How to Feed a Pet Who Has Health Issues

Leigh - The Paw Sitter blog, Pet Food, Pet Health & Safety

Recently, some readers have asked me what’s the best dry food to feed a pet who has chronic diarrhea, or what food to feed a cat that vomits often. Of course when these readers look to the internet for some answers, the first thing they hear is “take them to the vet!” And it’s true that these symptoms could be any number of serious problems. But some pet owners are pretty sure they have a healthy pet on their hands, EXCEPT for the diarrhea, or the vomiting, or a skin or ear or eye issue. And if that’s true, the key might be diet.**


If you think you need to change your pet’s food, here are some tips.

1. If your pet is currently experiencing a bout of diarrhea, give their digestive system a break by fasting them for the rest of the day. That’s right, skip supper for the dog and pick up the free-fed kibble for the cat. Resist giving in to those pleading puppy dog eyes and pitiful cat meows. They will be ok. And their butts will get a break.

2. When it’s time to feed them again (at least 12 hours later), give them a bland meal of boiled chicken and rice. This won’t upset their system and will digest easily. Feed them this meal for a day or two and hopefully the diarrhea will clear up.

3. Gradually start introducing the food you want to try. For recurrent diarrhea, vomiting, and chronic skin issues, if you really want to stick to kibble, give GRAIN FREE pet food a try. Troubling symptoms like these are often caused by grains in commercial pet food. For thousands of years, dogs and cats ate what they were created to eat: raw prey, protein, bones, organs, etc. In the 1900s, commercial pet food started being manufactured for convenience, and it was made cheaply with fillers, carbs and empty calories. Dogs and cats were meant to eat meat and protein. It’s no wonder they often suffer a myriad of problems when they are fed dry cereal day after day. Grains are often the culprit; our pets sometimes become *allergic* to their food. Start feeding grain-free and see if it helps. My favorites are Nature’s Variety and Wellness.

4. Don’t feed just dry food, and don’t feed one food forever. Your pet should get some canned food every day, alone or mixed in with dry. You might even want to try feeding more canned than dry or all canned. There are a few reasons for this:

A) It is a myth that dry food keeps your pet’s teeth clean. You need to brush their teeth and take them to the vet for teeth cleanings regardless of what you feed them. Both of my kibble-fed cats lost their teeth and had to have teeth removed as they aged.

B) What is the main piece of advice that any doctor give you when you are sick? Get more fluids. This is true for pets, too, and the best way to get them more moisture is to FEED them more moisture. Canned food delivers more nutrition, more efficiently. It is great for prevention and helping during illness.

C) Kibble-only diets are notorious for causing carb addiction, which can lead to obesity and diabetes (just like in humans who love their cookies and bread and chips!). They also can cause kidney problems because of the lack of moisture, especially in cats who aren’t as keen drinkers as dogs are. I cringe when I hear that a cat had a UTI and is now to strictly only eat Science Diet kibble. There are better foods for pets with UTI’s than that food, and treating a bladder infection with only dry food does NOT make sense.

D) Pets need variety in their diet. Feeding only one food over time can cause allergic reactions and their body can start to “reject” the food. If you rotate their foods carefully, their system will not only get used to the variety but it will thrive. I often read about how the oldest living pets, such as Baby the cat, who lived to be well over 35 years old, and Chanel the 20 year old Dachshund, were fed a large variety of food throughout their long lives, including whatever their humans were having. Of course you need to do your research about what NOT to feed your pet, but variety is the spice of life.

5. Some pets with compromised digestive systems cannot sufficiently break down and process dry kibble. Often these pets have Irritable Bowel Disease. You might find, as I did with my cat, that even grain free kibble does not end the diarrhea. The only cure for him was raw food, and I hope you’ll consider looking into that option if nothing else helps. (You can also try home-cooked meals; just do your research on the nutrients pets need. Dogs and cats have different needs.)

In response to my blog post about how raw food cured my cat’s vomiting and diarrhea, a representative from Nature’s Variety sent me the following email:

“I work as a demonstrator for Nature’s Variety and am absolutely ecstatic that our food helped your kitty so much! I also wanted to pass along some nutritional information that applies to both cats and dogs. There are four main things you want to avoid when purchasing any pet food. Check the ingredients for CORN, WHEAT, SOY and BY-PRODUCTS. Any food without those 4 should be an excellent food.

Corn, wheat and soy have little to no nutritional value and are used as inexpensive proteins (fillers). They can cause terrible digestive problems and also excess shedding and skin problems. By-products are what’s left after animals are processed for human consumption. It’s deemed unacceptable for humans but some companies think it’s ok to use as another source of cheap protein in their pet foods.

Another great tip is to use rotational feeding so pets don’t develop allergies or other problems associated with feeding the same food regularly. Plus they won’t get bored with their food!”


More info on this topic can be found at, a very helpful web site written by a Veterinarian Lisa M. Pierson. I hope it helps you as much as it did me!

**Note: I’m not saying not to take your pet to the vet. But if you have and you can’t find a problem,
or you don’t want to go on yet another round of antibiotics just yet, trying some of these ideas
might hit the gold mine. It did for me and my cat Oscar when I put him on raw food!