Posts tagged constipation

Top Five Only Natural Pet Blog Posts: Probiotics, Coprophagia, Constipation, Fur Loss and Taurine

At Only Natural Pet Store, we are very proud of our informational blog, Holistic Health Care Library, Community Forums and our contributors, including holistic vets, product professionals, our customer care team and dog and cat owners like you!  Occasionally we will be featuring some of the most popular blog posts in a top 5 list as a recap for those that may have missed one of these great articles.

Do you have a particular favorite post or an issue you would like to see explored more in-depth?  Let us know!

Top Five Only Natural Pet Blog Posts, December ’09 through February ‘10

Probiotics for Dogs and Cats

“Probiotics are of special importance in pets with any type of digestive problem, including vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, and constipation. They are essential for animals who are, or have been, taking antibiotics; they can be given both during the course of antibiotics and for at least 2 weeks afterwards.” [Read More about Probiotics]

Why do dogs eat poop?

“One of the most common issues for canines is stool-eating, technically known as Coprophagia. There are several reasons why a dog may eat feces, and no one answer is necessarily correct. Basically it breaks down into two main categories; behavior and/or nutrition.” [Read More about Coprophagia]

Constipation in Pets

“Okay, so pet poop is not a particularly pleasant topic, but a surprising number of pets have problems with constipation (abnormal accumulation of feces and difficulty defecating). More serious conditions can result from constipation, such as obstipation (complete obstruction of the colon by feces) and megacolon (damaged nerves and muscles in the colon causing an inability to defecate).” [Read More about Constipation]

Fur Loss – What’s the Problem?

“Hair loss from any cause is called “alopecia” (“aloe-pee’-sha”).  Sometimes you’ll actually catch your pet in the act of chewing, or notice that he’s scratching or grooming more than usual, but more often you’ll glance down and suddenly notice a bare patch where the fur used to be. Areas where alopecia can develop without you noticing are the tummy, tail base, and front legs. Dogs are especially prone to work intensively at an itchy area and develop raw, open sores called “hot spots.” When cats do this, they cause even worse damage because of their rough, barbed tongues.”  [Read More about Alopecia]

The Importance of Taurine for Dogs and Cats

“Back in the 1970s, thousands of dogs and cats were mysteriously dying due to a form of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. At the same time, there were reports of cats going blind that were often associated with cats being fed dog food. But within a few years, the same problems were discovered in cats eating a “premium” cat food sold by veterinarians. Finally, in the late 1980s, the problem, in cats at least, was traced to the deficiency of a basic amino acid called taurine.” [Read more about Taurine]

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Special Advice for Senior Cats

Since November is Senior Pet Month, it’s appropriate to talk about the special needs of senior cats.

As mentioned in the previous post, there are lots of senior diets available, but most of them rely on lower fat and protein, and higher carbohydrates. It’s really important to know that dietary protein really has nothing whatsoever to do with the development of kidney disease (in dogs or cats).

It turns out that, while most middle-aged cats are overweight, starting around age 10-12 they typically start to lose weight. This is due to a decreased ability to digest and metabolize protein and fat that occurs with age. So most senior diets are exactly the opposite of what older cats need—more and better protein and fat.

Wet foods are ideal for older kitties—this includes food in cans or pouches, as well as frozen raw diets. They’re easier to digest, and more palatable. (If your cat is a dry food addict, check out my previous blog post on Switching Foods.) Wet foods tend to contain higher levels of protein and fat, and because of the way they’re handled and/or processed, the ingredients are generally better quality than dry food.

Other Age-Related Changes

Just like humans, cats are prone to a number of medical problems as they get older. With diet, supplements, and extra care, many of these conditions can be prevented, delayed, or managed, to give your cat a good quality of life in her older years.

