ANIMALS & DIGESTIVE HEALTH PT III- THE TELL’TAIL’ SIGN OF HEALTH
In the first part of this article, we discussed various types and formulas of food. We discussed proper feeding instructions and how to switch to healthier types of foods. https://soulsticespirit.com/2018/03/18/what-every-person-must-know-animals-digestive-health/
In the second part of this article, we discussed the importance of doing our own research instead of blindly following instructions of professionals with ulterior motives. We learned that very often, health concerns get swept under the rug so that marketing techniques become the most efficient way for major cat and dog food companies to manipulate consumers into buying harmful ‘food’ products for their animal companions. https://soulsticespirit.com/2018/03/25/animals-digestive-health-pt2-what-you-need-to-know/
As important as all of the above information is, there is yet one vital ‘tell-tail’ sign of whether an animal is healthy. There is one main way to denote if an animal is adequately processing her-his food. This sign is one that most leave out of nutrition discussion as to some it is unpleasant. Many overlook this sign and characteristic of optimal wellness. And that sign is poop. An animal’s elimination habits are the key component to understanding what is occurring within his digestive system.
The frequency, consistency, colour and odour (lovely, I know) are all integral information as to how our animal’s inner bodies are functioning. Depending on each animal’s individual nutritional requirements, her body will react to food in a variety of ways. Of course, it is of primary import to research a species appropriate diet for your animal companion. Not all dogs require the same diet. Not all cats require the same diet. In addition to each species, each different animal has different genetics and environmental dietary considerations. It is too often that consumers believe manipulative marketing techniques in terms of painting every large breed dog, small dog or cat with the same dietary requirement brush. Some brands of food have even recognized this and started to market emotionally-based labeling that suggests different formulas for different breeds. While the idea is on point, the ingredients are not. In fact, when consumers do fall for these tactics, they will find that the results are not what they bargained for.
When we feed our animal companions inappropriate species diets such as over-processed foods, nutrient poor foods or foods high in preservatives and carcinogens, we will notice first and foremost, poor elimination habits. Before we discuss what are considered “poor” elimination habits, we may want to examine what healthy habits are. Healthy dogs and cats should eliminate at least once per day. The stool should be a healthy size. If an animal’s stool is frequently large in size, this is a clear indication that s/he is not retaining much in the way of nutrients. This is an indication that the food is passing right through her without being absorbed into the body at all. And this is a clear indication that she is eating nutrient-poor food. Stool should be average in colour (not too light and not too dark) and fairly odourless. Of course there will be some odour. However if the odour is overly repulsive, there is foul play in the animal’s digestive system. The animal should rarely have diarrhea or be constipated.
If your animal friend’s elimination occurs lesser frequently than once per day, has a repulsive odour, is frequently runny, frequently hard, too light, too dark, too soft, too hard or the animal eliminates more frequently than he or she should, it is time to take step back and examine. All of the animal’s elimination habits are DIRECTLY related to her/his food.
There are several methods to approach the healing of elimination habits. The first of which of course is to research a healthier food for our animals. There is more information on this in the second part of this article. In addition to finding healthier choices, we want to examine what else may be contributing to the poor gastrointestinal function of our cats and dogs. In many cases, kittens and puppies who have been ‘found’ at very young ages without their mothers take issue with digestion. This is because they have not received sufficient nourishment from their mother’s milk as youngsters for their digestive systems to properly develop. When the gastro systems of animals develop improperly, this leaves a lot of room for insufficient amounts of enzymes, gut flora and other vital aspects of healthy digestion. In cases where despite the healthiest food choices, the animal continues to endure chronic diarrhea, constipation or both, we will want to consider the addition of probiotics or enzymes to the diet. Do you know the difference? For a detailed description of the difference between probiotics and enzymes and their benefits, read https://soulsticespirit.com/2017/08/13/enzymes-or-probiotics-which-one-is-best-for-my-animal/ .
In terms of constipation specifically, many would be appalled by the lack of nutrition in processed foods. For instance, did you know that in many well known cat and dog food brands the “fibre” is made of sawdust? Sawdust. And we wonder why our animals take issue processing food through their gastrointestinal system. To boot, not only is the quality of the fibre in processed foods compromised by not even being food but the quantity of fibre in many is severely lacking. Without fibre, the animal becomes bloated, gassy and constipated. How do we remedy this? By adding fibre to their diet, we will be allowing their bodies to function more healthily. Of course we will want to add real, whole foods. Not sawdust. We will also be sure not to listen to professionals who claim that animals need laxatives, prescription diets and other garbage that will cause more harm than good in the long run. There are several easy household ways to help our animals “go”. Here are four tried, tested and true methods of relieving constipation in cats and dogs.
