The Christmas Digestive Meltdown: A Proactive Approach to Supporting Digestive Health over the Festive Period
As we all know, the festive season rings itself in with digestive issues. Dogs and cats increasingly present with apparent gastrointestinal disorders. And of course, dietary indiscretion is a key factor in this! However, in addition to the ubiquitous “Christmas party toxins” newsletters and emails, there are a number of underused avenues to help reduce the incidence of loose stools and poor digestive health.
Causes of poor digestive health in the festive period
Leaving aside the issue of direct toxicity, there are a number of factors that we can consider to impact on the general health of a dog’s or a cat’s digestive tract.
Change in diet
Inevitably, as clinicians we tend to focus on the immediate and high-risk threats – chocolate, raisins, pancreatitis-inducing high fat meals, and so on. However, it’s also useful to remember that as the human members of our clients’ families start to relax their eating habits in the run up to Christmas, that tends to spill over into significant dietary change in dogs and cats. Not necessarily feeding inappropriate or toxic materials, but nevertheless, a sudden or dramatic change in diet can easily result in poorer gut health, as a result of changes in gut microflora (1).
As we’re all aware, this tends to result in loose stools and un-Christmassy emissions!
There has long been a recognition that stress in dogs and cats tends to lead to changes in gut health. However, recent research is supporting the idea that stress may induce changes in the canine microbiome (2)(3), potentially resulting in unwanted alterations to gut health and stool stability.
And of course, the festive season is highly stressful to our dogs and cats: changes in routine (which themselves may impact gut health directly as well), changes in behaviour of owners and family members, additional visitors and guests, changes to furniture and room allocation, strange scary/exciting Christmas decorations… and that’s before we get to the manic excitement of Christmas itself, and the fireworks of New Year’s Eve. All of these are potent stressors. And again, it isn’t surprising that, amongst all the other stress-responses we see, digestive upsets are not uncommon.
In an ideal world, of course, all our clients would be aware of these problems, and already taking action in advance. However, while we have definitely managed to get the message home on chocolate toxicity, and we’re getting there on raisins, these more subtle issues are a long way towards the back of most clients’ minds – this year especially, as we come out of the pandemic.
So how can you help our clients to help their pets? What can your practice do to promote a safe, healthy and happy Christmas for all the family?
Warn and educate your clients
We’re sure you’re already doing this for the toxic risks: but how about an e-newsletter, sent out in early December, to raise the wider issues of stress and gut health? How about a section in the Christmas newsletter? Or a notice in reception? These are all useful approaches to get the message across… and hopefully save some households from unwanted Christmas “decorations”!
Model good practice
In person, of course – social connection is much more powerful than an authoritarian “thou shalt not”. In fact, recent psychological research demonstrates that a positive emotional state makes us more able to process new information (4). However, the number of clients you can connect with in person is inevitably limited (especially when practices are as overworked as they are right now).
Enhance gut health
Minimising causes of poor gut health is great. But let’s be honest – people aren’t going to stop giving the dog a Christmas treat or the cat a special meal. If we can persuade them to stick to dog or cat food, we’ll be doing a great job!
So this is the ideal opportunity to actively promote good gut health, with products designed to balance the microbiome, support the intestinal barrier, and enhance normal gut function. YuDIGEST contains probiotics to support the gut in dysbiotic states (5), and prebiotics to rebalance the microbiome and suppress potential pathogens (6)(7) as well as supporting the intestinal barrier system (8)(9).
Manage stress, not just stressors
But here’s the really key point: addressing gut health alone is only one side of the problem. While we can try to minimise stressors, most clients aren’t going to cancel Christmas just in case it upsets the cat or gives the dog runny poos. This is where YuCALM comes in – it is synergistic with YuDIGEST in this context, and they can safely be used together.
Brand new research supports this, suggesting that the synergistic actions of probiotics and prebiotics (as in YuDIGEST) and fish proteins (as in YuCALM) can reduce stress AND reduce the dietary consequences of that stress (2).
Every animal needs a different approach to get them through the stressful Christmas period – but there are some really powerful tools out there to help us to help them!
To all practices and clients, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from all at Lintbells!
- Suchodolski, JS (2016) “Diagnosis and interpretation of intestinal dysbiosis in dogs and cats”, The Veterinary Journal, Vol 215, pp. 30-37, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2016.04.011
- Venable EB, Bland SD, Holscher HD, Swanson KS (2016) “Effects of Air Travel Stress on the Canine Microbiome: A Pilot Study”, Int J Vet Health Sci Res. 4(6), pp. 132-139.
- Cannas, S, Tonini, B, Belà, B, Di Prinzio, R, Pignataro, G, Di Simone, D, Gramenzi, A (2021) “Effect of a novel nutraceutical supplement (Relaxigen Pet dog) on the fecal microbiome and stress-related behaviors in dogs: A pilot study”, Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Vol 42, pp. 37-47, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2020.09.002
- Gupta, R, Hur, Y, and Lavie, N (2016) “Distracted by pleasure: effects of positive versus negative valence on emotional capture under load” Emotion 16, 328–337
- 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
- Swanson et al. (2002) “Supplemental Fructooligosaccharides and Mannanoligosaccharides influence immune function, ileal and total tract nutrient digestibilities, microbial populations and concentrations of protein catabolites in the large bowel of dogs” J Nutr. 2002 May;132(5):980-9.
- Middelbos IS, Godoy MR, Fastinger ND, Fahey GC Jr. (2007) “A dose-response evaluation of spray-dried yeast cell wall supplementation of diets fed to adult dogs: effects on nutrient digestibility, immune indices, and fecal microbial populations”, J Anim Sci. 2007 Nov;85(11):3022-32.
- Propst et al. A dose-response experiment evaluating the effects of oligofructose and inulin on nutrient digestibility , stool quality, and fecal protein catabolites in healthy adult dogs. J Anim Sci. 2003 Dec;81(12):3057-66.
- Barry et al. Low-level fructan supplementation of dogs enhances nutrient digestion and modifies stool metabolite concentrations, but does not alter faecal microbiota populations. J Anim Sci. 2009 Oct;87(10):3244-52.
- Mao X, Zeng X, Qiao S, Wu G, Li D (2011) Specific roles of threonine in intestinal mucosal integrity and barrier function, Frontiers in Bioscience (Elite Ed). 3:1192-200
- Kim S, Jo K, Hong KB, Han SH, Suh HJ. (2019) GABA and l-theanine mixture decreases sleep latency and improves NREM sleep, Pharmaceutical Biology 57(1)