Many different diseases can make it difficult for your furry friend to digest fats. Pancreatic problems and intestinal dysfunction are two common causes, but some diseases of the liver can impair fat digestion as well. If you suspect that your pooch is not digesting fats properly, visit your veterinarian to help return him to good health.
Diagnosing Deficient Digestion
If your pup experiences intestinal disturbances, weight loss or changes in appetite, a veterinary visit is in order. Most veterinarians will compile a comprehensive history to help rule out transient issues, and perform tests to better understand how the dog’s body is working. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, lab work for your dog likely will include a complete blood count, biochemical profile, urinalysis, fecal analysis and ultrasonography. If Fido experiences pain when the vet gently palpates him, the vet likely will order X-rays as well. While excess fat in a dog’s poop may indicate problems with fat metabolism, this is not always indicative of a problem.
Fats in the Blood
Fasting dogs who have elevated levels of triglycerides or cholesterol in their bloodstream are said to be hyperlipidemic. While treatable with dietary changes or medications, such test results are serious. Hyperlipidemic dogs are at risk for developing acute pancreatitis. The most common symptoms of hyperlipidemia include intestinal disturbance and seizures. Fortunately, unlike when it occurs in humans, hyperlipidemia rarely causes atherosclerosis in dogs. Hyperlipidemia is caused by an excess production of lipoproteins -- small molecules that surround cholesterol and triglycerides and allow them to travel through the bloodstream -- or the failure of the dog's body to remove enough of the transporting molecules. Primary hyperlipidemia is caused by inherited conditions, while secondary hyperlipidemia follows some other health problems.
Incidents in the Intestines
Malabsorption refers to the failure of the small intestine to absorb the nutrients in food. Usually this occurs when a dog has problems with his small intestine, or when the pancreas fails to produce the hormones needed for proper digestion. Intestinal lymphangiectasia is a disease of the villi of the small intestine, which can prevent your furry companion from properly digesting the fats in his diet. The disease often occurs in conjunction with other digestive problems, including inflammatory bowel diseases. This means that if your dog suffers from lymphangiectasia, he also may struggle to digest proteins efficiently.
Liver and Bile Duct Problems
The liver and gall bladder both play a large role in fat digestion; your dog may develop health problems if both organs are not working properly. Cholestatic liver disease, inflammation of the ileum and bile duct obstruction are all conditions that may cause your dog to digest fats poorly. These conditions all impair Fido's ability to produce a suitable quantity of bile salts. Your dog’s body produces bile salts to help him emulsify fats, because they are not water soluble.