7 ways to improve digestion in your pet
You might be feeding your pet a great diet. Full of good quality proteins, minerals and anti-oxidants. The adage goes 'you are what you eat' but my Chinese medicine professor refuted that statement and used to say - 'you are what you don't excrete'. Your pet needs to be able to digest and absorb their food in order for the lovely nutrients you are feeding to be assimilated in the body for good health. Otherwise you get a lot of expensive poop.
Increase stomach acid
Stomach acid is vital for digestion and absorption of nutrients. Many important nutrients rely on healthy stomach acid levels for absorption such as zinc, vitamin B12 and iron. Indirectly good stomach acid also promotes protein, fat and fat soluble vitamin absorption. Some foods that can naturally improve stomach acid production include: ginger, apple cider vinegar, bone broth and small amounts of good quality salt.
Add digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes break food down into smaller components that the body can absorb. As pets age the ability to produce digestive enzymes declines. Some pets with poor digestion may also have issues from an earlier age. Adding a digestive enzyme supplement will help to improve digestion when the body has reduced capacity to make its own.
Chop or puree foods for easier digestion
If feeding homemade foods the greater the surface area of food that digestive enzymes have to work on, the more effective your pets digestive enzymes will be at breaking down the food. Chopping food finely, grinding foods with a hard to digest coating such as seeds and pureeing vegetables to break down cells walls will improve digestion.
Don't feed cold food
The digestive enzymes in your pets digestive tract work best at body temperature. If you feed your pet food cold from the fridge, or semi-thawed frozen foods your pets digestive system may not work as efficiently. In chinese medicine cold foods also damage digestion leading to 'damp' accumulation in the system (you might notice more loose stool, mucous in stool or greasy hair coat). Adding some warmed bone broth to the food prior to serving is ideal (for a recipe see here). You could also microwave for a few seconds or take out of the fridge a few minutes prior to serving.
Cook food for easier digestion
Pets with compromised or aging digestive systems will often do better on cooked rather than raw food diets. Cooking starts the process of breaking down nutrients. For very compromised digestion slow cooked meals are ideal whilst the gastrointestinal tract is healing.
Add digestive spices
Digestive spices such as cardamon, coriander seed, fennel and ginger can assist with digestion. These are mostly quite warming so if your pet feels the heat easily go easy with them. I generally suggest using about 1/3 the amount of spice that you would use yourself when cooking for dogs, and a tiny pinch or leave out for cats.
Serve in a low stress environment
As stress shuts down the digestive system feed your pet in a low stress environment. This may mean not near other pets, or away from the running washing machine.
Finally, serving the food with love and care imparts good qi into the food and makes everyone feel good!
*Please note all pets should be fed a balanced diet. If you are preparing a homemade diet you need to ensure your pet is getting all the nutrients they need to thrive. Not all suggestions are suitable in certain medical conditions.