Constipation On A Raw Diet: A Stop And Go Solution
By Robert Mueller
When it comes to digestive upset, there are three basic symptoms that trigger a pet owner's frantic phone call to my office: diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation. Many new BARFers expect that every bowel movement that their pet has will be of perfect consistency, volume, odor, and regularity... but much like human anatomy, this is not always possible.
There are several factors that can cause a dog’s digestive situation to change. The most common scenario is the consumption a variety of foreign materials. Let me give you an example: I have a Yorkie/Maltese mix named Moxie. Moxie just LOVES to eat ink pens, reading glasses, leftover food scraps - or a variety of whatever is left on the coffee table. As a result, her regularity is going to be affected because of the drastic changes in her diet.
Many of my past blogs have dealt with diarrhea and vomiting. Sometimes though, digestive upset can appear in the form of constipation. When no specific disease is present, constipation is most likely "functional", or resulting from factors that may encompass physical, dietary or age related factors. I have observed the nutritional deficiencies caused by the ingestion of dead, processed, enzyme-less food (kibble and canned pet foods). This can affect the nervous system, digestive system and can be a significant contributor to constipation.
Several requirements are needed for normal bowel function. They include:
- Consuming sufficient amounts of fluid (water). A raw diet contains 70% moisture - as opposed to a kibble diet that contain, at most, 10% moisture. When you feed kibble, your pet must obtain the required amount of water from external sources, such as their water bowl. Unfortunately, this water source is not as easily absorbed by their bodies as is water consumed from a raw diet.
- Consuming adequate and varied amounts of dietary fiber. Proper amounts of fiber regulate digestion and prevent constipation. Alternatively, not enough fiber can cause diarrhea or loose stools. This is why feeding a 100% meat diet is not appropriate. There should be some vegetable matter as well to give your pet the necessary fiber for regular digestive relief.
- Obtaining ample quantities of nutrients for gastrointestinal health and function. Nutrients obtained from quality sources and of an appropriate nature for the species are key to proper health and a strong immune system.
- Good bowel bacterial health and support. Sources of healthy bacteria are needed for adequate digestive health. It is hard to maintain a healthy bacteria environment with a diet that is of a sterile nature (ie. cooked, kibble, and canned pet foods).
It takes all of these requirements to maintain a healthy colon and provide normal bowel function. Disrupt any of these requirements and the end result is diarrhea, vomiting or constipation.
The consumption of a raw meat diet will yield a different stool formation than dogs being fed a kibble diet. One of the first things a new BARF customer observes is the difference in stool volume. One can immediately see about 30% less stool volume than what is produced from a kibble fed diet.
Why is that?
Dry pet food diets are loaded with fillers and hard to digest ingredients. The raw meat diet will be far more utilized in the digestive cycle and the resulting stool will be comprised of basically ash and fiber. You can actually see the dramatic difference right away and soon realize that there is much better ingredient utilization with this natural diet. The actual digestion time is almost cut in half compared to feeding kibble.
But the real advantage gained from feeding a raw diet is the elimination of toxins in the body. A real simple explanation is this: the less time food stays in the body means less time the food has to ferment and build up any unwanted toxins.
All that aside, I do need to highlight how constipation may exist with the BARF diet.
We have all personally experienced a difference in stool formation, especially after eating a meal that is not regularly part of our normal routine. Go out for a night on the town and consume a 16 oz. prime rib steak or feast on a banquet of Mexican food and tell me if you don't see a difference the next morning.
By consuming a product that alters the normal peristaltic activity of the gastrointestinal (GI) track, diarrhea or constipation ensues. Because our diet does have a tendency to form a more solid stool, it can sometimes temporarily result to some slight constipation. We always warn new customers that the expected stool formation may be firmer and have the color / consistency of white ash. The goal is to have an easy elimination process without straining and creating a blockage. Diets that contain ground bone will have a tendency to bind up and make a firmer stool.
Several natural additives can be used to regulate the elimination process. Canned pumpkin works well to eliminate the firm stool or even extra fruit can ease the condition. The point I would like to make is that the stool is a barometer of the animals general health. However, an occasional difference either from diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting is not usually something that demands a quick trip to the vet. Proper exercise and staying on a natural, high quality, raw meat diet will produce abundant health benefits and will normally eliminate the three factors triggering a phone call to our customer service department.
Robert Mueller, BSc, Pharm. is a registered pharmacist, author of "Living Enzymes: The World's Best Kept Pet Food Secret", and co-developer of BARF World's BARF diets patties, nuggets and supplements - the first company to make the Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods (BARF) diet conveniently available to animals everywhere. He and his wife love to travel around the world with their dog, Moxie - a Yorkshire Terrier/Maltese mix. For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for "The Intelligent Pet" monthly e-zine at barfworld.com/ezine