The digestive system is all organs that take in and process food. The process of digestion begins at the mouth and the esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines, rectum and anus are involved. As food is taken in to the mouth and chewed, the enzymes which are in saliva begin to break it down chemically. Then the food is swallowed to the stomach where further breakdown occurs. the nutrients are absorbed as the food passes through the intestines and the waste product is eliminated through the anus. Digestion provides the nutrients and balances the fluid and electrolytes that are need to maintain the body. There are four functions of the digestive system: digestion, nutrient absorption, motility, which is the movement of foodstuffs through the digestive tract, and the elimination of the waste product in the form of feces. For a veterinarian treating a digestive problem, it is first important to identify which part of the digestive system is affected. The vet must then determine the cause and the appropriate treatment.
Excessive drooling, diarrhea, constipation, appetite loss, vomiting, regurgitating, bleeding, bloating, abdominal pain, shock and dehydration can all be signs of disease in the digestive system. The signs and symptoms exhibited by the dog are ways to determine where the affected area is and what type of disease it is. Diseases which affect the mouth, esophagus, teeth or jaw most usually have symptoms such as biting, chewing and swallowing in abnormal ways. A pet who has vomiting may be suffering from the lining of the stomach or intestines being inflamed, which is also known as gastroenteritis. This can be caused by infection or some sort or irritation. Vomiting can also be a symptom of kidney disease which is not related to the digestive system.
Diarrhea is often a symptom of digestive disorders, but it can be caused by many things. An excessive amount of watery diarrhea can be linked to hyper-secretion. Hyper-secretion is a condition which causes an abnormal amount of fluid to be secreted into the intestines. This condition can be caused by a bacterial infection. However, if the nutriments are not properly absorbed into the intestines, which is known as malabsorption, diarrhea can occur. This can be caused by a virus such as canine parvovirus, coronavirus or rotavirus. Malabsorption can also be caused by a defect in the intestines which would restrict the intestines ability to absorb liquids. It could also be a result of a defect in the secretions of the pancreas which are needed for effective digestion. There have also been rare cases of diarrhea in newborn pups as result of an inability to digest the lactose found in milk. Extreme cases of diarrhea can cause shock as the diarrhea can create an electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. This is because large amounts of fluid are lost through diarrhea.
Another sign of digestive problems is changes in the fecal matter. Any changes in the frequency, consistency or color of the feces can be an indication of digestive disease. Black feces with a tar like consistency can be a sign of bleeding in the small intestine or stomach. Straining while attempting to pass feces can be an indication of inflammation of the anus and rectum. Bloating, which is also known as abdominal distention can be a build up of gas, fluid or food which has accumulated due to decreased muscle activity. The muscles in this area would normally move food along the digestive tract but if this does not happen it can cause an accumulation of partially digested foodstuffs. An abdominal distention can also be a result of an obstruction, for example a foreign object, over eating or intussusception, which is when one part of the intestines fold into another part of the intestines, similar to a collapsible telescope.
Abdominal pain can vary in terms of how severe the pain is, and is a result of inflammation or stretching of the abdominal membranes. The dog can react to the pain in different ways depending on how severe the pain is. The dog may whine, pace the floor or adopt abnormal postures such as keeping the front legs stretched with the chest on the floor and the hind legs raised.
When taking a dog with suspected abdominal problems to the vet, the owner must give a detailed, accurate and complete history of the dog. This needs to include the age of the dog, the symptoms, when the symptoms started, any past medical problems, and the current diet of the dog. When the history is combined with an examination from the vet, it can reveal the cause of the problem. The vet may begin the examination by inspecting the mouth and abdomen. Visually looking at the mouth and abdomen can show changes in size or shape. The vet may then palpate the abdomen. This means that the vet may feel the abdomen for shape, size and the position of the organs. This may also be done through the rectum. The vet may also use a stethoscope to listen for any abnormal sounds coming from the abdomen. The vet may also need to look at the dog’s feces. The owner should ask whether a fecal sample is required before bringing the dog to the vet. If in any doubt, it can be a good idea to bring one anyway.
The vet may want to order other tests to find the cause, but this depends on the examination that the vet performed. Other tests can include blood and fecal laboratory tests, x-rays, ultrasonography or an endoscopy. The blood and fecal tests will help determine if the problem is related to a bacteria or virus. Blood tests can also show if the problem is related to an absorption or mal-digestion issue. X-rays can help find if there is a foreign object in the abdomen. An ultrasound can help examine the organs. An endoscopy is when a small camera is snaked through the mouth. This is done to visually examine the esophagus, stomach duodenum,colon and rectum. A sample of fluid may be needed. It can be collected using a long, hollow needle. It may be necessary to perform a biopsy of the liver or intestinal tissue. A biopsy is when a sample of tissue is taken and analysis microscopically.