Malabsorption In Dogs: What You Should Know About Nutrient Absorption

Sep 17, 2023

Intestinal malabsorption in dogs.

Sounds like a Harry Potter spell, doesn’t it?

It’s not, though. It’s basically when, for whatever reason, your dog isn’t absorbing enough nutrients from its food. And there’s nothing basic about that because dog nutrient absorption is SO important to their overall immunity and health. After all, food is fuel, and if your dog’s nutrient absorption isn’t optimal? You’ll see it manifest in lots of different ways.

What is nutrient absorption in dogs?

Canine nutrient absorption is just what it sounds like–it’s the absorption of nutrients from the food you give your dog. Every dog food is made to supply your dog with the appropriate vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and nutrients.

But more often than not, your dog isn’t absorbing all the nutrients it should, and they’re suffering from the effects of nutritional intestinal malabsorption in dogs. That’s the fancy way of saying they’re just not absorbing the nutrients from the food you feed, and that means they’re not fueling their bodies appropriately. At its base definition, intestinal malabsorption in dogs is the lack of nutrient absorption in dogs based on some chronic issue with their small intestine and how it’s preventing proper nutrient absorption.

What is malabsorption in dogs?

That’s why it’s important to take a moment to look deeper at malabsorption in dogs. This issue can lead to a series of health complications, including chronic diarrhea, weight loss, inflammatory bowel disease and nutrient deficiencies, which could affect your dog’s overall health and vitality. Not to mention, chronic diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease are no fun for you to clean up after, either.

Malabsorption can occur due to many reasons, such as small intestinal disease, inflammatory bowel, liver disease, pancreas issues or parasitic infections. It can also result from bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), interrupting the normal nutrient absorption process.

What can cause malabsorption in dogs?

When your dog isn’t getting all the nutrients from his food that they’re supposed to get, there are several other reasons this could be. Most all deal with your dog’s gut health and whether or not the gut is in poor shape. When your dog’s gut is not healthy, it’ll suffer from an overgrowth of bacteria that line the intestinal walls. This will absolutely prevent intestines from absorbing the nutrients from food, and fueling his body.

Sometimes, this will start even with the food you give your dog. Even the best and most expensive foods are often highly processed. As a result, many of the nutrients may be harder to absorb, which means your dog only gets some of what you think he’s getting from that expensive food. If your dog’s gut is unhealthy, this is often when diarrhea occurs, which prevents them from getting maximum nutrition from their food because it just runs through their digestive system too quickly.

An unhealthy dog gut also means that your dog may not create enough digestive enzymes to help break the food you give him down more for optimal absorption.

Other times, poor canine nutrient absorption can happen because their intestinal lining is inflamed. Whether it’s a food sensitivity or allergic reaction or even an infection or internal trauma–if there is inflammation in your dog’s intestinal lining, they’ll not absorb nutrients appropriately.

In some instances, lack of nutrients in dogs can be more chronic and therefore, impacting, and can result in canine intestinal malabsorption.

Understanding the underlying causes of malabsorption can be the key to effectively managing and preventing this condition. Certain breeds, like the German shepherd, are more prone to malabsorption issues. They’ve been known to have a predisposition to chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal tract conditions, which can lead to malabsorption.

In addition to breed predispositions, other factors can lead to malabsorption in dogs. These include:

  1. Infections: Viral and fungal infections can damage the intestinal lining, disrupting the process of nutrient absorption.
  2. Pancreatic Enzymes Deficiency: Insufficient pancreatic enzymes can impede the digestion and absorption of nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract.
  3. Dietary Sensitivity: As we’ve said, some dogs might have an adverse reaction to certain types of food, which lead to malabsorption issues.
  4. Chronic Disease and Inflammation: Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease can cause chronic inflammation, affecting the normal functioning of the intestinal absorption process.

Idiopathic villous atrophy in their small intestines (that’s a mouthful!) can also cause malabsorption in dogs. Villi are impossible to see with the human eye, and they are the absorption surface of your dog’s bowel, little hairlike structures that bring the food into the wall. If they’re doing poorly, canine nutritional absorption is also suffering.

If your dog suffers from chronic canine leaky gut (canine dysbiosis), their small intestine can be overridden with non-beneficial bacteria, preventing proper absorption. Fungus or parasites can also cause intestinal malabsorption, as can shortened bowels (bowel portions removed due to illness or damage) and cancer. Bottom line? If your dog’s gut is not healthy, for whatever reason, they’re not going to be getting all the nutrients they need.

How do I know if my dog absorbs nutrients?

If your dog suffers from an unhealthy gut, it’s not absorbing nutrients properly. That’ll show itself in a hoard of different symptoms. Some include:

Any of these symptoms might be a great indicator that your dog is not getting all the nutrients it needs from the food you give him, and you’ll want to be sure to supplement appropriately.

