Digestive Health

Healthy digestion is well known to be the cornerstone of vibrant health. When we, and our pets, have healthy digestion we are able to absorb all the goodness provided by our diets and function at our very best. A healthy digestive system means our pets have fresh breath, plenty of energy, firm stools, regular
elimination and a good appetite.
Sometimes though, even the healthiest of pets can get an upset tummy. Dogs, especially, are well known for eating things they shouldn’t, from spoiled and fatty foods and bones to tennis balls and shoes – some dogs will eat anything. And occasionally, cats, although more selective than dogs, can get an upset tummy from dietary indiscretion, especially through hunting.

The Digestive System

There are a number of organs that make up the digestive system and they include the stomach, liver, pancreas and small and large intestine or colon. Each organ has a specific task to perform in order to ensure that your pet remains healthy.


The stomach is shaped like a sac and lies between the esophagus and the small intestine. The main role of the stomach is to receive food and initiate the digestion process. The stomach contains digestive enzymes, which start breaking down food before being passed onto the small intestine. Cats are carnivores and the acid in their stomachs is much stronger than in humans or dogs in order to allow breakdown of an exclusively meat based diet. Dogs, like us, are omnivores and are designed to eat both a meat and plant based diet so the acid in their stomach is a little milder.

Small intestine:

The small intestine is a tube like organ, which lies between the stomach and the large intestine. Partially digested food from the stomach enters the small intestine and this is where chemical breakdown of food occurs. Food is broken down into smaller parts so that nutrients can be absorbed by the body and used by the animal. The small intestine is super long – on average it will be approximately two and a half times the length of your pet! The small intestine also supports your pet’s immune system and contains “good” bacteria, which help to keep your pet healthy.

How can I help my pet with an upset tummy?

If you are concerned about your pet’s condition the first thing to do is take him to the vet for a full check-over. Your vet will be able to determine if any tests need to be done, like blood tests or x-rays or if your pet is ok to be treated symptomatically. Fortunately, many digestive issues are temporary and resolve themselves in a day or two. If your vet suggests symptomatic treatment some of the following may be helpful natural remedies and practices for an upset tummy.

Rest the tummy

Resting your pet’s digestive system can be one of the first things to do. Just giving the digestive system a chance to settle may be all that’s needed. Often 12-24 hours of no food can help to reset your pet’s digestion. Fasting any longer than this should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Keep ’em hydrated

Making sure your pet is well hydrated is especially important when there are any tummy upsets. Your vet may suggest an electrolyte solution or powder that can be mixed in your pet’s regular drinking water. Coconut water is also a great natural way to hydrate your pet!

Observe your pet to make sure they are drinking good amounts. If you are concerned that your pet is not drinking sufficiently this is a sign to take him to the vet for a checkover.

Support the immune system

The digestive system contains the largest proportion of immune cells in the body and constitutes almost 70% of the entire immu ne system. That number is staggering and what it tells us is that we need to support a healthy immune system in order to maintain a healthy digestive system.

In the small intestine the immune system forms the first line of defense against foreign pathogens like bacteria and viruses. There are loads of things you can do to support your pet’s immune system and we have written a handy guide which can be found here.

Supplements such as Vivamune are also a vital way to support your pet’s immune system on a daily basis. Vivamune contains a pure source of concentrated, naturally occurring oxidized plant carotenoids. That is certainly a mouthful but essentially

Vivamune contains all the good stuff from orange vegetables such as carrots. Vivamune has been shown to support a healthy immune system. When our pets are healthy on the inside it sure does show on the outside.

Vivamune has been used widely across the US by pet parents who frequently report how Vivamune has helped maintain their pet’s healthy digestion. We have a few of their stories below.


I have a 4.5 year old Golden who is overweight and has a very “poofy” coat. I am now 4 days away from finishing our first bag of your supplement and Jazzy has definitely got more pep in her step and her skin and coat look great.


