How do the various life stages – from puppy to adult to senior – affect digestion?

The biggest problem puppies have is the “puppy diarrhea.” Vaccinations, diet, rawhides, treats or parasites can cause this condition.

Discuss this thoroughly with the veterinarian who may suggest feeding alternatives. Basically, you’ll want a high quality food that meets all nutritional needs and is not full of fillers and preservatives. Also, you might consider feeding your pet smaller meals several times a day, rather than one or two big meals.

If your puppy is undergoing a bout, feed her a bland meal such as white rice with boiled chicken breast or boiled hamburger (watch the fat!), supplemented with canned or fresh pumpkin. Make sure your puppy is not eating any trash, trinkets or household items, including cat food and cat litter.

An adult dog, especially if it’s a smaller breed, might have a sensitive stomach, with an occasional bout of vomiting or diarrhea or even a sore abdomen. These can be caused by abrupt changes in diet, overeating, getting into trash or household items or pancreatitis (a severe liver inflammation caused by excessive fat, and often seen around the holidays.) You will need to monitor this because dehydration can come on suddenly; if the vomiting and diarrhea goes on for more than two days, consult your veterinarian.

Senior dogs, although they are less likely to develop stomach and intestinal disorders, do tend to become less active and constipated. They may require softer foods because of dental problems, develop obesity, might experience side effects from medications and, just as worrisome, can lose weight very quickly.

It’s best to feed them several smaller meals a day and perhaps switch over to a food specially formulated for seniors; they tend to have lighter calorie loads and more fiber such as beet fiber. If they are doing well on their existing food, you may want to keep it, but add some 100-percent pure pumpkin for additional fiber (and dogs love the taste.)

Needless to say, light or moderate exercise on a daily basis should be encouraged.

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