Support Healthy Bowel Inflammation Response in Dogs & Cats

Written by: Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM

Gastrointestinal issues can be common in pets, including:

  • undesired stool quality
  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • tender abdomen
  • poor appetite
  • lower energy level

If your pet doesn't improve or the gastrointestinal issues become more frequent, work with your veterinarian to support your pet's gastrointestinal health and healthy inflammation response.

For the occasional bout, feeding a bland diet (such as plain cooked chicken, lamb, or turkey with white rice) for a few days may take care of the problem. If so, then gradually re-introduce the pet's regular food.

Never allow a cat to skip meals. If the cat refuses the bland diet, try turkey or lamb baby food alone; all-meat canned food; warm up the food; or add bone broth to make it tastier.

Causes of Gastrointestinal Discomfort

The causes of gastrointestinal discomfort are not always clear, but may include food sensitivities, or adverse reactions to something your pet ate inadvertently.

Unaddressed food sensitivities may result in gastrointestinal discomfort. (The most common sensitivities in dogs are beef, chicken, milk, eggs, corn, wheat, and soy; in cats are fish, beef, and dairy products).

Artificial food colorings and other additives, especially in dry food, may cause a dietary sensitivity that mimics gastrointestinal discomfort signs. Over vaccination may cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some pets, as well.

Determining if Your Pet Has Gastrointestinal Discomfort

Determining if your pet has gastrointestinal discomfort begins with blood and urine tests by your veterinarian to rule out more serious conditions, and a fecal exam to rule out possible other issues.

More advanced diagnostic tools, such as ultrasound or sensitivity testing, may be helpful for ruling out other issues that cause similar signs. If a definitive diagnosis is desired, then an endoscopic or surgical biopsy (obtaining tissue samples) of the intestinal lining may be needed.

Conventional Support

Conventional support for gastrointestinal distress typically includes one of the veterinarian authorized diets. Unfortunately, those may contain poor quality ingredients. Ask your veterinarian about the available options.

Conventional care may also include various regimens recommended by your veterinarian. These are helpful, but if you're concerned or want a second opinion, consider a holistic veterinarian.

What Can You Feed a Pet with Gastrointestinal Discomfort?

Alternative support usually begins with diet. At a minimum, a dog or cat with gastrointestinal discomfort needs a very high quality wet food with no artificial preservatives.

If you must feed some kibble, try a limited ingredient one formulated for food allergies. Better yet would be the addition of home prepared foods (properly balanced by following a recipe).

Dogs and cats with gastrointestinal discomfort often respond well to a raw diet, and once transitioned, may need no other supplements for maintained health. To transition, start with cooked meat and gradually reduce cooking time as discomfort improves.

In some cases of gastrointestinal discomfort, extra fiber in the diet can be helpful. When the upper gastrointestinal tract is in discomfort, a lower fiber diet may be best. Eliminating grains, especially for cats, can also be helpful. For dogs grains such as quinoa, millet or other lower gluten or gluten-free ancient grains may be tolerated.

Natural Alternative Remedies for Gastrointestinal Discomfort in Pets

In addition to raw food or a very high quality canned food (especially for cats) and limited ingredient kibble (for dogs), a good digestive enzyme and probiotic supplement is important to support digestion and maintain healthy bacteria.

"At a minimum, a dog or cat with gastrointestinal discomfort needs a very high-quality canned food with no artificial preservatives."

Traditional Chinese Herbal remedies can support gastrointestinal discomfort and help maintain digestive tract health. A veterinarian who is certified in Traditional Chinese Herbs can prescribe further Chinese herbal remedies; many have been shown to be very supportive.

Adding L-glutamine and probiotics to your pet's supplements have been shown to be supportive for gastrointestinal discomfort and maintaining a healthy inflammation response.

Except for "emergency" bland diets, always make significant diet changes very slowly to allow your animal's system time to adjust.

For supplements, start with half the recommended amount of each supplement and build up over several days to the full recommended amount. It is wise to stagger the introduction of each supplement by 2-3 days, introducing only one at a time and adding gradually. That way you will be able to tell which ones are working!

Acupuncture can also be helpful for gastrointestinal discomfort. For a list of practitioners in your area see the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association referral directory.

Additional Resources