Arthritis

Ninety percent of cats over 12 years of age have arthritis. What is usually considered “slowing down” or “a little stiff” may be a sign of significant joint disease, and is probably quite uncomfortable for most older cats. Treating arthritis holistically is simple and inexpensive. The basic mix is glucosamine sulfate (250 mg per day) and MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane, 200 mg per day), which can be added to the cat’s wet food. Other herbs and minerals may also be helpful. These provides good anti-inflammatory action and pain relief. It may take 3-5 weeks for improvement to be noticeable. Here are my favorite joint supplements for cats:


Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)

Many older cats experience some degree of kidney (renal) disease as they age. The first symptom is usually an increase in both drinking and urination. This reflects the kidneys’ inability to reabsorb water and concentrate the urine. As time goes on, most cats lose weight, sometimes dramatically.

It is vital that CRF cats get plenty of fluids, either through consumption, or by administration (intravenous or subcutaneous), to stay hydrated. Dehydration is a major problem in these cats, as it compounds the problems of poor appetite and weight loss. Wet food, such as canned or raw, is an essential part of the diet.

The conventional treatment for CRF is a low protein, low phosphorus diet, and potassium supplementation. However, low-protein renal diets are not indicated until the disease is relatively advanced, because these diets are so restricted in protein that they don’t provide enough for normal body repair. The cat’s body will break down its own muscles to obtain enough protein, causing further weight loss and muscle wasting.

Many cats won’t eat a renal diet, and will do much better on a regular canned food. Experts agree that it is far more important that the cat eats and maintains her weight, than to worry too much about what she is eating. Hydration is also critical; many guardians learn how to give fluids at home to save the cat from the stress of frequent trips to the vet. Here are our best supplements for CRF in cats:

Hyperthyroidism

This problem is typically due to a benign thyroid tumor. The thyroid regulates the body’s metabolic rate, so the increase in hormone from the tumor is sort of like drinking espresso around the clock. Symptoms include increased appetite, weight loss despite eating more, increased heart rate, anxiety or “hyper” behavior, howling at night, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, and diarrhea. Not all cats will have all symptoms, and about 20% of hyperthyroid cats will be sluggish and depressed instead of hyperactive. Untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause a serious heart problem called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that will ultimately be fatal.

The cause of hyperthyroidism is unknown, but research suggests a link between hyperthyroidism and feeding canned food, particularly fish and giblet flavors. Environmental contamination with fire-retardant chemicals may be part of the problem; fish are commonly loaded with them. Easy-open “pop top” cans also appear to be a contributor, possibly due to chemicals in the can lining. Feeding canned food is very important to an older cat’s overall health, but it may be wise to stick to poultry, beef and lamb flavors that don’t contain fish, liver, or giblets; or go with a homemade or raw diet so you have better control over the ingredients. Other remedies that might help include:

Constipation

A small percentage of older cats develop constipation as they age. Many times this is related to feeding dry food, especially high-fiber (hairball or weight control) diets. There is so much fiber and so little moisture in the diet that the colon can’t keep things moving along properly. Other causes include breed (Manx cats are susceptible), trauma, and litterbox avoidance behavior.

If constipation persists and is not treated, there can be serious complications, including irreversible damage to the muscles of the colon. So clearly, it is best to deal with constipation early before it becomes unmanageable. Watching the quality and quantity of your cat’s stool in the box is vital to keeping your older cat healthy. A healthy stool looks like a tootsie roll; if it’s small, hard and dry, or if the cat spends a lot of time in the box, strains excessively, or cries as he’s defecating, it’s time to act. Any change in an older cat’s litterbox habits should be discussed with your veterinarian promptly.

As actress Bette Davis once said, “Age is no place for sissies.” Getting old can be stressful. Essences may also be helpful to keep your cat’s mental and emotional balance. “Graceful Aging” by SpiritEssence is designed to support and balance the body’s cells and organs, and to help deal with the changes that naturally happen with age.

