Author Topic: Digestive issues for GSDs  (Read 367 times)

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Offline SandyStern

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Digestive issues for GSDs
« on: September 15, 2017, 08:39:12 AM »
I would really like to hear from other GSD people about kibble that produces regular firm poop.
My poor dog is only now easing into a manageable eating-pooping program on kibble.  He had big adjustment problems when I got him, and the only way I could stabilize him was on pure raw.  Well, that cost $450/month, which was bad enough, but you can't travel and feed raw, and my vet and the people who trained him agreed that raw was not good in the long run. 
I cannot stand uncertainty in my dog's digestive system. If he gets nudgy, I need to know that he does not need to be taken outside. If I worry about diarrhea, I'm running him outside every time he looks at me funny, and the next thing you know, the dog has trained me to take him out whenever he wants.
There's so much folklore out there, and I just don't know how to sort through it. Ideal percentages of fat, protein and fiber?  Legumes? Pumpkin?  Argh!

Offline OlgatheGSD

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2017, 10:33:35 AM »
I have zero advice or knowledge of it, but Olga every once in a while (about every other day) has loose stool. It's not liquid, just soft. It makes picking it up with a baggie hard since it.. isn't solid. I have noticed that feeding her less has hardened them up significantly (Kirsten, you were right about her weight!), but it isn't a sustainable diet. She usually eats 3 cups a day. And lately she's getting 2 and a half to help trim some fat now that she's less active. I'm worried this isn't enough food for nutrient content, but I'm curious how smaller portions firmed up her poop. Less fat? Lower protein intake?

I too would like to know the magic behind consistently firm poop. And regular flows. Sometimes she poops 4 times a day, sometimes it's only once. I'm at a loss. Fecals always come back negative.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2017, 10:56:35 AM »
I imagine the reason raw worked and kibble did not is because he has a food allergy.  Fewer ingredients means a better chance to avoid what he was allergic to.  So it's not brand you need to worry about but figuring out what he's allergic to.  Dog food marketing would have us believe that the most common allergin in dog food is corn, but this is not the case.  The most common allergin is chicken.  By that I mean more dogs are allergic to chicken than are allergic to corn and yet almost all dog foods contain chicken in some form.

So when he was on raw, did you feed him chicken successfully?

Another issue is what you consider "firm."  Raw feeding will generally give you firmer poops than kibble because it is low in fiber and the dogs are constipated, unless your dog's raw diet also included balanced vegetable matter.

All the shepherds I know personally, including Cole's breeder's dogs, Tardis's breeder's dogs, and Tardis's agility coach's dogs do quite well on Purina ProPlan, which I also feed.  It's highly digestible.  They get it that way with processing.  Foods with lables designed to appeal to human consumers with easily recognizable ingredients probably will be lacking in digestible nutrients.  Just because you put the nutrient in the food doesn't mean the dog's systems can access and make use of it, and if they can't, it passes through wasted in their waste. 

Sometimes strange sounding ingredients are cheap fillers and some times they are processed nutrients in a carefully balanced diet to make them digestible.  How can you tell the difference?  Feeding trials.  No matter what is on the label you don't know how dogs will do on it without a feeding trial.  You can perform that feeding trial privately at home, saving the company considerable cost and trouble, or they can perform it by feeding it to test dogs and monitoring their condition over the course of six months to a year.  Purina does feeding trials.  So I already know there's a high probability Joe Average dog is going to do well on it because a lot of Joe Average dogs have done well in testing.

I'm not saying Purina is the best food out there.  To be quite honest, I have no idea.  I talk about it because it is what I personally use successfully.  I know more about it than I know about other foods.  Purina is a Missouri company and I'm a Missourian and that probably has as much to do with why it's so popular around here as anything else.  What I can say though is that it is a good food that is readily available no matter where you travel and that the vast majority of dogs do well on it.

Should you want to try it, I suggest you start with their sensitive stomach formula, aka salmon and rice.  It has no chicken ingredients in it.  It's a little extra digestible.  And knowing Purina I can say if you contact them concerned about your dog's special dietary needs and say one of their customers recommended them and asking their advice, they'll send you a coupon for a free bag to try it.  If it doesn't work out for you, you can donate the remainder to a shelter. 

Alternatively, I had Tardis on an allergen elimination diet and I fed him Royal Canin Anallergen formula.  It was quite expensive, but my vet assured me that if he couldn't eat it without having an allergic reaction then there was no commercial food on the planet he would be able to eat.  (Turns out he is allergic to something in pidgeon poop, not in dog food.)  Our plan was to start him on that and then slowly reintroduce proteins to see what he reacted to.  I had to abandon the plan because I had difficulty keeping up financially but I live on a very very low income.

