Malabsorption is a very common condition in dogs and implies difficulties that your body has to absorb normally the nutrients that come from the food they eat.

There are many diseases that can cause this problem; Therefore, we will dedicate this article to the analysis of issues related to this particular syndrome, which affects the functioning of the small intestine of the animal.

¿What is intestinal malabsorption syndrome?

In the first instance, it is important to know that this syndrome is not in itself a disease, rather it represents a process derived from some condition of the small intestine or pancreas.

The pancreas is responsible for the secretion of enzymes that collaborate in the digestive process, while absorption of the obtained takes place in the small intestine. Therefore, both are key pieces in the dog’s food process.

It is basically a syndrome that affects the dog’s ability to develop digestion. Whether a section of the intestine or pancreas is failing, the dog is not able to absorb and take advantage of the nutrients in the digested food.

¿What are the symptoms of this condition?

To detect the possible presence of this syndrome in the dog, it is necessary to be aware of the following manifestations:

The animal does not gain weight.
It presents a representative decrease in muscle mass.
It shows an abnormal increase in appetite or a sudden decrease in appetite.
Eat feces or foreign items such as pieces of the wall, sand, dirt or others, in search of recovering lost nutrients.
He suffers frequent diarrhea, with a smell of decomposition.
Chunks of undigested food are displayed in bowel movements.
The hair around the anus is oily and cakes very easily.
It has frequent flatulence and very strong intestinal sounds, which can be heard very easily.
Vomit frequently, yellow in color.

In the most extreme cases that require immediate medical attention, it presents accumulation of fluids in the abdominal cavity; In addition, symptoms of anemia can be visualized through the color of the mucous membranes, such as the gums and the lower eyelid.

¿Why do SMI dogs suffer?

There is a wide variety of factors, all related to the functioning of digestive structures, which can lead our pet to suffer intestinal malabsorption.

That is why, to find the right treatment, it is essential to find out what the incident factors are.

Some of them are:

Pancreatic insufficiency; The pancreas does not produce digestive enzymes to develop the digestive process.
Infectious enteritis; It is a lesion in the digestive mucosa, responsible for absorbing nutrients and which is affected by an infectious-bacterial process.
Inflammatory disease; In this case, it is a disease where the immune system attacks the intestinal mucosa, as if it were an external or enemy factor of the body. Eventually, it ends up destroying the segment of the small intestine.
Surgical removal of a segment of the intestine; the absence of a considerable segment of the intestine leads to force the functioning of the rest, and can cause imminent paralysis.
Atrophy of the intestinal villus of congenital origin; It consists of an inappropriate development of hairiness that is responsible for absorbing nutrients obtained from food. It is the most frequent cause in the German shepherd.
Bacterial colony too developed; a bacterial colony of abnormally developed intestinal flora that affects and replaces that of average functioning.

¿How to diagnose intestinal malabsorption syndrome in dogs?

One of the main problems in this picture of symptoms is that it is usually identified as a mild digestive disorder or gastroenteritis. Therefore, the first treatment protocol is usually symptomatic.

However, upon realizing that the diarrheal process does not stop with the usual medications and the anemic picture is getting worse, the intestinal malabsorption syndrome option begins to be considered.

From here, it is necessary to develop a variety of exams and tests, including a stool test, abdominal ultrasound and even an endoscopy. However, the decisive exam is intestinal biopsy.

¿What are the life expectations of the dog with SMI?

The prognosis of intestinal malabsorption syndrome will depend on the disease that has given rise to the problem. Thus, if the origin is pancreatic, the expectations are quite good, because only by following the treatment the dog will evolve.

However, if it is a disease of the small intestine tract, the expectations of quality of life decrease to the point that euthanasia can be considered as an alternative to avoid the suffering of the animal.

¿What is the treatment of SMI?

The appropriate treatment for this condition is based on recognizing the origin of the syndrome. However, in general, the treatment includes a detailed review of the animal’s diet, as well as including medication that fights the underlying symptoms.

Among the medications to be used, a cocktail of antibiotics, immunosuppressants and some corticosteroids is usually used, which help to reduce the inflammation of any segment, as well as to soften the immuno-aggressive response that deteriorates the mucosa.

In the case of villus atrophy, a gluten-free diet is sufficient, while when it comes to an abnormal colony of intestinal bacteria, antibiotics are the best alternative.

On the other hand, since they are failures in pancreatic enzymes, they are administered through supplements, in the company of a strong vitamin load and a diet free of bowel risk factors.

Intestinal malabsorption syndrome is one of the most complex clinical pictures to diagnose and treat in a dog. It requires constant monitoring and timely treatment.

Therefore, when making a decision, it is crucial to consider the quality of life of the dog above all things.