One component of raw feeding, although not very glamorous, is to oversee stool production. Monitoring a dog’s or cat’s stool outcome helps pet parents determine how the pet is tolerating the raw diet and if any adjustments are needed.
Raw foods added to a dog’s or cat’s meal directly affect stool production. At the beginning of raw feeding, it is recommended to check stool production and consistency throughout the transition and when introducing new foods to identify any problem areas that may need adjustments. Achieving the perfect poo relies on multiple factors:
Identify multiple variables that produce different stool consistencies.
Diet adjustments to alleviate soft stool and diarrhea.
Modifications to resolve hard/chalky stool and constipation.
Supplemental support to maintain a regular elimination schedule and consistency.
Once multiple variables are identified and adjustments are made for individual requirements, achieving the perfect poo is a sure sign the dog and/or cat is tolerating the new diet without any digestive complications.
Identify Stool Outcome
The food ingredients fed in a raw diet will directly affect the outcome of the stool once digestion is complete and the pet eliminates the waste. Sometimes the color of stool can be alarming if you are not prepared or knowledgeable on what to expect.
Feeding a diet high in poultry such as chicken and turkey will cause yellow-colored stool. If you are transitioning an adult dog over to raw using chicken, expect yellow stools the first week.
Dark Brown Stool
Red meat causes dark brown stool. When incorporating more red meats in your dog’s diet, expect the stool to become darker in color.
Dark Black Stool
A meal containing a lot of blood will result in black stool. The excess blood from the diet oxidizes in the colon, resulting in very dark stool. Organs such as liver and spleen have high amounts of blood present and can make stools darker.
If your dog’s stool is dark black and not formed, you likely have fed too much organ. Follow the steps at the beginning of this file to regulate the stool.
White/Grey, Chalky Stool
If your dog’s stool is hard and chalky, you likely have fed too much bone. Feed 1 boneless meal and return to regular feedings with slightly lower bone content.
The color and consistency of the stool will assist in determining if the pet is tolerating the raw diet. Stool consistencies may vary day-to-day depending on the ingredients fed prior to elimination. However, if the pet’s stool consistency is frequently too loose or too hard, adjustments to the diet are necessary.
It happens, dogs and cats alike get loose stools which can be caused by a list of factors. When pets have loose stools, be sure to consider all variables that may have resulted in diarrhea.
High Sodium, Enhanced, & Seasoned Meats
Always check the label of the raw products purchased. Many poultry and pork products in the United States are enhanced with a sodium nitrate solution which increases the sodium content in the product itself and will result in diarrhea in dogs and cats.
Ensure grocery store meats are 100mg sodium per 4oz (114g) serving size. If a label is not provided, ask the butcher for more information on the sodium content.
Too Much Fat
Some pets have a sensitivity to high amounts of raw fat. If you are feeding chicken, turkey, or duck products – remove the skin. Remove the excess fat from raw meat and select leaner meats above fattier cuts.
Too Much, Too Soon
When adding something new to a pet’s raw diet, take the introduction slow. Introduce new items slowly to allow them to adjust. Adding liver and organs to a raw diet may cause loose stools and it is recommended to start with 1/4 of the recommended ratio and gradually increase over time until full ratios are achieved.
Not Enough Bone for Calcium
The 10% raw edible bone is a guideline for dogs and 6% raw edible bone is a guideline for cats. Some pets require more than recommended ratios to maintain firm stool. Increase bone slightly until stools remain firm and consistent.
Parasites & Protozoa
Be sure to rule out parasites and protozoa if the dog or cat has sudden onset diarrhea and the diet has not changed. If the pet has come in contact with contaminated water or other infected animals, a parasite or protozoa could be the cause of diarrhea.
There are a few steps to treat diarrhea. However, it is important to seek veterinary care if the dog or cat has loose stools for more than 24 hours, paired with lethargy, pale gums, and refusing to drink water.
A 24-hour fast is an excellent approach to adult dogs and cats who are experiencing diarrhea. Broth, slippery elm bark, and probiotics can be given during the fast day but it is best to avoid solid foods.
