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Dogs, like people, can have sensitive stomachs that are easily upset or they can literally be able to eat anything without having any troubles at all. Some breeds are known for having problems with digestion and if you have a dog that does seem to be very sensitive to changes in foods or with problems with vomiting or diarrhea it is important to talk to your vet immediately to determine if this is just a simple food related problem or if it may be the signs of problems such as worms or more serious health conditions.Gastric Torsion Also known as bloat, this is a condition most often seen in dogs with deep chests and longer bodies such as Great Danes, Bassett Hounds, Bullmastiffs, German Shepherds, Irish Setters and Collies to name just a few. Bloat is the second greatest killer of dogs and can be fatal in a very short period of time, sometimes in just a few minutes. Bloat is caused by gulping air and food together, feeding in elevated bowls that cause the dog to draw in air, excessive exercise immediately after eating as well as other causes. Typically dogs with try to vomit but have nothing expelled, have a distended stomach, walk with the back arched up or roached, as well as appear extremely anxious. Feeding several small meals and day and feeding food that is high in protein and free of certain preservatives and chemicals can help this condition.
Most puppies and dogs will have some problems when types, amounts and even brands of foods are being changed or adjusted. Typically these conditions include food refusal, diarrhea and excessive flatulence. While unpleasant, there is little that can be done to correct these issues until the dog's digestive system has adjusted to the new food, which can take as little as two or three days or as long as a week or more. One way to minimize the chance of these conditions occurring is to very gradually change foods, rather than just suddenly feeding a new food or brand.
To switch foods in a gradual fashion follow the simple steps below:
1. Replace 1/4 of the total amount of the old food with the new type of food, mix well and feed for 3-4 days. If you don't see any signs of stomach upset, move to step two. If you note any signs, continue on with step one ratio of feed mixture until the digestive system normalizes.
2. In the next four day block mix the food ratio one half ration of old with one half ration of new. If there are no digestive problems, move to step three, if there are, continue on with this mixture until normal.
3. Mix 3/4 of new food with 1/4 of old food, monitoring as in steps one and two. Continue this for four days or until normal.
4. The following day, start feeding 100% new food.
This can be used with dogs or puppies and is typically very effective with all dogs, even finicky eaters. Sometimes switching from a moist food to a dry food may also cause constipation but providing lots of fresh, clean water and allowing the dog's body to adjust is all that is typically required.
There are other conditions that are associated with digestive disorders and they include:
Diarrhea and vomiting These two conditions can indicate everything from a viral infection such as parvovirus through to pregnancy. If your dog has just changed foods or has eaten garbage or debris, this may be the cause. It is very important to observe your dog if you notice any unusual stool or attempts to vomit. Dogs can quickly become dehydrated so taking your dog or puppy to the vet if these conditions persist for more than two days is critical. If you notice any other signs such as a discharge from the eyes, nose or other parts of the body, or observe any seizure type behaviors immediately get emergency assistance for the dog.
Food Refusal If changing foods it is not uncommon for dogs to refuse a new food. The gradual replacement explained earlier can help with this, but some dogs, especially those switching from canned to dry may completely refuse. Typically when dogs get hungry they will eventually eat what is provided, but if the dog starts to appear weak or skips more than two or three meals a trip to the vet may be in order. To test this, you may want to try the dog back on the original food, even in a small amount. If they eat that without a problem, you may have to consider if changing foods is worth this battle of the wills. Food refusal can, however, be a sign of several different and very serious health conditions. Dogs that have no appetite can have intestinal blockages, perforations and even viral infections. If the dog has no appetite what so ever, immediately take him or her to the vet.
Watching what your dog eats and carefully monitoring both food intake and waste elimination is part of being a responsible dog owner. High fiber diets can be helpful in treating many digestive problems, but first the problem must be noticed and checked by the vet. If your dogs are outdoor dogs this is more of a problem than for those that own indoor dogs that are walked on a regular basis as this provides more options for monitoring.
Remember too that even the best trained dog will love to root through the garbage and find a tasty snack or semi-rancid morsel. Keep all garbage and refuse well away of where your dog is kept, even if they are not usually prone to getting into the trash. Remember too to pick up all dog waste and keep the area as clean as possible to prevent any possible disease transmission through fecal material. Keep poisonous plants and hazardous foods such as chocolates, onions, coffee, garlic and even raisins and grapes out of the reach of dogs and puppies to prevent health problems and digestive disorders that can occur with ingesting these items.
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