Optimal nutrition for good digestive health - Veterinary Practice
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Optimal nutrition for good digestive health

in this first article in a new series from Royal Canin on the role of nutrition to support pet health, discusses what we should be looking for in a diet providing support to pets with GI issues

IT is vitally important before
considering any dietary changes in
dogs and cats with GI
disturbances that an accurate
diagnosis has been made.

An overview of the clinical signs,
diagnosis and general treatment
strategies for GI disease is beyond the
scope of this discussion;
however, this
article aims
to provide
the reader
with a brief
overview of
the general
considerations when feeding a dog or
cat with a GI disturbance.

There are a number of conditions
for which an exclusion or hydrolysed
diet are indicated; however, these
diets will not be discussed in this
particular article with, instead, more focus given to
the key
constituents of
a GI diet.

Content of GI diets

The effect of both the composition
and consistency of a diet on the
normal functioning of the GI tract
should never be underestimated.

Protein is an essential component
of GI diets because it is vital for the
maintenance of intestinal health.

Within the GI tract, protein is crucial
for the production of brush border
enzymes, a normal turnover of
enterocytes and maintaining GI

The amino acid glutamine is also
the major source of energy for the
enterocytes in the small intestine. GI
diets should contain a source of
highly digestible protein (at least 87%
digestibility) to help reduce
putrefaction of undigested protein in
the colon.

A highly digestible carbohydrate
source is also important for the
management of GI disease. Rice is
one of the most preferable
carbohydrate sources because it is
readily digested by the body.

Fat is included in GI diets as a
source of calories and also to provide
fat soluble vitamins and essential
fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are also
useful to help support digestive

GI diets often contain a source of
fibre. Soluble fibres, such as the
prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharide
(FOS), are rapidly fermented by
bacteria in the colon into short-chain
fatty acids (including butyrate). Since
butyrate is the major source of
energy for colonocytes, the use of
soluble fibre is recommended for the
nutritional management of pets with
various GI conditions.

Another prebiotic, mannan-oligosaccharide (MOS), is also added
to GI diets. MOS is derived from a
yeast cell wall and it acts to reduce
the ability of potentially harmful
bacteria to attach to the intestinal
wall and negatively impact on
intestinal tract health. Studies have
shown that MOS may also confer a
benefit on the intestinal immune

The use of diets high in insoluble
fibre can be beneficial for the
nutritional management of dogs with
colitis. This is because insoluble
fibres can help to regulate intestinal
transit and consistency of the faeces,
reducing straining.

Benefits of dedicated GI

By feeding a dedicated GI diet, one
can be sure than an animal will
receive all the essential nutrients
described previously. The level of fat
within a GI diet varies depending on
the specific indication for that particular diet.

Diets that contain a high energy density and high quality fat content
are favourable for when smaller meal
volumes are required. This reduces
the load on the intestines but at the
same time promotes excellent
palatability of the diet.

Other GI diets contain a much
lower fat content which helps to
improve digestive function in dogs
where a high level of dietary fat is

Dedicated GI diets for puppies
are also available – which have
balanced nutrient and energy levels to
help support optimal and safe
growth. These diets have been
formulated to provide an adequate
level of energy for growth and allow
a reduced meal volume, reducing
intestinal workload. They also allow
for the fact that the digestive tract is
still developing and so has a lower
digestive capacity.

In summary, dedicated GI diets
will provide tailored nutrition to
maintain optimal digestive health and
function for your canine and feline
GI cases.

A range of GI diets allows the
selection of the most suitable nutritional
characteristics for a particular case and
dedicated GI diets have become the
cornerstone for the nutritional
management of these patients.

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