Guest Contributor Sheldon (Shelly) Rubin DVM has been a veterinarian for more than 44 years.
Dr. Rubin is a contributing veterinary expert on this site, answering viewer questions about diarrhea and gas in dogs and cats. This is the second installment of viewer Q & A about diet and how it relates to problems of diarrhea and gas in dogs and cats. Viewer questions were submitted via the VetMed Facebook page, blog comments and email.
Don't Miss: Diarrhea and Gas in Pets - Part 1
1) From Laurie: We have a Bernese Mountain dog, female, 2 years of age that has consistently experienced soft stools and diarrhea her whole short life. Several times the diarrhea was so bad we had to swap her food to a completely gastro diet for several weeks. I did not want to keep her solely on the gastro diet for fear she would be deprived of other good nutrients that she needs. Also the gastro kibbles are very small, and this builds plaque on her teeth, which is difficult to manage despite frequent brushing.
Currently I am mixing 1/4 of gastro food with her other food and things seem better but still not solid stool. Our vet is recommending that she be on high fiber gastro intestinal food only, maybe even for life. Is this a recommendation you would support or is there something else I can do? She is otherwise a healthy, happy dog.
Dr. Rubin: Check out the ingredients label on your gastro food. If it's working for her, and has enough vitamins for joint health as recommended by your vet, I'd stick with it. If you're worried about the nutritional content, consider adding a scoop of pureed or canned pumpkin to his food for added fiber and better digestive health. You can also talk to your vet about specific supplements, but they should be used judiciously. If your dog is, in fact, getting a balanced diet through her food, supplements are not necessary and could be harmful.
If you don't like those options, perhaps rather than a "gastro" diet you might consider a change in the protein and carbohydrate your dog is getting. If chicken is the main protein, change to fish, duck, or lamb and if corn is the carbohydrate, change to rice. There are excellent high quality foods that meet these requirements.
Look for a holistic dog food that contains a digestive balance system, complete with digestive enzymes and botanicals, pre and probiotics and natural fiber. You could try transitioning your dog to one of these types of foods over a period of two weeks.
Brushing your dog's teeth is the gold standard of dental health. Besides maintaining healthy teeth, brushing can be a rewarded task that she will look forward to. Let's concentrate on getting the stools normal first and then work on the teeth.
2) From Carrie: How soon after my dog has puppies can I get her spayed? Do I wait until she is done nursing or can I have it done sooner?
Dr. Rubin: You should wait until 4 - 5 weeks after the puppies are done being weaned to have her spayed. However, a nursing dog can still get pregnant, so make sure to keep adult dogs away from her until she is spayed.
3) From Julianne: We adopted a pregnant feral cat in May and she has been getting used to being an indoor cat. Her kitten is weaned and she has been spayed, but she has frequent intestinal distress. She is often gassy, with a strong smell and she passes frequent huge, strong smelling stools every time. We have ruled out parasites, infections, etc. Her health is good, but she was very underweight, so she is gaining. She eats [Nutro Natural Choice] dry food, which has been the only food that doesn't give her diarrhea. We are thinking allergies. Any tips for a cat like this? I wonder if she is uncomfortable with all that gas.
Dr. Rubin: Your cat may have a grain or protein allergy/sensitivity. Try transitioning her to another dry food labeled "grain free" and that has a different protein such as fish. To transition her properly, mix her current food with a new food for 5 - 7 days, gradually increasing the ratio of the grain-free brand to the old brand.
Continued from Julianne: We also discovered that this previously feral Momma cat is still letting her kitten nurse, even though she is spayed and he is almost 5 months old. Can producing milk and nursing cause her to be gassy and pass these large, strong smelling stools? She's a very passive cat and not the type to push her baby away and he is very needy, being an only kitten.
Dr. Rubin: By 5 months of age the kitten should be through nursing. Sometimes for social reasons Momma will let the cat continue to nurse but without any milk production. This will certainly stop soon. In addition, this would have nothing to do with the stool issues.
Feral cats often have heavy intestinal parasites and their diet was certainly never the best. It is possible that she may have some intestinal damage that needs a high quality food with adequate fiber to allow healing. Feeding a food with pre- and probiotics may return the good bacteria to her intestinal tract that she may be missing.
4) From Rick: I have a 5-year old Jack Russell Terrier. She eats one meal a day, usually dry food we got from the vet with a little vegetable oil in it. More often than not she has diarrhea. We, have tried many different brands and suspect lamb products may cause discomfort, but not always. Please advise.
Dr. Rubin: You should try eliminating the vegetable oil. Some vets may advise it for a healthy coat, but a good, balanced food should help with any coat issues she could be having.
You can also try adding a scoop of canned pumpkin to her food, which adds fiber and will help with digestion. It will also help moisten her food in lieu of the vegetable oil.
Foods with Omega-3 fatty acids are also formulated to help with a shiny coat. I would also recommend feeding twice per day rather than just once. Put her food down for 15 minutes and then take it up regardless of whether she eats it all or not and then feed again at dinnertime doing the same. Smaller amounts of food at a time will allow the digestive system time to process.
5) From Dayna: One of my foster dogs came into rescue having bad diarrhea. We switched her food to a high quality food, and there has been little to no change. She is also always very gassy. Why is this? I feel as though we have addressed all the general causes: food, etc. Is it possible that she could have an allergy?
Dr. Rubin: Kudos to you for fostering! Food allergies are more common than you'd suspect in pets. Check the ingredients on her food to see if they are grain-free. Grain is a common allergen that could be affecting your dog. Take her to the vet, too, to rule out any kind of illnesses or possible parasites that could be affecting her digestive tract. If her vet gives her a clean bill of health I would suggest changing to a grain free food that has a unique protein such as lamb, fish, or duck.
Thank you, Dr. Rubin, for taking time to answer these viewer questions about pet diet and nutrition.