There are other good quality foods that my dogs have done well on.  Suppose I can't get ProPlan in a pinch.  I've fed Fromm and Taste of the Wild and they've done well on those as well.  Cole was my Mikey dog (my fussy eater with a sensitive stomach) and he did well on both of them.  Vicki's (agility coach) dogs have done well on Origin.  Tardis's breeders' dogs have done well on Honest Kitchen (though the puppies didn't find it as palitable as Purina).  There are a lot of good brands out there that they can do well on, not just ProPlan.  But I know ProPlan well and so that's what I tend to recommend.

One further word about ProPlan.  I do not like the formulas with "shreds" in them.  I do not think they are harmful to the dogs but the purpose of the shreds is to provide bulk for dogs who are having difficulty being overfed and/or are overweight, which is what the typical pet owner does and what the typical pet is.  My dogs are not overfed or overweight so when I get formulas with shreds I'm paying for filler they don't need to make them feel full when it's time for them to stop eating.  If I had a dog who tended toward chubbiness, I might quite like the shreds, but I don't.  So I choose formulas without shreds, and for some of my dogs, the ones with higher metabolisms, I choose a sport formula.  Cole had to eat performance (now called sport) until he was about 8 or 9 or he had difficulty eating enough to keep up his weight.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2017, 11:08:24 AM »
My dogs' poops are generally firm enough to bag easily without um leaving smears until/unless they are ejected during exercise.  So if I go on a loooong walk and the dog multi-poos, the second poo will be softer than the first.

Having the dog on a schedule (fed at the same time each day and exercised at the same time) can help with poo consistency.  My dogs typically have a smaller meal in the morning and a larger meal in the evening an hour or two before I go to bed.  They typically poop in the morning and it's nice and firm.  If they poop a second time, it will probably be exercise induced and will therefore be softer.

If they are pooping during exercise, say a walk, it's actually not that hard to convince them to poop straight into the bag so the softer poos don't have to be picked up at all.

If they are fed the same food at the same time every day and they are exercised the same way and the same time each day, their poo schedule and texture should be pretty consistent too.  And if you don't like when the poop is landing, you can nudge it earlier or later by nudging your schedule earlier or later (feed earlier or later).

Note:  do not exercise on a full stomach or allow a dog to eat while still hot or panting from exercise as this can result in bloat, something large chested dogs, including GSDs, are particularly susceptible to.  Bloat is a life threatening emergency, so best avoided by any possible means and not mixing food with exercise is a simple one.  My dogs rest for an hour after morning exercise before breakfast.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2017, 11:10:00 AM by Kirsten »
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2017, 11:14:09 AM »
Treats will nail my sister's dog.  He is a Mikey dog, like my Cole was.  When he eats nothing but his regular food, he's fine.  But when he is given table scraps or treats he's not used to or treats in excess, he can get diarrhea for a day or two.  There are some things, generally richer foods, that he can eat in small amounts.  For example, I know the rule with Cole was no more than one ounce of string cheese per day or he'd have diarrhea.  At that time my main training treat was string cheese because Cole wasn't very treat oriented and yet he would work for cheese, hence his full name being Cole B. Cheese ("B" is short for "Ball" his other favorite thing).
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline OlgatheGSD

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2017, 11:59:55 AM »
Huh. I do like Purina because they are innovative and they have a giant research facility for all types of animals to study feed formulas and performance. I hate them because their basic foods are basically filling and I consider it misleading a consumer to market the brand as a leading, scientifically proven top notch feed supplier, and then sell a line that is basically bone meal and corn without calling it a budget line. A rep came to my store to tall about the facility and I was impressed, but he admitted they don't performance test all of their foods.

Olga's schedule is 9 am, walk a mile or more at 4 pm, feed at 9 pm. I use dog food as treats so she's on a very limited diet. She is violently allergic to corn. She was being fed it when I got her and she had 4 square inch patches of fur missing all over with raw skin. Immediately switched to nutro lamb and rice with a few steroids for good measure from the vet, no skin problems since.

I am now picturing someone bending over, holding a bag up to their dog's booty hole, with dog struggling to understand why human is so close to their poo, all while human trying not to vomit. I can't say if I'd fall over from balance issues or laughing in that situation.

