Stomach | Intestines

How common are gastro-intestinal disorders?

Gastrointestinal disorders are the most common problems in our pets.

How does the gastrointestinal tract work?

Our pets need food to stay alive. However, before the food can be absorbed by the body, it must first be broken down into smaller particles. This degradation of the food and food processing is called digestion and takes place in the gastro-intestinal tract and associated organs like liver and pancreas. Digestion begins in the mouth where the food is grinded by the teeth. The food then comes in the stomach and the small intestines, where nutrients are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. The liver and pancreas produce substances (enzymes), which facilitate the digestion of nutrients. The function of the large bowels is mainly to retract water from the faeces. This keeps the body fluids in balance and makes the faeces solid.

What are the main causes of gastrointestinal disorders?

There are many causes of gastrointestinal symptoms in your pet. The causes can be divided into causes within the gastrointestinal tract and causes outside the gastrointestinal tract (e.g. pancreas and liver problems). Common causes within the gastrointestinal tract are:

Reaction after eating something wrong

In particular dogs eat everything, which gives them regularly gastro-intestinal discomfort. Always watch what your pet eats, as some pets eat products that are toxic (chocolate in dogs). Always consult your veterinarian if you are not sure whether your pet has eaten something poisonous.

Infections with bacteria, viruses or parasites (worms, Giardia)

Infections with parasites are still a common cause of diarrhoea in young animals. Do not forget to worm your dog or cat regularly. Infection by a virus can cause symptoms ranging from mild to very severe (for example with the parvovirus in dogs and cats disease/panleukopenia virus in cats). Fortunately, you can vaccinate your pet against these serious viral diseases, thereby preventing infection. Bacterial infections are also very common, but usually these are not isolated infections (primary infections), but additional infections (secondary infections).

Food sensitivity or food allergy

The immune system of an animal reacts overly violent on normal nutrients with food allergy. Usually the reaction is directed at certain proteins in the diet. The proteins that cause an allergic reaction are called allergens. If an animal with an allergy eats an allergen, the immune system will react with the production of antibodies (IgE) and histamine, which causes the allergic symptoms. Animals with food allergies often need to follow a hypoallergenic diet lifelong.

Autoimmune disease

In some animals the immune system is disturbed in such a way that they react with an inflammatory response on body’s own substances. With an autoimmune disease of the gastrointestinal tract one may experience repeating inflammations of the gastrointestinal tract, which can give serious complaints. An example of an autoimmune disease of the intestines in humans is Crohn's disease.


Cats are very hygienic and lick their fur regularly. By doing this, they swallow al lot of hair, which can accumulate and form so-called hairballs. In most cases, the hairball is just vomited by cats, but sometimes they cause complaints. You can easily avoid this by giving an anti-hairball paste like Kat-a lax or Lax-a-past.

Blockage by a foreign object

Dogs, but also cats, unfortunately eat sometimes indigestible things as glass, wood, plastic etc. When the object is small and not sharp, it sometimes comes out with the faeces. Larger objects can cause a blockage and your pet will be seriously ill in that case. Often these large objects must be removed surgically.

Use of medication

Some medications can cause gastro-intestinal symptoms. Always consult your veterinarian in these cases.

What are the symptoms in gastro-intestinal disorders?

What symptoms your pet shows depends on the type of disorder and which part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected. If the problems reside in the first part of the gastrointestinal tract (the stomach or small intestine), then we often see symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, (watery) diarrhea and anorexia. If the problem resides in the last part of the gastrointestinal tract (the large intestines), then we often see diarrhoea mixed with mucus or blood. The diarrhoea is often less watery in this case and it can even have the consistency of normal faeces. Pressing on the faeces is often observed with thick-bowel problems. It can also occur that larger parts of the gastrointestinal tract are affected, in this case, you will see a combination of the described symptoms.

What can I do if my dog or cat has gastrointestinal symptoms?

It is recommended in case of serious complaints such as persistent/violently vomiting or diarrhoea, blood in the vomit/the stool and with general illness (fever, lethargy), to contact your veterinarian. In these cases treatment with medication is needed. In the less serious cases you can take the following measures:

-Make sure that your pet drinks enough water. It is recommended to offer your pet drinking water several times a day. If your pet has no interest in water, you can try to make the water tastier with bouillon.

-Give small amounts of easily digestible food several times a day. It was advised to let your pet fast before, but it’s not wise to do this. The intestines of your pet need nutrients to be able to recover quickly. By giving small portions of easily digestible food that is specifically developed for gastro-intestinal symptoms, the intestines are supported optimally.

-There are several dietary supplements that may help with gastro-intestinal symptoms. You can use the products Diarsanyl Plus and Finidiar (Forte) in acute diarrhoea. The Iso-gel granules can be used both in acute diarrhoea as in constipation. Laxatract works in constipation. The Viyo drinks for dogs and cats are a prebiotic which helps to increase the natural resistance by stimulating the good bacteria in the intestines.