Puppies and kittens should not be fasted for 24-hours. Skipping 1 meal is ok but a young, developing puppies and kittens should not go more than 24-hours without food.
Feed What Works
If a new food has been introduced which resulted in loose stools, stop feeding the new food it until the dog or cat has regulated its stool for 3-4 days. Be sure to introduce new items slowly and increase the amounts being fed only when stools remain firm.
Always make sure the dog or cat is free of parasites and protozoa. If there is a confirmed parasitic or protozoa infection, follow the veterinarian’s recommendations for treatment.
Meat, Bone, & Fibrous Foods Only
Eliminate organs and other unnecessary additional ingredients. Adjust meals to only include lean muscle meat, raw meaty bones, and fiber-based vegetables to firm the stool consistency.
Add in digestive supplemental support such as digestive enzymes and probiotics.
A diet diary is ideal for dogs and cats who frequently have diarrhea to document each meal fed, all ingredients, and the stool consistency to follow. Tracking the diet and stool provides an avenue to pinpoint ingredients in the diet that may be causing digestive upset. Always adjust to the pet’s individual needs and eliminate all foods from the diet that consistently causes loose stools.
In contrast to diarrhea, constipation can also occur in raw fed pets. Overfeeding calcium-based foods, particularly raw meaty bones, will result in hard and chalky stools. Many pets are capable of eliminating hard stools. However, if too much bone has been fed, constipation is possible.
More often than not, the stool consistency becomes extremely hard when dogs and cats have consumed too much calcium. The stool production resembles small pebbles or rocks and they may be light grey or even white.
There are a few steps to treat constipation. However, if the dog or cat has been straining to defecate without successful stool production for more than 24 hours, seek veterinary care.
Boneless Meat & Organs Only
Eliminate raw meaty bones and other unnecessary additional ingredients. Adjust meals to only include muscle meat and organs. The boneless muscle meat and organs have a laxative effect and will assist in bowel movements.
Slippery Elm Bark Powder (SEB)
The inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree is known for its medical properties to help sooth digestive issues. SEB lubricates the colon wall and helps with the elimination of stool during constipation.
A diet diary is ideal for dogs and cats who frequently have constipation to document each meal fed, all ingredients, and the stool results. Tracking the diet and stool provides an avenue to determine how much raw meaty bone the pet can tolerate. Always adjust to the pet’s individual needs and reduce the amount of raw meaty bones or change the type of raw meaty bone being fed if the diet consistently causes constipation.
There are a few supplements beneficial to helping aid with digestion to prevent diarrhea as well as treat constipation.
Raw proteins and raw fats are different than protein and fat found in a processed diet. Some pets need additional assistance with digesting a new food source. The addition of digestive enzymes will aid in digestion
Probiotics keep the gut biome diverse in beneficial bacteria which provides protection against ingested pathogens. The addition of probiotics also helps with the digestion of food within the colon.
The use of fermented foods is a way to provide probiotics from food. Fermented vegetables and fermented milk (kefir)are a great source of naturally occurring probiotics.
Slippery Elm Bark (SEB)
SEB has dual benefits when treating diarrhea and constipation! It helps with intestinal inflammation associated with colitis from diarrhea but it also is extremely beneficial for constipation. It creates a mucous lining on the GI tract and soothes irritation.
Loose powder can be found at a local health store or can be purchased online. Dosage is ¼ tsp per 10lbs (4.5kg) bodyweight.
These are not requirements for raw diets but are beneficial for dogs and cats who need additional digestive support to achieve the perfect poo.
"ADJUST FOR INDIVIDUAL NEEDS."
Ronny LeJeune, CertCN, CPDT-KA, CCC
Diarrhea and constipation can happen to any pet but it is best to be informed and prepared for when it happens. Like humans, dogs and cats have individual needs that may differ from the next pet. It is important to identify these needs and adjust the diet which will assist in achieving the perfect poo.