Cat Digestive System
Domestic animals, like humans, are subject to the damaging effects of cooked and processed foods, food additives, environmental pollution and the stress of modern day living. All of these factors can affect digestive functioning and lead to a range of digestive disorders.
Many holistic vets also blame over-vaccination for the rise in chronic illness, including digestive complaints, in domestic pets. As pet owners, we try to do the best for our animals and to feed them healthy, nutritious food that will not harm them. However, advertising and the claims of pet food manufacturers have contributed to the misinformation surrounding what is best for our pets.
Commercial dried and tinned pet food is convenient and claims to be 'better' than any other form of food. In addition, our pets learn to like the food that we eat and who can resist those soulful eyes when a packet of chips or a cookie is around!
The result is that pets in today's world suffer from the same digestive complaints and disorders as their humans. It can be very distressing to watch your pet suffer from the pain and discomfort associated with chronic and acute digestive disorders, which are often very resistant to treatment.
Just as with people, cats have a very intricate and complex network of body mechanics that must keep running in tip-top shape if the cat is to be her best. Some of the barometers of good health are relatively easy to see: shiny hair and clear skin, bright eyes and good mobility. Another very important barometer of good health, a healthy digestive system, is not easily seen, but is indeed critical to helping cats live a long and healthy life. In fact, digestion problems are among the most common reasons for visits to the veterinarian. The high level of concern about digestive health has led nutritionists and veterinarians to look more closely into ways to better understand the cat's complex digestive system.
The digestive tract is, essentially, a long, hollow tube that runs through the body, from the mouth to the anus. The tube has several main components, including mouth, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. This system is in constant motion, making sure cats get the nutrients from their diet that they need to stay healthy and look their best. The digestive tract is also the system that supplies essential nutrients to the rest of the body, which is why it is critical to keep this system in top condition.
Just as in humans, the digestive tract of cats naturally contains bacteria. As clean as cats are, and as clean as we all think we are, many different types of bacteria share our world?vitally important protective bacteria even live on our skin! Many of these bacteria in and around our body work to keep things healthy in their own microscopic way. As we learn more about the flourishing forms of life that kep everything running smoothly in our own intestinal tracts, we have been able to apply this knowledge to our cats' health, as well.
The best way to understand how the digestive system works is to follow food as it progresses through the system. The cat grasps food with its teeth and lips. Some chew the pieces, others swallow them whole. In the mouth, saliva moistens and lubricates the food so it's more easily swallowed. The tongue then pushes food back through the pharynx into the esophagus. Located mainly in the chest cavity, the esophagus is the part of the alimentary canal that connects the mouth to the stomach. Food immediately moves from the esophagus into the stomach.
The stomach, which is positioned in the abdominal cavity's left side behind the liver, is the body's adjustable reservoir for food and liquids. Food that reaches the stomach mixes with gastric secretions. Glands secrete hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes, which initiate the food breakdown process; other glands secrete mucus that thinly coats the mucosa (the alimentary tract's lining), protecting it from damaging acid and enzymes. Once food has been mixed and treated with the acid and enzymes, it passes into the intestinal tract for final digestion and absorption.
Investigations into the health of the digestive tract have led to the incorporation of ingredients in pet foods known as prebiotics. A prebiotic is a food ingredient that can beneficially affect the animal by encouraging or nourishing the activity of certain types of beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive tract. This nourishment promotes the type of bacteria that may improve a cat's health by enabling the digestive tract to works at its best, helping to deliver essential nutrients to the body.
Whole natural chicory root is a prebiotic that has been proven to promote healthy digestion. When added to pet food, it serves as food for the beneficial bacteria that are present in a cat's intestinal tract, helping the bacteria flourish. Research suggests that the benefits of feeding a cat food containing chicory root may include increased nutrient absorption, better digestion and support of the immune system. Chicory root is a natural fiber source from a plant that has been used in human foods as a salad ingredient. It is known to also aid digestion in humans, and is a safe and palatable ingredient for cats. This particular prebiotic fiber source is harvested, washed, sliced, then added to the food. There are no ingredients added to the chicory and extensive processing is not necessary -- unlike with synthetic prebiotics.
It pays health dividends to look closely at a cat food label. Look for ingredients, such as whole chicory root, that can help bring your companion a lifetime of good health.