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Respiratory and digestive problems in dogs 'often linked'

A new study suggests there is a strong link between disorders in dogs’ respiratory and digestive systems.

Researchers at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) found that three in four (75%) dogs with respiratory disease without gastrointestinal (GI) signs had one or more co-existing digestive system abnormalities.

Based on their findings, the researchers said that dog owners and vets should attempt to identify and closely monitor for potential digestive issues in dogs with respiratory disease, even when the dogs do not appear to have trouble swallowing, regurgitating or vomiting.

In the study, a video x-ray was taken while dogs were eating and drinking in a natural position to look for abnormalities in swallowing or movement of material into or back out of the animal’s stomach. The results showed that, compared with healthy dogs, dogs with respiratory disease were far more likely to have abnormalities such as accidental breathing of food or fluid into the lungs, a condition known as aspiration; gastro-oesophageal or extra-oesophageal reflux; and trouble swallowing.

“Dogs that come into our clinic with signs of respiratory disease, such as coughing or difficulty breathing, may often have issues in their upper aerodigestive tract,” said Carol Reinero, a professor in the CVM who led the study. “This makes sense because it is in that area where those pathways cross, a healthy dog should breathe in and not swallow or swallow and not breathe in, but when that goes haywire they can develop disease, including the potential for swallowing too much air or getting food or water into the lungs.”

Management strategies that can help improve affected dogs’ quality of life can include changes in diet, water alternatives, surgery, or recommendations to gain or lose weight.

This Petwise blog explains how to identify the signs of an upset stomach in your dog, and easy-to-digest foods that are gentle on their digestive tract.