Thank you for the tip on a feeding trial and contacting them!
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Offline meeshymoosh

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2017, 12:11:38 PM »
We started on Taste of The Wild after Blue Buffalo was too much for his tummy upon switching from puppy to adult. He had a lot of loose stools with the higher protein diet.  My husky also tolerated Taste of the Wild best, and he had HORRIBLE stomach issues for the first 4-5 months of his life :c

Whenever my pups have tummy troubles, I do a little bit of canned 100% pumpkin in their food. This seems to help them a lot, and they love the pumpkin. I will also treat them with frozen green beans instead of fatty treats. They also get strawberries that are too "squishy" for me, but that's just as a treat and certainly not an all the time thing. Berries can loosen their stool.

Samson's weight fluctuates, but now that he's more active and working. He was eating 3.5 cups a day, and he packed on close to 98lbs!! Way too heavy even if he didn't "look" fat. After lowering it to about 2.5 cups per day (plus all the treats he's getting with working), he's in around 76 lbs, which is on the lower end for his height. But our vet gives him a 75-85lb weight threshold of safe working so his hips and joints maintain.

Samson - GSD - 3 years old SDiT
Gideon - Alaskan Husky - 2.5 years old

Offline SandyStern

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2017, 12:28:59 PM »
Kirsten, you are a treasure trove of good information.  Here's the story:  I got my dog in March. Before I went for team training (flew down, drove back) I asked about food and got an e-mail saying that he'd been getting Fromm Large Breed, but the e-mail attached a photo of Fromm Gold.  So I bought a supply of Fromm Gold and flew down for training.  On the last day of team training, he got 4 immunizations. That shouldn't have happened; they should have been staggered, but there it was.  So he had diarrhea, and we gave him a tablet of metronidazole before I left.  The trainers gave me a supply of the kibble he'd been eating, and off we went. He did not poop for a day or so and then had very loose stools.  When I got home, I noticed that the Fromm Gold kibble I had bought was shaped differently from what I had been given for the trip home. I asked about it and the trainers said they bought kibble through a breeders program-- the Fromm company delivered big plain bags that are not sold at retail.  They had also noticed the different shape but had been assured it was Fromm Gold.  Since my dog continued having loose stool, I thought maybe the trainers were confused, so I tried Fromm Large Breed. No difference. So I switched to a system I've used with other GSDs, I fed equal parts of Hills w/d and Fromm.  Sometimes the fiber in w/d gives a good stool and the other kibble has nutrition. Hopeless. Unless I fed w/d exclusively, I had near liquid stool.  And w/d might as well be sawdust as nutrition goes.  By this time, the dog was really skinny, so at the suggestion of a friend, I switched him to Primal Beef Patties (frozen raw). He did not poop for 24 hours, and when he did, it was small, firm and odorless.  Museum quality poop.  He started gaining weight and his coat got all glossy. Meantime, he and I are getting used to each other and it's time to start traveling. Raw is a pain, and also, he's vomiting between breakfast and lunch, so I added some kibble. Without taking you through all the transitions, I ended up with this regimen:  Breakfast and dinner: 1/2 patty of Primal with one cup Acana Heritage Meats kibble. Lunch: one cup Acana. Supplemented with probiotic. On that regimen I got one poop a day, but not reliably timed even though he ate on a rigid schedule.
But I just had to get him off the raw.  So my clever vet said we'd try a combination of slowly changing the percentages to move to all kibble, while maintaining him on metro, and then gently fade out the metro. And I had an idea (brilliant or stupid, depending on how it works out) to feed Vital Essentials freeze dried raw for his lunch, since a combo had worked well before. The vet approved. So that's where we are now. Breakfast and dinner are 2 cups of the Acana, lunch is a cup of Vital Essentials. He gets one dose of metro with dinner, and we'll start fading that now.  He was pooping after breakfast and after dinner, soft but acceptable. But just last night, he did not poop and then there was a lot of poop (not pudding though) this morning. It was like his digestive system had taken the night off yesterday.
I'd be thrilled to figure out an allergy. Acana Heritage Meats has no chicken. Even the limited ingredient foods seem to have a lot of ingredients!  And I am still really puzzled about what happened when he came to me.  I am certain that his trainers are not lying about his food or the fact that he stools were normal, but maybe the Fromm company was playing fast and loose with the breeder food.  I suppose they could use cheaper ingredients and add a stool hardener or something, but again, that seems so unlikely. When a reputable breeder chooses your kibble, I'd think you'd want them to get the best.
So if you can offer ideas, I would love to hear them.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2017, 02:04:11 PM »
You spread out immunizations for puppies because their immune systems are new and in flux.  It shouldn't be necessary for an adult dog who is getting boosters for vaccinations he's already had at least twice (puppy series and 1 year booster).  My dogs get all their vaccinations at once.  We stick different shots in different body areas so that we know if they react to one which one they reacted to.  (There's typically a local reaction when a dog is allergic to a vaccination.)  And vaccination reactions wouldn't typically cause diarrhea.  Itching, loss of appetite, or fatigue would be a lot more common for a vaccine reaction.  It's much more likely diarrhea was caused by stress, change in food or change in water supply than by vaccination.

