Intestinal Malabsorption in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Intestinal Malabsorption in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Intestinal Malabsorption in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Intestinal Malabsorption?

Intestinal malabsorption occurs because of an underlying disorder within the small bowel or the pancreas. While your dog may be eating and even eating well, he is not getting the vital nutrients he needs from the food. This leads to ill-health, weight loss, and other complications. One of the most common symptoms is chronic diarrhea. If your dog is displaying these signs, you need to take your pet to the nearest veterinarian for treatment.

Intestinal Malabsorption is a deficiency or inability within your dog’s system to absorb nutrients within the digestive tract resulting in malnourishment despite a good appetite.

Youtube Play

Symptoms of Intestinal Malabsorption in Dogs

Depending on the cause, the breed and age of your pet, the variety of symptoms can vary considerably between affected dogs.

  • Eating of unusual things such as trash
  • Weight loss despite insatiable appetite 
  • Frequent smelly stools of high volume that look oily 
  • Noisy stomach with rumbling and gurgling sounds 
  • Flatulence
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy 
  • Poor  haircoat that may be shabby and scruffy
  • Chronic diarrhea 
  • Vomiting
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Intestinal Malabsorption in Dogs

The main function of the small intestine is for digestion and to absorb nutrients from the food eaten by your dog. Absorption of the food occurs in three phases; intraluminal digestion, mucosal digestion and absorption, and then delivery around the body of the nutrients. The disease can interfere with any part of this function rendering your dog unable to benefit from the food it eats.

  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency  
  • Inflammatory bowel disease  
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  • Obstruction or blockages (tumors or growths) involving the lymphatic system of the gastrointestinal tract; the result is a loss of protein causing profound low protein levels within your dog’s body
  • Idiopathic villous atrophy within the small intestine; villi are invisible to the human eye and are hairlike structures that are the absorption surface of the bowel (sometimes these villi are poorly developed causing malabsorption) 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease is suspected to have started from a compromised immune system caused by the inflamed or destroyed intestinal mucosa 
  • Shortened bowel syndrome occurs after a large portion has been removed from the intestinal tract as a result of health issues; the remaining bowel is unable to function normally and malabsorption develops
  • Infectious agents such as viral and fungal infections and parasites that proliferate once inside the body 
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines of the normal intestinal bacteria
  • Dietary causes such as food sensitivity
arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Intestinal Malabsorption in Dogs

Your dog needs veterinary help if it is exhibiting any of the signs listed above. Your veterinarian will need to do tests to determine where the problem area is. As so many conditions and disease all have similar symptoms, it is wise to get the tests done to isolate the cause and allow treatment to begin. If the specialist thinks it may be exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, blood tests for B12 and folate can be done to isolate the problem area. With suspected IBD it is wise to ensure your dog is appropriately dewormed. Dietary measures will then be suggested and monitored. If these measures fail to provide relief, other tests may be advised. 

Fecal cultures, ultrasound, endoscopy and biopsies, and full thickness bowel biopsies may need to be done. It is rare that your dog would have all these tests done; often the veterinarian can find the cause from one or two types of testing and the less invasive for your dog, the better.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Intestinal Malabsorption in Dogs

It depends on the cause of the problem as to the treatment to administer. If your dog is diagnosed with villous atrophy, he can be prescribed a gluten free diet to ease the condition. Bacterial overgrowth is treated via a broad spectrum oral antibiotic; in addition, changes in your pet’s diet may be necessary. Adding to your dog’s diet with probiotics can greatly assist your pet's condition. Often treatment is for life, focusing on your pets’ diet, regular medication and supplements. 

For exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, a pancreatic extract such as lypex or pancrex will be needed.  Meals should be regular and good quality. Depending on the cause, an injection of vitamin B12 may be necessary once a week. Because intestinal malabsorption can originate from many and varied causes, treatment is specific to that underlying disorder, and each type of cause requires a different therapy. The most often treatments involve dietary modification, antibiotic therapy, anti-inflammatory treatment, pancreatic enzyme replacement and chemotherapy in advanced cases. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

Worried about the cost of Intestinal Malabsorption treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Intestinal Malabsorption in Dogs

Once your dog is home from his trip to the veterinary clinic, you will need to continue to administer the medication provided and make modifications to your pet’s diet. Recovery will take some time, but if no improvement is noticeable within two weeks, you need to contact your veterinarian for an update. Always give the medication as advised, and control the diet as a simple lapse could see the condition flaring up again. Easy to absorb meals at regular times are necessary to get your dog through this adjustment. Record the symptoms that your dog is experiencing so that you can report back to the specialist. You should see a reduction in diarrhea and a slight increase in weight after a few weeks, and your dog’s overall condition should improve. If in doubt about anything, contact your veterinarian immediately.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Intestinal Malabsorption Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

Mr. Biggs

dog-breed-icon

Yorkie

dog-age-icon

4 Years

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Very Bad Breath
Black Tarry Stool
Walks In Circles Constantly
Insatiable Appetite

Rescued a yorkie, he was very anxious and scared. Now, 2 months later, he is improving. He has an odd behavior, he walks in circles. He has an insatiable appetite, horrible breath and lately dark, tarry stool. Any ideas?

May 20, 2018

Mr. Biggs' Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

The dark tarry stool is concerning since it indicates a bleed in the upper gastrointestinal tract; also the circling may be due to behavioural issues, liver disease, neurological conditions, hormonal conditions among other causes. Without giving Mr. Biggs a thorough examination I cannot determine the underlying cause in this case but would highly recommend a visit to a Veterinarian for an examination and treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 20, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Annie

dog-breed-icon

Aussiedoodle

dog-age-icon

5 Months

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

Annie began having diarrhea 3 days ago. She has been on the same diet-TLC since she transitioned from her mom. She does like to put things in her mouth. I didn’t see her ingest anything. I took her to the vet the 1st day of occurrence. The diarrhea persists despite the medication. She is day 3 out of 10 for this. They did take a rectal specimen but she moved and there was very little stool on the instrument. I wasn’t told if any parasites. Her bowel movement is not urgent. She goes every 4-6 hours. It is a liquid stool with no form. When should I take her back? She is active with no sign of illness except for the diarrhea.

March 29, 2018

Annie's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

If Annie is still having diarrhea three days into the treatment, it would be best to have her rechecked tomorrow to see why it isn't resolving. Normally, mild colitis resolves with medication, although i am not sure what medication she is on. I hope that things clear up for her, soon.

March 29, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.