There is the traditional approach: light, sparing diet for our household pets when they suffer of GI tract disorder and diarrhea, consisting of boiled, white chicken meat or veal. But not all experts agree with this recommendation, coming forward with better solutions.
Canned pumpkin (100%) provides about 80 calories and 7 grams of soluble fiber per cup, compared to 1.2 grams of fiber in a cup of cooked white rice. Pumpkin is especially rich in soluble fiber (the type that dissolves in water to form a viscous gel, which also coats and soothes irritated bowels). Soluble fiber delays gastric emptying, slowing down GI transit times (and the number of episodes of diarrhea). When animals have diarrhea, they can lose important electrolytes, including potassium, which puts them at risk of dehydration. Hypokalemia, or low potassium levels, can result in cramping, fatigue, weakness, and heart rate irregularities. Pumpkin happens to be an excellent source of potassium, with 505 milligrams of naturally occurring potassium per cup. Pumpkin is also safer for diabetic patients. Unlike rice, which is a
grain, and will ultimately break down into sugar, pumpkin extracts may actually restore beta cell function – beta cells are the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Rice is a bland source of fiber, but in my opinion, it isn’t the most species-appropriate choice for a recovery diet for carnivores. First, it’s an unnecessary food. Dogs and cats don’t have a nutritional requirement for grain, so feeding pets a pro-inflammatory food when they’re already having GI upset seems counter-intuitive to me. Additionally, the FDA has issued a potential warning about arsenic loads in white rice. My reason for recommending turkey is simple: hamburger has more fat, which can worsen GI upset, and boiling ground beef doesn’t substantially decrease the fat content. Boiling the meat for a bland diet is important because it’s the cooking technique that removes the most fat. Meat must reach 464°F in order for the fats to melt away from the flesh. Boiling water only reaches a temperature of 212°F, so it may only slightly reduce the overall fat content of the meat. The remaining fat can exacerbate pancreatitis and GI symptoms. Baking the meat at 470°F may seem like a better idea, but it’s impossible to remove the fat during baking. Rinsing boiled or baked meat removes surface fat, but it can’t remove the fat that remains in the flesh. For this reason, I recommend fat-free meat for bland diets: fat-free ground turkey or turkey breast. Try starting with an 80 percent turkey/20 percent pumpkin blend. If canned pumpkin isn’t available, you can use fresh, steamed pumpkin or cooked sweet potato. Even lean ground beef is high in fat, which can exacerbate kitty’s tummy troubles, and rice is a starchy, pro-inflammatory carbohydrate that often provides zero nutrition or calories for animals with digestive issues. On occasion clients will say, “My dog doesn’t like pumpkin,” or “My pet is allergic to turkey.” In those cases I recommend using skinless, cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (my preference, but white will do), and cooked chicken breast or cod fish (recognizing that fish contains a higher percentage of naturally occurring fat than poultry). If your pet’s diarrhea doesn’t resolve in 48 hours, he grows lethargic, or is acting like he’s sick, it’s time to visit the vet. If a bland diet resolves the diarrhea, transition your pet back to his regular food 24 hours after his stools have returned to a normal consistency. It’s important to remember that this recovery diet isn’t balanced, and should not be fed long term.