Types of Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats
The intestines, which are also called bowels, have two distinct sections: small and large. It's useful to distinguish between large and small intestine diarrhea because different medical problems cause diarrhea in different sections of the intestines. For example, roundworms cause small intestine diarrhea and whipworms cause large intestine diarrhea.
With small intestine diarrhea, the stool is larger than normal and malodorous. Your pet defecates frequently and may lose weight. With large intestine diarrhea, your pet often strains to defecate, and produces a stool covered with mucus.
Small Intestine Diarrhea
The small intestine and large intestine have different functions. The stomach empties into the small intestine, delivering nutrients that are moved across the intestinal wall into the blood vessels lying just outside. The small intestine has three sections: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. The stomach and the first section of the small intestine, the duodenum, can develop bleeding ulcers. This blood is partially digested, causing the feces to be black and tarry. Black, tarry feces can also be caused by bleeding secondary to parvovirus infection.
Large Intestine Diarrhea
In the large intestine, water is removed from the feces. Some pets, especially Boxers, are prone to inflammation of the large intestine, which is called colitis. Pets with colitis pass diarrheic stools and large amounts of malodorous gas.
Bacteria within the Intestines
Bacteria and microorganisms (also called flora) within the intestines can be friendly, good microorganisms or pathogenic, disease-causing organisms. Friendly bacteria help make vitamins and fatty acids, and they help produce mucus that lines the digestive system and protects it from infection and physical damage.
Supplements that supply good microorganisms to colonize the intestines are called probiotics. Probiotics protect your pet against inflammation, infection, diarrhea, and cancer. NaturVet Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotic is an excellent source of gut-friendly probiotic microorganisms, such as Aspergillus Oryzae, Trichoderma Longibrachiatum, Aspergillus Niger, and Lactobacillus Acidophilus.
Not all bacteria and microorganisms in the digestive system are good. Pseudomonas, salmonella, and coccidia are disease-causing inhabitants of the intestines. In healthy pets, good microorganisms predominate and prevent pathogenic microorganisms from causing disease and diarrhea.
To maintain good gut bacteria, it's helpful to feed your pet prebiotics. Prebiotics, such as chicory and FOS (fermentable oligofructose fiber), are the nutrients that good microorganisms use to stay healthy. In pets fed FOS, intestinal cells are larger and healthier, have a thicker protective mucus layer, and are almost 100% more efficient at absorbing nutrients from food. Apple pomace and inulin, which are contained some dog food brands, are also excellent nutrient sources for good gut bacteria.