1) WATER- Nearly all companion dogs and cats suffer from severe dehydration. Few of their human families recognize this. When the body is depleted of moisture, it can easily become constipated. Diets that are higher in grains, kibble (dry food) based or are highly processed easily diminish the body’s moisture. Believe it or not in most cases, water alone cannot even fully hydrate the animal’s body; most of the water goes right through the animal’s system. However water can be fully effective in relieving constipation. Most animals do not drink enough water on their own. It is up to us as caregivers to monitor this and make drinking water a fun experience for our animal friends. From drinking fountains to water streams, there are a myriad of ways to entice our furry friends to hydrate effectively.
2) ADD MORE OMEGAS 3 & 6 TO DIET- As mentioned above, water alone, in most cases, is insufficient in terms of hydration. By adding extra omegas to the diets of our animal friends, we will be encouraging moisture retention within their skin, coat and internal organs. Highly recommended sources of Omegas 3 & 6 are: Wild salmon oil, coconut oil, hemp oil, and flax seed oil. (Please note that flax seed oil is NOT a complete protein, however it contains the nutrients to retain substantial moisture within the body).
3) ADD MORE FIBRE- If we look closely at the nutritional breakdown of ingredients in processed (canned or dry) food for cats and dogs, we may notice that the majority are lacking in the fibre department. As stated earlier in this article, many well known companies add sawdust to their foods and call it fibre. Obviously, this type of ‘fibre’ is insoluble (does not break down in the GI system). Therefore, adding our own sources of fibre can be handy. There are several household items that can be used to enhance the fibre content of their food. We may use: ground flax seeds, ground almonds, ground cooked lentils, ground cooked beans. These are excellent sources of fibre, Be sure to avoid canned beans and lentils as the cans often contain heavy metals and BPA’s. Buy your own lentils and beans in bulk and cook them on your own.
4) CANNED PUMPKIN OR PAPAYA SEEDS- Canned pumpkin and papaya seeds are very high in fibre. They are sweet tasting which makes it easy for an animal to eat.
5) CHIROPRACTOR- When all else fails, take the animal to the chiropractor! Because the digestive organs are all intimately connected with the spine, often a simple spinal adjustment can cure the body of unhealthy elimination habits. Because the muscles and tendons surrounding the internal organs are also connected with the spine, many times the treatment process is synonymous. Again, examining the skeletal & organ development of a malnourished or abused animal, very often physical trauma to the skeletal system can affect inner organ function.
On the other side of the poop spectrum we have those animals who have chronic diarrhea. In many emotionally sensitive animals, diarrhea can be caused by stress. It is also caused by improperly developed GI system as a youngster. Most of the time, the latter can effectively be treated with enzymes or probiotics. In cases where the digestive system is too underdeveloped, there are several options to rebalance.
1) MORE WHOLE FOODS- Often, processed foods can cause digestive upsets in animals (and people!). By learning about appropriate raw food or whole food diets, even the most sensitive of tummies will have a better chance at functioning well.
2) CANNED PUMPKIN- Though high in fibre, canned pumpkin has also been shown to balance food absorption and digestive function. Canned pumpkin is an overall win-win to add to any diet. Be sure to check with your holistic veterinarian to ensure there are no contraindications.
3) LOWER PROTEIN CONTENT- Especially in aging animals and nervous animals, excess amounts of protein can cause runny stool. In most cases we are taught that higher protein means better overall health. In many cases this is correct however as each animal’s dietary needs differs from the next, there are numerous tummies that do not agree with this blanket statement. Be sure to note that in foods with lower proteins, food companies often replace proteins with fillers such as grains or starches. When seeking a lower protein, high quality diet be sure to read labels and purchase foods with vegetables instead of starches!
4) CHIROPRACTOR (yes, again.) – When all else fails, take the animal to the chiropractor! Because the digestive organs are all intimately connected with the spine, often a simple spinal adjustment can cure the body of unhealthy elimination habits. Because the muscles and tendons surrounding the internal organs are also connected with the spine, many times the treatment process is synonymous. Again, examining the skeletal & organ development of a malnourished or abused animal, very often physical trauma to the skeletal system can affect inner organ function.
As I teach in all of my animal-related classes, it is of utmost importance to observe you animal when she is healthy so that you will notice the very first sign of a shift in her heath. By far, noting elimination habits (in detail!) is the most effective way to gauge what goes on inside the body. By keeping an eye on this tell’tail’ sign and acting accordingly, we are sure to keep our animals healthy and feeling great!