Diagnosis of Malabsorption in Dogs

If you suspect your dog might be suffering from malabsorption, the first step may be to seek professional help. Your vet may recommend various diagnostic tests to pinpoint the exact cause of the intestinal malabsorption. Here are some of the potential diagnostic methods they may use:

  1. Fecal Cultures: This helps identify bacterial or parasitic infections that might be affecting your dog’s digestive tract, specifically canine intestinal malabsorption.
  2. Ultrasound: A non-invasive method to get a visual representation of the dog’s internal organs, helping to detect any abnormalities.
  3. Endoscopy and Biopsies: These methods involve using specialized instruments to view the internal sections of the gastrointestinal tract and collect tissue samples for further analysis.
  4. Full Thickness Bowel Biopsies: In more severe cases, this type of intestinal biopsy may be necessary to gather detailed information about the state of the intestinal lining.

How can I help my dog absorb nutrients?

When it comes to dog intestinal malabsorption issues, the good news is that you can usually do something about it pretty easily. Recovery often includes a holistic approach that combines dietary modifications with medical intervention as needed. Here are some tips to help your dog’s intestinal malabsorption:

  1. Dietary Modification: Opting for the best food for malabsorption in dogs is crucial. This might involve transitioning to a diet that is easier on their digestive system, potentially alleviating symptoms of diarrhea and weight loss.
  2. Support and Care: Providing a loving and supportive environment for your dog during this time can significantly affect their recovery process.
  3. Medication: If needed, administer any prescribed medication diligently as advised by the vet to tackle underlying diseases that might be causing the malabsorption.
  4. Regular Vet Visits: Keeping up with regular vet appointments will help monitor your dog’s progress and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Nutrition: The key element of malabsorption in dogs

Malabsorption can take a toll on your dog’s body, sapping them of vital nutrients and energy. That’s why choosing the right food becomes essential to their recovery journey and overall health. When it comes to selecting the best food for malabsorption in dogs, your vet may help guide you in your dog’s nutrient absorption needs.

Generally, foods that are easy to digest and rich in essential nutrients can aid in recovery. These might include:

  1. High-Quality Protein Sources: Foods that contain high-quality proteins to support muscle maintenance and overall health are always list-toppers.
  2. Fiber-Rich Diet: Incorporating a fiber-rich diet can assist in regulating bowel movements, potentially reducing symptoms of chronic diarrhea.
  3. Easily Digestible Carbohydrates: Choose foods that have easily digestible carbohydrates to prevent further gastrointestinal tract irritation and help prevent weight loss.
  4. Supplements: Depending on the severity of the malabsorption, your vet might recommend certain supplements to compensate for the nutrients your dog is not absorbing adequately. Of course, we believe that daily supplementation may help optimize nutrient absorption in the first place.

The importance of good gut health in dogs

A healthy gut is the cornerstone of overall well-being, not just for humans but for our furry best friends as well. Good dog gut health is critical to ensuring your dog can absorb the nutrients they need from their food efficiently. This is what keeps them healthy, energetic and happy. A well-functioning digestive system serves as the first line of defense against various illnesses, as it’s home to all the beneficial bacteria that help ward off infections and maintain a robust immune response.

Fiber: Facilitating optimal nutrient absorption

The role of fiber in ensuring the smooth functioning of your dog’s digestive system cannot be stressed enough! It helps in maintaining a healthy balance of gut flora. That’s crucial in preventing bacterial overgrowth and other gastrointestinal tract conditions. With a fiber-rich diet, your dog forms nice and firm poops as waste goes through the digestive tract, reducing the chances of diarrhea. The perfect blend of soluble and insoluble fiber may significantly help manage and prevent malabsorption issues in dogs.

When incorporating fiber into your dog’s diet, opting for high-quality sources backed by science and proven to help is essential. Ingredients like miscanthus grass, pumpkin, and flaxseed are all excellent ingredients and why we use them in Perfect Poop. They’re vital in promoting optimal nutrient absorption and fostering a healthy and happy dog.

Bernie’s Perfect Poop and Gut Health

Incorporating supplements like Bernie’s Perfect Poop s a step in the right gut health direction. We created it for our own dogs and formulated it with high-quality ingredients that are known to foster optimal gut health and potentially help malabsorption in dogs. We looked for the cleanest and best pre-and probiotics, digestive enzymes and fiber sources:

  1. Miscanthus grass: One of the standout ingredients in Bernie’s Perfect Poop is miscanthus grass. This unique ingredient is known for its high fiber content, which supports regular bowel movements and promotes a healthy digestive system and fewer situations of chronic diarrhea. It acts as a prebiotic, helping beneficial bacteria in the gut grow, and that’s vital in combatting things like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, a common cause of malabsorption.
  2. Pumpkin and Flaxseed: Bernie’s Perfect Poop also contains pumpkin and flaxseed, both excellent dietary fiber sources. Pumpkin is well-known for its ability to soothe irritated bowels, relieving symptoms associated with malabsorption like chronic diarrhea and weight loss. Flaxseed also offers a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes healthy gut lining and reduces inflammation in the gut.

Being on top of your dog’s gut health is the game-changer when it comes to helping prevent and manage malabsorption in dogs. Adding Bernie’s Perfect Poop to every fiber-rich meal you give can help ensure that their food moves through their system at the perfect speed for optimal nutrient absorption. That’s what helps keep them strong, healthy, and full of energy–for a happier, more fulfilled life!

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