digestive situation to change. The most common one is the consumption of a variety of foreign materials. Some dogs love to consume pens, reading glasses, leftover food scraps or a variety of whatever is left on the coffee table. This will affect the dogs regularity because of the drastic changes in his diet.

Constipation is one of the symptoms that may cause for concern if chronic. Howevver, when no specific disease is present, constipation is most likely “functional”, or resulting from factors that may encompass physical, dietary or age related factors. There are nutritional deficiencies caused by the ingestion of dead, processed, enzyme-less food (kibble and canned pet foods). This can affect the nervous system, digestive system and can be a significant contributor to constipation.

Several requirements are needed for normal bowel function. They include:

1. Consuming sufficient amounts of fluid (water). A raw diet contains 70% moisture, as opposed to a kibble diet that contain, at most, 10% moisture. When you feed kibble, your pet must obtain the required amount of water from external sources, such as their water bowl. Unfortunately, this water source is not as easily absorbed by their bodies as is water consumed from a raw diet.

2. Consuming adequate and varied amounts of dietary fiber. Proper amounts of fiber regulate digestion and prevent constipation. Alternatively, not enough fiber can cause diarrhea or loose stools. This is why feeding a 100% meat diet is not appropriate. There should be some vegetable matter as well to give your pet the necessary fiber for regular digestive relief.

3. Obtaining ample quantities of nutrients for gastrointestinal health and function. Nutrients obtained from quality sources and of an appropriate nature for the species are key to proper health and a strong immune system.

4. Good bowel bacterial health and support. Sources of healthy bacteria are needed for adequate digestive health. It is hard to maintain a healthy bacteria environment with a diet that is of a sterile nature (ie. cooked, kibble, and canned pet foods).

It takes all of these requirements to maintain a healthy colon and provide normal bowel function. Disrupt any of these requirements and the end result is diarrhea, vomiting or constipation.

The consumption of a raw meat diet will yield a different stool formation than dogs being fed a kibble diet. One of the first things a new dog owner who feeds raw diet observes is the difference in stool volume. One can immediately see about 30% less stool volume than what is produced from a kibble fed diet.

Why is that?

Dry pet food diets are loaded with fillers and hard to digest ingredients. The raw meat diet will be far more utilized in the digestive cycle and the resulting stool will be comprised of basically ash and fiber. You can actually see the dramatic difference right away and soon realize that there is much better ingredient utilization with this natural diet. The actual digestion time is almost cut in half compared to feeding kibble.

But the real advantage gained from feeding a raw diet is the elimination of toxins in the body. A real simple explanation is this: the less time food stays in the body means less time the food has to ferment and build up any unwanted toxins.

All that aside, how then can constipation exist with the raw feeding diet?

We have all personally experienced a difference in stool formation, especially after eating a meal that is not regularly part of our normal routine. Go out for a night on the town and consume a 16 oz. prime rib steak or feast on a banquet of Mexican food and tell me if you don’t see a difference the next morning.

By consuming a product that alters the normal peristaltic activity of the gastrointestinal (GI) track, diarrhea or constipation ensues. Because our diet does have a tendency to form a more solid stool, it can sometimes temporarily result to some slight constipation. Most dog owners new at feeding raw should be aware of that the expected stool formation may be firmer and have the color / consistency of white ash. The goal is to have an easy elimination process without straining and creating a blockage. Diets that contain ground bone will have a tendency to bind up and make a firmer stool.

Several natural additives can be used to regulate the elimination process. Canned pumpkin works well to eliminate the firm stool or even extra fruit can ease the condition. The stool is a barometer of the animals general health. However, an occasional difference either from diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting is not usually something that demands a quick trip to the vet. Proper exercise and staying on a natural, high quality, raw meat diet will produce abundant health benefits and will normally eliminate the three factors triggering a phone call to your vet.



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