This article is part of a is a special series about natural pet food written by Kerry O’Dowd from Kerry’s K9 Revolution.
Raw Diet Distress
When you start feeding raw you put together the dots; feeding a species an appropriate diet allows you easier access to pin point ailments.
Here are a few issues that I have experienced – or someone I know has experienced – which may appear to be a serious issue, but is likely nothing. This is not intended to replace veterinary care but to allow you to understand what is going on in your dog’s body. I will first discuss the two most commonly asked about issues: throwing up and diarrhea.
First thing to understand is that there is vomiting and there is regurgitation. Regurgitation generally occurs shortly after eating, and takes little effort to bring up. Generally, it comes without warning and the dog will open its mouth and plop out its last meal. Regurgitation can happen for several reasons; ate too much, ate too fast, too much fat or the meat just didn’t sit well in the stomach. When my dog Moose regurgitates it is generally when he gets worked up too soon after a meal, and when he spits it up and it looks like a mound of the mushy food he just ate, digestion has not begun. I allow Moose the chance to re-eat the regurgitated food and if he turns it away I clean it up and will fast that meal. He generally does not turn down the chance to eat it again – and the second time it usually stays down. Vomiting is generally more labor intensive, the dog wretches to bring up the irritation. Vomiting is the body’s way of saying “I don’t want this in here”, and this is a good thing. This tells you that your dog’s body is responding accordingly, better out than in. Vomiting can occur for many reasons, three of them being:
- eating foreign objects
- illness and
Hunger can occur when feeding on a rigid schedule. So if you normally feed at 8:15 and 5:15, you may want to consider making meals more unpredictable or trading up for bigger food less often. The body is conditioned to receiving food at this time so the stomach acids start preparing for a meal but the meal doesn’t come so the body must expel the access gastric juices. In hunger vomits it is not unusual to see pieces of undigested bone that missed the last “train” out. Also vomiting can occur when dogs have recently switched to a raw diet and are not used to digesting bones. Feeding raw green tripe and other digestive enzymes help the dogs body adapt to the new way of processing food.
With any bouts of diarrhea that last more than a few days and are persistent I would consider a fecal exam to rule out parasites, especially if the diarrhea is coupled with other symptoms. However, it is a perfectly normal bodily function that occurs for a lot of the same reasons as throwing-up. Dogs enjoying a raw diet need about 10% bone content. Bone helps bind stools together, much like breadcrumbs in a meatball- gross, but you get the idea.
Some dogs need more than the 10% bone for stool management and some dogs are good with the 10% mark. If you notice that stools are white, dry and crumbly then you are feeding TOO MUCH bone, if stools are dark and loose then feed MORE bone. If you are new to a raw diet it is important to know that certain proteins can be “rich” for newbie stomachs, some offenders are: beef, lamb and organ cuts. To avoid explosive poops introduce new meats slowly 3/4 chicken and 1/4 beef, then the next time 50-50 and so on. Also, I keep some raw chicken feet on hand if I feed an organ meal like beef heart I can throw in a bit of bone. If your dog has a bad bout of diarrhea you can fast him to give his GI track a break, or offer some low sodium broth with water to keep them hydrated. The difference between true diarrhea and loose stool is that diarrhea is difficult for the animal to hold in (frequent 3am potty breaks) and is kinda explosive (yuck) and often happens a few times … Moose very rarely has true diarrhea but does have a loose poop from time to time. Raw diets really are a dog-to-dog basis- know thy dog.
So, what to do about diarrhea?
Well, if it is true diarrhea and it persists over more than 3+ days I personally would go to a vet to ensure no blockage or parasites. However when Moose has some digestive upset (aka upset tummy) I will fast him a meal or two (depending on how severe) offer some low sodium chicken broth or some Slippery Elm Bark, and it generally subsides the next day. Also depending on the situation I may not offer all solutions at the same time, sometimes not messing with the system allows them to figure it out on their own.
This is a good thing! A great thing, actually. Makes everything easier potty training, pooping and scooping, and much healthier for your dog! Oh, and if you have a cat then you will never smell the kitty litter again. I always say to people who insist on feeding commercial dog food that if they look at how much kibble goes in compared to how much gets pooped out… it’s pretty equal, and sometimes more waste then food that was eaten! You gotta wonder… what nutrients did they actually get? Because a meat, organ
and bone based diet is species appropriate to dogs, the food is more available to their bodies allowing them to absorb more nutrients and thus less waste.
Blood in Poop
Often times new dogs whose bodies aren’t fully adjusted to the raw diet will pass bone fragments in their stools. Now, those bones have to pass through and generally do without any issues, however it is possible it has irritated something on the way out. Bright red blood (like in fresh cuts) can generally be attributed to irritation. If you are seeing consistent dark reddish brown color (digested blood) then you should inquire with your vet. If you notice a clear mucous sac around the poop, the body creates this to help pass the waste, nothing to be alarmed about- just the body working.