Miniature Schnauzers and Digestion

I bet most miniature schnauzer owners know that digestion and skin concerns are the two biggest challenges health-wise for this breed.  Our breeder used a Whole Earth Farms brand of puppy food which Caesar really enjoyed, but when we moved into the adult formula, he seemed to be sensitive to something in the food.

I did some research on ingredients and discovered grain-free Taste of the Wild and we have found it to work wonderfully for his stomach.  We alternate between the bison, lamb and salmon choices and we know that this is a high-protein diet that Caesar loves but we will substitute veggie meals regularly to make sure his digestion does not have a challenge over time.  High protein formulas are particularly useful for high-activity dogs… so if you have either an older dog, or a dog that doesn’t get too much exercise, this might not be ideal.  Most mini-schnauzers are full of high-energy and I hope you are able to exercise your own regularly for the activity that they love and need for good health.  I love that this formula also contains some antioxidants, prebiotics and a few other vitamins and minerals.  This company also uses sweet potato in some of its preparations, however, which is not ideal for any dogs with a history of oxalate bladder stones.  I do believe that many dogs would also do well on the holistic preparations made by  Orijen or Wellness brands.  You can also do a lot of good by making sure your dog food is low in wheat and corn content.  Interestingly, these are the same foods that create the most challenges in our human  patients in our clinic!

Now I should point out that I also cook most of Caesar’s food nowadays.  I keep the kibble as part of his diet to encourage healthy teeth and to make sure he’s not missing anything essential for dogs since I’m not a vet.  And I supplement Caesar’s diet with more antioxidants (like vitamin C, E, and flax or fish oils), as well as the occasional herbs for health that I will use to boost his immune system (more about that in a later post).

For now, I do want to encourage you to read the ingredients in your dog’s food.  Try to decrease the potentially challenging ingredients.  Remember that ingredients are listed in the order of greatest quantity in the food.  So if chicken is a known problem, don’t get a brand that begins its list of ingredients with chicken.  Same goes for the last ingredient.  If you’re impressed that there are vitamins/minerals in your dog’s food, don’t be too impressed if they are listed as the last ingredient — there’s probably not much in there.  I even know a friend that has switched her miniature schnauzer’s meals to purely vegetarian (after a bout of pancreatitis) — and her dog is doing fantastically-well right now!  Like humans, I believe that there are differences in food sensitivities and in what meals work best for even the same breed.  But you need to discover your own dog’s sensitivities by watching and paying attention to his/her own symptoms.

Pancreatitis is a huge risk for miniature schnauzers.  This is a very uncomfortable experience for the dog. So…

Let’s understand the pancreas and its function:

The pancreas is responsible for producing and secreting a number of enzymes that are essential to the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Other substances produced by the pancreas help to neutralize the acidic environment of the upper gastrointestinal tract. The pancreas is also responsible for making and releasing insulin into the blood stream, which facilitates the normal cellular uptake of glucose. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it releases digestive enzymes prematurely, triggering a cascade of internal events. The signs of acute pancreatitis occur suddenly and are severe. Chronic pancreatitis normally causes more mild symptoms that wax and wane with time.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

Owners of affected dogs may notice one or more of the following clinical signs:

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia; refusal to eat)
  • Lack of thirst (refusal to drink)
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain (usually severe and sudden in onset)
  • Tucked-up belly (“prayer position”)

These symptoms can fluctuate, be continuous, resolve on their own or flare up occasionally. As the disease progresses, one or more of the following may also occur:

  • Abnormal stool color and consistency (odd yellow color; “greasy”)
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Fever
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Shock
  • Inflammation of the organs surrounding the pancreas
  • Systemic infection
  • Internal hemorrhage

Pancreatitis can be an extremely serious condition and usually requires immediate medical attention. The most severe form of the disorder, called fulminant necrotizing pancreatits, can be fatal in a matter of hours.

Dogs at Increased Risk

There is no confirmed age or sex predisposition to the development of this disease in domestic dogs, although many authorities suggest that older dogs and females are most commonly affected. Some breeds appear genetically predisposed to developing pancreatitis, particularly Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. Dogs that are taking certain medication, as well as those with Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism), diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and/or hypothyroidism, reportedly have an increased chance of developing pancreatitis. Obese spayed females and dogs fed a fatty diet also seem predisposed.

Remember that working with good/healthy products (even treats) going into your dog will help to prevent the painful experience that owners go through when they see their loved pets suffering.

More to come…

“Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”  — Ann Landers

Dr. Menen



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