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Constipation in Pets

Okay, so pet poop is not a particularly pleasant topic, but a surprising number of pets have problems with constipation (abnormal accumulation of feces and difficulty defecating). More serious conditions can result from constipation, such as obstipation (complete obstruction of the colon by feces) and megacolon (damaged nerves and muscles in the colon causing an inability to defecate).

The colon, the last part of the intestinal tract, is a large muscular structure ending at the rectum. It contains most of the intestinal bacteria that reside in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. These bacteria finish up the digestion of protein. By-products of this process include short-chain fatty acids that nourish the cells lining the colon. Some of these lining cells absorb water, while others secrete mucus to lubricate the stool and keep it moving along.

Constipation is uncomfortable, even painful. Dogs may have accidents indoors. Cats may defecate (or try to) outside the litterbox, because they associate the discomfort with the box itself. Other signs of constipation include straining to defecate, irritability, painful abdomen, lethargy, and poor appetite or even loss of appetite.

Most pets defecate once or twice a day. Dogs have a strong reflex that triggers an urge to defecate after eating; cats are a little less motivated. A constipated animal may only defecate every 2 to 4 days, or even less. Usually the stools are hard and dry, because their long stay in the colon allows for absorption of most of their water content. However, occasionally a constipated pet can appear to have diarrhea, because liquid stool is the only thing that can get around the stuck mass of feces.

Causes for pooping problems include congenital abnormalities, neurologic problems, pelvic injury, obstruction (by hair, bones, etc.), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Dogs typically become constipated secondary to another issue, such as injury or surgery. Small breed dogs appear to have more problems than larger breeds. In cats, the cause often remains unknown, but even a dirty litter box may cause avoidance; constipation results from holding the stool too long. Hooded litterboxes are a particular problem because they hold odor in, potentially making the box environment extremely unpleasant for the cat.

The initial treatment for constipation is usually a change in diet. Historically, pets have been put on high-fiber dry foods. Fiber modulates intestinal mobility. Depending on the type of fiber and the circumstances, fiber can either speed up or slow down digestion. It’s therefore used for both constipation and diarrhea. Light, senior, and hairball foods all contain increased fiber, and there are also several medical high-fiber diets.

Changing to a high-fiber diet often helps, at least initially. However, eventually these foods seem to lose their effectiveness over time. More fiber, such as canned pumpkin, may be added. Again, sometimes this produces a temporary improvement. Yet many animals, especially cats, continue to have problems.

Since fiber encourages water absorption and increases the amount of stool produced (because it is indigestible), many experts have swung the other way and are now recommending “low-residue” diets to minimize stool volume. “Low-residue” means that the food is highly digestible and produces minimal waste; fiber is typically low in these diets.

Dogs and cats are carnivores who digest protein and fat best, but there is controversy about carbohydrates; it is clear that many cats are carb-intolerant. Carbs contribute to obesity in both dogs and cats, and obesity is common factor in constipation. By this theory, the best food would be high fat, high protein, and low fiber, as well as high moisture. One would think that such a food would also be low fiber, but that is not necessarily true; always check the Guaranteed Analysis (available for each food on our website). Most canned foods fit this description, as do most raw and homemade diets. Dry diets are higher in fiber than canned, and can cause dehydration in cats, contributing to the problem.

Treatment for constipation depends on the severity of the problem. For mild cases, occasional enemas may be all they need. For severe blockages, the animal must be anesthetized for manual extraction of the feces (a process my vet tech graphically but accurately refers to as a “dig-out”). Water balance is also crucial in constipated animals, especially cats. Subcutaneous (or even intravenous) fluids may be needed to boost their hydration.

Once the animal is “cleaned out” by whatever means, you’ll definitely want to take steps to prevent the problem from recurring. Several options are available; some animals may need only one of these, while others need a combination of several of them.

Canned, raw, or homemade diet. High-moisture diets keep hydration normal, and these diets are far more digestible – and produce far less waste – than dry food.