My two current dogs can jump switch to a different dog food without digestive upset.  Cole could not.  I needed to transition him to a new food gradually over the course of a month.  On the other hand, Cole didn't have any difficulty with changing water supply, but some dogs do.  Tardis hasn't had any difficulty with changing water supply either.  ALL dogs will have diarrhea if you stress them enough and a big life change like getting a new human and a new home can sure stress a dog.

Fromm is a reputable small company.  Friendly people (I've talked to them in person).  I think shady dealings are unlikely.  You might try contacting them and asking what formula they ship that program because you want to match it for your dog from that program and you got what they said it was and it looked different.

It's also possible the problem isn't food at all.  Like Tardis turning out to be allergic to a fungus in pidgeon poop.  Your dog could have an environmental allergy that exists where you live, but not where the program is.  For us the problem was walking through pidgeon feces that accumulated in front of one particular store and then Tardis licking his feet because they itched.  No more visits to that store, no more allergic reaction.  I suspected the pidgeon poop and this was confirmed when the shop moved to a different store front without pidgeons.

You might try filtered water, in case it's something in the water. 
« Last Edit: September 15, 2017, 02:07:50 PM by Kirsten »
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline SandyStern

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2017, 03:23:18 PM »
Hoo, boy.  I had hoped you would zero in on some stupid mistake I made so I could fix it easily.  If it is an allergy, I'm not likely to figure it out.  Dog and I have spent months in Massachusetts, a week in MO, another week in NH, 5 days in Kansas, and almost a month in Manhattan. So I doubt it's the water or a specific allergen like pigeon poop. 

You have given me one idea, though. I'm going to wash my dog's feet (rub with wet washcloth) when we come home.  I suppose it's possible that he's walking in something and then licking his paws, although I don't see him licking his paws much.

According to my wonderful vet, dogs with this problem can be maintained on Tylan indefinitely, so at least I know I could do that and have a more manageable situation.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2017, 03:37:03 PM »
Tylan, the antibiotic?  That can cause diarrhea by killing the natural gut flora.  It should not have a positive effect on allergies or sensitive stomachs.

Supposing this started with a bacterial diarrhea but now is maintained by being on an antibiotic long term.  Then taking off of the antibiotic and giving a probiotic to re-establish gut flora and putting dog on original food should fix things.

If dog has no symptoms when on raw food but has symptoms when on kibble, then it's not a bacterial issue and antibiotic should not be needed except for secondary infection.

So did dog's poop seem normal to you while you were at the school for team training?  And this all started the day you brought dog home?
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2017, 03:40:21 PM »
Might try Prozyme digestive aid for dogs, or something similar.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline SalukiLover

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2017, 04:24:31 PM »
We feed Acana, same company as Origen.  He used to be on Blue, but was not able to handle the rice.  So we switched him to the poultry formula of Acana (espcially after the Blue scandal with lawsuits etc about ingredient honesty).  He did great on it, but one day the store was sold out and I bought the red meat one.  After tasting that, he didn't want the chicken one again (I still had some in the bag in my car for dinner on the go).  He spat it out, in fact.  We've been feeding the red meat ever since.
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Offline SandyStern

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2017, 04:39:37 PM »
During team training, his poop was fine, until the last day, after the injections.  I've had him on a probiotic for months. Apparently Tylan is effective for diarrhea just like metronidazole.  Makes no sense to me, but there it is. He's been tested every which way for infections, parasites, even EPI. There's nothing wrong with him except GSD gut. 

Honestly, if I had time, I'd take him back to Florida and hang out with the trainers, let him drink the water there and feed him Fromm Gold just to see what effing happened!

Offline Solace

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Re: Digestive issues for GSDs
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2017, 05:52:33 PM »
I was going to jump in and be like, "Fromm!!" but that's what he was on when he had issues...

My puppy had super runny poop and vomit on his first food brand, which his breeder uses.  I switched to Fromm Large Breed Heartland and it fixed right away.

All that to say I have nothing to add.  Sorry. : (