I was recently asked by a client about what over the counter product could be used for diarrhea in veterinary patients.
There are a number of different items that can be used. Some have interactions with other meds, or possibly side effects that would not be desirable. I told her about one that you might want to know about too.
I would like to share with you one of the old time options that can help significantly-
This is one of those that I have learned from experience, as opposed to scientific literature. There is very little “scientific” literature on safety and efficacy of slippery elm used for dogs with cancer (Pubmed does discuss its use in cats with digestive issues, however).
So, for those who are interested in knowledge passed down from empirical evidence and the old days, read on. Since data can be obtained from various sources in full-spectrum veterinary care, I am offering this to you here.
Slippery elm is actually a tree, and the active ingredient is harvested from the inner surface of the bark.
Slippery elm contains mucilage, some fiber, a little glucose, some tannins, and may contain antioxidants. The one we are most interested in is mucilage.
Mucilage is a substance that adheres to irritated spots on the lining of the stomach or the intestine. It binds together, forming a coat or a patch.
Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for more helpful information for your dog with cancer
In clinical medicine, we use a drugs like Pepto Bismol or Carafate for similar purposes.
The coat or patch has the effect of sealing the defect in the stomach or intestinal lining, which lessens the fluid accumulation within the stool. It also promotes more rapid healing of these structures.
Herbologists will also use slippery elm for cough due to an irritated windpipe ( like tracheobronchitis), or for conditions causing irritation of the bladder lining (for example, urinary infections).
Since both diarrhea as well as hemorrhagic cystitis (with bladder lining irritation) are conditions frequently seen in patients receiving chemotherapy, slippery elm is a nice option.
It is recognized as very safe by those who use the herb frequently.
It may reduce the absorption of certain drugs taken by mouth, so it should not be given within 6 hours of critical oral medications.
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I do not recommend its use for more than about 3-5 days at a time in dog cancer patients due to the glucose content (sugar is bad for cancer patients). Similarly, depending on the chemo drug being used, there may be a (slight) theoretical concern of lowered chemo efficacy due to the possible antioxidants in slipppery elm.
So don’t use in on an ongoing basis, but it usually is fine for short term use as needed, in my opinion.
The dose for dogs is about 1 teaspoon full per 60 lbs body weight, given 1 to 2 times daily, for 3-5 days in cancer patients.
This dose can be mixed in food, or dissolved in warm water with some low sodium broth added for flavor. This liquid can be administered with a turkey baster or using a plastic oral dosing syringe from your veterinarian.
Discuss the use of slippery elm with your veterinarian before using in your dog.
All my best
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.