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Digestive Issues in Large Breed Dogs

Digestive Issues in Large Breed Dogs

Veterinarians often notice that larger dogs tend to have more digestive issues, large stools, and watery stools if they are eating commercial dog food. There is an explanation for this! The digestive tracts of large dogs function different than smaller dogs, and this is where the problem occurs.

Digestive Differences Between Small and Large Dogs

If you compare the weight of the intestines in small dogs versus large dogs, there’s a big difference. The weight of the intestines in large dogs makes up about 3% of their entire body weight, while the weight of the intestines in smaller dogs is about 7% of their body. This creates an issue because there is a less intestinal area for digestion and the absorption of nutrients from the food.

When large breed dogs digest food, the food spends more time in the colon, compared to smaller dogs. This gives the bacteria in the colon more opportunity to ferment food products, which increases the by-products that promote water in the colon. The end result is more frequent and watery stools. So what can be done about dog diarrhea and other dog digestive issues? A diet change may help!

Diet Changes for Large Breed Dogs

More Non-Fermentable Fiber

One solution for these digestive issues is providing more non-fermentable fiber in your dog’s diet. The bacteria in the colon use fermentable fiber to produce fats and lactic acid, which causes the intestine contents to draw water into the colon. If you decrease the amount of fermentable fiber in a larger dog’s diet, there will be less water in the colon, which results in a firmer, more formed stool. Grains, as well as fruits and vegetables, are rich in fermentable fiber so avoid giving them to your dog if they have watery stool.

More Digestible Protein

Many large breed dogs have better stool quality when they are fed a higher digestible protein, such as meat. If the first ingredient in your dog’s food is not a meat protein, you should consider switching to a brand that lists meat as the main ingredient. You could also feed your dog a homemade diet that contains highly digestible meat proteins. Easily digestible meat protein sources for dogs include chicken, fish, turkey, beef, and liver.

Less Fermentable Starch

Researchers have found that when the starches in food are less fermentable and more processed, dogs have better stool quality. However, this means that the ingredients have to be exposed to extremely high temperatures during processing, which destroys more nutrients in the food. Common sources of resistant or fermentable starch include high-amylose corn starch, raw potato starch, some legumes, and commercially available starches.

Digestive Enzyme Supplements for Dogs

Giving a digestive enzyme supplement to large breed dogs may be beneficial because digestive enzymes are crucial for helping dogs process food and absorb essential nutrients in food. Total Digest from Thomas Labs® contains probiotics and digestive enzymes for dogs. This digestive enzyme supplement for dogs provides essential enzymes to support a dog’s digestion, nutrient absorption, and better overall health. The formula contains beneficial probiotics for dogs that help restore the natural balance of good bacteria in the digestive tract, which may help with digestive upset, occasional loose stool, gas, and bloating.

If you have a large breed dog that is having digestive issues, you may want to consider making changes to his diet or giving him a dog digestive supplement!

- ref. PetMD; "Why Large Breed Dogs Have Poorer Food Digestion"


The materials and information provided on this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian if you have medical questions concerning diagnosis, treatment, therapy, or medical attention.


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