Practice Dilemmas: Christmas and the Greedy Dog
Imagine the scene…
‘Twas the morning after the Christmas holiday, and the appointment calendar is backed up with over-exercised dogs, cats with cystitis after the horrors of tinsel and decorations, and the “well he made it to Christmas” euthanasias. However, you also see a steady stream of dogs with mild gastrointestinal signs. Let’s focus on one of them…
“Stan” is a young adult neutered male Labrador… with an insatiable appetite. Over the Christmas period his diet has been repeatedly supplemented. He’s had extra dog treats; he’s had rather more top-ups of his food bowl than usual (blame the owners’ hangovers); he’s had piles of leftovers; and to top it all, he had a plate of turkey dinner himself – “so he didn’t feel left out”. While Stan isn’t really ill today, his owners are concerned his digestion seems a bit “loose”, and the smell is clear through your mask and PPE. A straightforward digestive upset seems to be the primary problem. However, it will be important to help reduce the impact of an overindulgent diet over the next week or two.
It’s well recognised that digestive upsets are significantly more common in dogs whose diet is suddenly changed, and those fed home-cooked meals (1). And almost all Practices stock GI support products that can manage water loss (typically containing adsorbents like kaolin), and assorted probiotics and prebiotics. However, in Stan’s case, we’re not just looking at slowing down gut transit time and resolving a diarrhoeal episode. We want to support the intestine for its next insult as his holiday diet is repeatedly changed. For this we need a more sophisticated formulation, and one that can be used for a more prolonged course than a standard 3-day course.
YuDIGEST – and the fast-acting version, YuDIGEST Plus – are designed to support and optimise gut health. Whilst it may not be exciting, good gut support is important. The key components have very specific functions.
Prebiotics are critically important – by altering the fermentation substrates available to the gut microflora so as to inhibit potentially pathogenic, and support commensal, bacterial growth (4). Prebiotics such as MOS are also directly inhibitory to pathogenic bacterial strains, helping to rebalance the gut flora and prevent dysbiosis.
Secondly, the probiotic Enterococcus faecium (200 million colony forming units per YuDIGEST tablet). Repopulation of the gut with commensal bacteria is not the aim here – it’s fairly well established now that the vast majority of probiotic strains do not colonise the intestine (2). However, they do inhibit the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria, blocking proliferation and elaboration of enterotoxins – vital for supporting the gut in a state of early dysbiosis (3).
An absorbant/adsorbent is useful as well – not just to firm up faeces by absorbing water, but also to adsorb any enterotoxins that are present. However, instead of kaolin we use montmorillonite, which has roughly 20 times the adsordative capacity of kaolin.
Finally, however, dysbiosis may be the cause, but the effect on the patient is due to irritation of or damage to the intestinal mucosa. Loss of the protective mucin lining and failure of the mucosal barrier are key factors in digestive disorders, so our formulation contains the essential amino acid threonine. The evidence has become compelling that threonine is essential to maintaining mucosal integrity and mucin synthesis (5)(6).
So what can we expect for Stan? Well, an improvement in faecal consistency, averting progression to full blown dysbiotic gastroenteritis, and (above all) from his owner’s perspective, a significant reduction in flatulence.
Of course, we don’t have to wait until he develops a digestive disorder. Now is the chance to get ahead of the game and start supplementing the diet of your greedier patients in the run up to Christmas. If we can stabilise and support Stan’s digestive function before the dramatic dietary changes of the holiday season, there’s every chance you can avoid unpleasant digestive upsets, and have grateful owners instead.
Merry Christmas everyone (and especially to all the Stans and their loving owners out there)!
(1) Stavisky J, Radford AD, Gaskell R, Dawson S, German A, Parsons B, Clegg S, Newman J, Pinchbeck G (2011) “A case–control study of pathogen and lifestyle risk factors for diarrhoea in dogs”, Preventive Veterinary Medicine, Volume 99, Issues 2–4, pp. 185-192
(2) Pilla R, Suchodolski JS (2020) “The Role of the Canine Gut Microbiome and Metabolome in Health and Gastrointestinal Disease”, Frontiers in Veterinary Science 6:498
(3) Hanchi H, Mottawea W, Sebei K, Hammami R. (2018) “The Genus Enterococcus: Between Probiotic Potential and Safety Concerns-An Update”, Frontiers in Microbiology, 9:1791
(4) Carlson JL, Erickson JM, Lloyd BB, Slavin JL (2018) “Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber”, Current Developments in Nutrition, 2(3)