February 2019

The Scoop on Poop

Author: Kirk Dixon, DVM

So here is the “scoop on poop.” A normal, healthy stool is one that you could pick up off the rug without leaving a mark. If it is soft, gooey, oozy, slimy or wet, it is not a healthy stool. What about consistency? Are some stools good and others not? Or what if it is firm when it first comes out but then softens? All of these are indicators of an unhappy and unhealthy GI tract.

Across the country, GI issues are the number one reason for a veterinary visit. In my 34 years of practice in the Hilton Head area, a day never goes by without seeing numerous GI cases. What pet owners don’t understand is the food you are feeding is most likely aggravating the problem.

When I am collecting history of each GI case, the owner will often tell me how the food they are feeding is high quality because it is expensive or because it is grain-free. Unfortunately, this is a myth as expensive and grain-free do not correlate to excellence for the GI tract. In fact, grain-free is not healthy for any of us, and it has been linked to heart disease in dogs.

The evolution of pet food over the years has been market driven. The food companies are not marketing toward the pets; they are marketing toward the owners as they control the purchase (at least they think so). Pet foods have evolved over time toward high fat and low fiber. High fat tastes better, so pets are more likely to eat it with enthusiasm. Let’s face it; a nice steak tastes way better than a rice cake. High fat foods give nicer hair coats. All pet owners want to see a shiny glistening hair coat on their fluffy family member. Lastly, low fiber will make the pet poop a smaller quantity, and most everyone wants to clean up less poop.

However, low fiber and high fat is the most unhealthy thing for the body. As Americans, we eat too much fat and too little fiber. Obesity, heart disease, and colon cancer are all directly related to a high-fat diet. Contrarily, Asian countries have very few of these problems, because their diets are the epitome of low fat and high fiber. The secret of fiber in the diet is that it encourages healthy GI bacteria growth. Consequently, fiber is now being called “prebiotics.” Probiotics are the actual bacteria, like lactobacillus.

My opinion is, why give the bacteria if the environment they are going to live in is unhealthy? They will only die. However, if you provide a healthy environment, then the body’s own bacteria can thrive and there is no need for supplementation. Consequently, I have never used probiotics in my patients, and I have never needed to do so.

Furthermore, all dietary fibers are not equal. In pet studies, it has been found that beet pulp is the most beneficial fiber toward healthy bacteria growth. My magic secret in GI cases is a prescription food called W/D. It is made by the Hills Company and was originally made as a weight reduction diet. When it was originated over 40 years ago, the low fat and high fiber was used to add bulk and decrease calories. Beet pulp was probably used because it was cheap or available in the area. The formula is so beneficial to the body that it is nicknamed “Wonder Diet” within the company. Every pet with a GI problem entering my practice leaves with W/D on a temporary or permanent basis. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it is the secret to quick, effective, and sustained recovery.

I cannot count how many times I have had a visitor come to me with a pet GI problem, and they tell me that they have just spent hundreds of dollars on a GI workup at home and things are not improving. I give them medicine, but most important, I send them home with W/D with encouragement to feed it exclusively since there is a chronic problem. Invariably, about 3-4 weeks later, I receive a thank you card in the mail about the amazing and sustained improvement in their pet’s life since switching food.

As the cliché says, “You are what you eat.” Diet is so very important in determining the quality of life that we all lead. So when you pick up the next slimy stool, remember that low fat and high fiber is the key, and that a grain-free diet is not the healthy answer. You “can’t beet the pulp.” Obviously, stand-up comedy is not in my future, but I am really good at my day job.

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