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Problems related to the digestive system represent the most common medical problem seen by veterinarians. The digestive system begins at the mouth. Food enters the mouth; chewing action from the teeth breaks food down to allow digestive enzymes in the mouth to begin the digestive process. From the oral cavity, food begins the long journey towards digestion and absorption. The road to digestion begins in the esophagus, a long tube that connects the mouth with the stomach. Once in the stomach, secretion of acids causes food constituents to separate. As food material enters the small intestine, secretions from the pancreas and gall bladder allow nutrients to be absorbed by the intestine. Beyond the small intestines lies the large intestine, which absorbs needed water for the body.
Indications of problems within the digestive system include: vomiting, diarrhea, lack of an appetite, weight loss, voracious appetite with weight loss, and lethargy.
Disease within the oral cavity is an ever growing concern for your pet’s overall health. Periodontal disease affects more than 85% of all pets over 4 years of age. Pets may not show overt signs of oral disease; the only indication of poor oral health may be foul smelling breath. Contrary to popular myth, the inside of your pet’s mouth is not clean. Germs and infection can spread from the oral cavity and lead to disease in other organ systems.
The majority of digestive problems result from dietary indiscretions and sudden dietary changes. Other digestive conditions include: intestinal parasites, ingestion of foreign bodies, toxin ingestion, intestinal inflammation, medications, hormonal and metabolic imbalances, and cancer.