Dog Intestinal Illness
The same kinds of troubles may occur in a dog’s intestines as those we find afflicting the esophagus and stomach. The intestinal lining, however, is so delicate, studded as it is with microscopic villi, that it requires less irritation to damage it. A dog’s intestine is approximately five times as long as the dog, and in that ten or fifteen feet a great many things can happen.
Evidence of pain, excretion of foul feces, vomiting, and fever are all symptoms of enteritis inflammation of the intestinal lining but it is not always easy to determine the exact diagnosis or cause.
From a study of the feces, however, one can tell several things about the condition of the intestine. Feces may be residues of undigested food. If they are, then one can tell whether the food is being properly digested. Feces may also be only wastes from the intestine and stomach. Or feces may be and usually are a mixture of the two as well as billions of helpful bacteria.
If undigested bones are found, pieces of meat, or food ingredients in their original form, something is wrong. If by using a microscope, you find worm eggs, then you know the dog has worms. Or if tapeworm segments appear on the feces, tapeworms are present. If a microscopic examination shows pieces of the intestinal lining, some part of the intestine has been injured or eroded and has sloughed off. This is, needless to say, an indication of serious trouble.
If you find brown, partly digested blood, we know an injury exists well up in the intestine; whereas if the blood is bright red, it comes from down in the lower part, probably from the colon. If the stool is especially evil-smelling, gray, and sticky, insufficient bile is being secreted by the liver, or the bile duct is plugged, and the trouble outside of the intestines. If the stool is fatty it is a pancreatic problem.
Occasionally, but rarely, the intestines of dogs twist and knot and preclude the passage of food. Sometimes a dog will have a hernia and a loop of the intestine will pass into it, become filled with stool, and become useless.
In one four-month-old puppy, a peculiar lump developed just beside the loin and a fetid odor rose from the ooze which seeped from the opening in the lump. The tip of a wire could be felt at this point. When pulled out, it turned out to be an eight-inch piece of wire used to seal freight cars. The pup had eaten the wire and passed it into the intestines, where it had made a fistula through the skin. Yet the dog had never missed a meal. The intestines become more amazing as one understands them better.
Foods taken after there has been intestinal damage must be soft; do not feed the dog bone or bran, which can scratch the soft intestinal lining. Bone chips also irritate it. Meat, cheese, and milk are largely digested and have little residue. Boiled milk, hard-boiled eggs, and soda crackers all tend to be constipating; they can be given when there is diarrhea but should be avoided if the stools are firm. Glucose, in the form of corn syrup or as dextrose powder dissolved in water or milk, makes excellent food and is quickly assimilated. It is an incomplete diet to be sure but is valuable both as a form of energy and because it tends to prevent dehydration. Dogs often can retain it when they vomit any other food.
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