Ellie is a very active dog (hyper-active would be a better description), and as she is a Border Collie Cross, she sheds much more than a pure bred BC. Usually her hair is thick and very soft, however during the Summer her hair falls out excessively over a 6-8 week period and the remaining coat is very coarse and rough (similar to that of a Jack Russell); she also suffers occasionally with digestive disorders and can only tolerate home-made dog food and natural treats. Within just 10-14 days, Ellie’s coat is now almost as soft and shiny as her previous coat (unlike the usual coarse texture). Her bowel movements are regulated and have been consistent since trying the Vivamune.

Large intestine (or colon):

The large intestine is the last part of the digestive system. It’s main role is to absorb water, salt and some fat-soluble vitamins before the stools are eliminated. The colon plays a very important role in making sure our pets remain hydrated.
There are two other organs that play vital roles in the digestive system, the liver and the pancreas:


The liver is a vital organ – without it we can’t survive. It performs such a wide range of functions which include detoxification and making proteins and enzymes necessary for digestion.


The pancreas is a great multi-tasker! It is both a digestive organ and also an endocrine organ (meaning it produces hormones). From a digestive stance it secretes digestive enzymes, which help digestion and absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. These enzymes help breakdown carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Bland Diet

Once your pet is eating food again it is best to offer a bland diet so that the digestive system doesn’t have to work too hard to process food. Your veterinarian can offer you a prescription diet or you can cook chicken and rice for your dog, or just plain chicken for your cat. The chicken should not be fatty. Offer this for 3-4 days until your pet returns to normal. Once your pet’s digestive system is functioning normally you can start to reintroduce his regular diet but do it slowly. One suggestion is as follows:

Bland Diet Suggestions
Day One – ¾ chicken and rice, ¼ regular food
Day Two – ½ chicken and rice, ½ regular food
Day Three – ¼ chicken and rice, ¾ regular food
Day Four – back to regular food exclusively

Keeping it Natural !

Natural pet products can be a great way to maintain healthy digestion in our pets, safeguarding our pets overall health.


A healthy population of “good” bacteria in the intestine is essential for optimal health. Good bacteria perform many functions including converting food
intonutrients and assisting in the digestion of food. They also compete with “bad” bacteria and make sure that these potentially harmful bacteria do not take over which may result in illness in our pets.

Probiotics are a safe and effective way to ensure adequate populations of healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. There are different types of healthy bacteria that can be given to pets; the most common healthy bacteria in probiotics are

Lactobacillus and Acidophilus. Kefir yogurt is also a good source of probiotics. It’s best to check with your vet which is the most suitable probiotic for your dog or cat.

Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm is a tree and it is the inner bark which is used as a natural therapy. It is an emmolient which provides soothing protection to the lining of the intestinal tract. It can also be given as a bland food when mixed with water when you are reintroducing food to your pet with an upset tummy.


Ginger is a well-known home remedy for upset tummies and can help both us and our pets. Ginger’s root contains natural substances which can help relax the
intestinal tract and may relieve the symptoms of an upset tummy. For pets making a tea can be the easiest way to give ginger, here’s a recipe:

Ginger tea – Grate 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger root and gently simmer it with ½ cup of coconut milk for about 10 minutes. Store this in a glass or mug for easy use. Give 1 to 3 teaspoons every 1-2 hours.


Steps to avoiding upset tummies

In order to avoid upset tummies in the first place the following tips may be useful:

  • Prevent your pet from eating spoiled food
  • Avoid fatty foods
  • Avoid feeding your pet if he is stressed or excited
  • Feed a diet approved by your veterinarian or seek advice from an animal nutritionist
  • Do not feed people food! My Dad is the worst for feeding croissants and whipped cream to our dogs, it’s a nice treat and the dogs love it but they may pay for it later!
  • Avoid rich, processed or sweet foods especially over the holidays when it is so tempting to give dogs a “treat”.
  • Do not feed chocolate – this is very dangerous in pets. If you think your pet has eaten chocolate call your vet
  • Maintain a healthy diet, use natural products and supplements and live an active lifestyle.

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