Fiber. Because canned and homemade diets tend to be extremely low in fiber, addition of a small amount of ground flaxseed or powdered psyllium (available in bulk at most health food stores) may be needed for some animals. Flaxseed is an excellent choice because it also contains Omega-3 essential fatty acids, and its high content of lignans may help prevent some types of cancer.

o Missing Link Canine Formula

o Missing Link Feline Formula

Digestive enzymes and Probiotics. These products aid digestion and may help prevent constipation as well as other tummy issues. Products I like include:

o Vetri-Science Acetylator
o Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics
o Pet Naturals Digestive Support for Cats and Dogs

• Herbs. There are many herbal formulas available for people, but many of their ingredients are too harsh for pets. Safe herbal formulas for pets include

o Only Natural Pet GI Support
o Only Natural Pet Laxa-Herb Herbal Formula
o LoveMyPet Tummy Ease

• Lactulose. This is a syrup that holds water in the stool and keeps the stool soft; therefore it’s easier for the animal to pass. The taste, which is extremely sweet, can be an obstacle for some pets. Fortunately, lactulose now comes in a mild-tasting powder (Kristalose) that can be encapsulated by a compounding pharmacy, or simply added to canned food.

Other stool softeners, such as DSS (docusate sodium). Your veterinarian can prescribe these.

Petroleum jelly (e.g., Vaseline®). This is the primary ingredient in most over-the-counter hairball remedies (Laxatone, Kat-a-lax, Petromalt). Petroleum jelly can be given by mouth. Most pets tolerate it, many come to like it, and a few even relish it. Give 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon per day for a cat or small dog, preferably separate from meals. It is completely harmless and inert in the body. (Vegetable oils do not have the same effect because they are digested and absorbed before reaching the colon.)

Cisapride (Propulsid). This drug was withdrawn from the market for humans because of dangerous side effects, but it is considered safe for pets. Your vet can order it from a compounding pharmacy. It seems to work best in combination with stool softeners.

Lubiprostone (Amitiza) was recently approved as a drug for humans. Your vet can advise you on whether it is safe and appropriate for your pet.

Note: Cisapride and Lubiprostone should not be used simultaneously)

• Pediatric glycerin suppositories. Although they may not appreciate having a suppository pushed into their rectums, most pets tolerate it. Your vet can advise you on technique and frequency.

• Enemas. Many pet guardians have (necessarily) gotten very good at giving enemas at home. Mineral oil, K-Y jelly (in a 1:1 ratio with warm water), soapy water, and just plain warm water are all fine; you may have to experiment to see which one works best for your particular pet.

• Fluids. Your veterinarian can show you how to give subcutaneous fluids at home if needed.

Slippery Elm. This powdered herb can be added to canned food (add extra cool water) or made into a syrup. Its mild taste is well tolerated by most pets.
• Exercise. Obesity is a risk factor for constipation. Staying active prevents weight gain, and helps stimulate the intestines and keep things moving. Brisk walks and fetching games are great for dogs. If your constipated cat is also a couch potato, you can introduce regular play sessions with an interactive fishing-pole type toy, like the Kitty Lure Caster or Swizzle.

• Stress Management. There is always an energetic or emotional component of any chronic disease, and stress plays a significant role in many gastrointestinal conditions. Flower essences can be very helpful.

• Surgery. If there is damage to the nerves and muscles of the colon, a “sub-total colectomy” is the last resort. This surgery removes the colon, and joins the small intestine to the rectum. Unless and until the small intestine develops more colon-like functioning, the result is chronic diarrhea. However, the animal will be much more comfortable.

If your pet is chronically constipated, the most important thing for you to do is be observant. Look for early signs of constipation; straining, abdominal discomfort, decreasing appetite, etc. Be aware of how often your pet is defecating. If he does not produce adequate stool for more than 2-3 days, call your vet, or begin home treatments if you have established this routine. Constipation is far easier to treat when it’s caught early. Later on, treatment will be far more expensive, and there is a greater chance of irreversible colon damage.

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