Gastrointestinal Diet from SPECIFIC Nutrition | Dechra

SPECIFIC Gastrointestinal diet for dogs and cats  

SPECIFIC have a range of diets for the support of gastrointestinal disorders.  Support of the immediate nutritional needs of GI compromised patients is delivered through Highly digestible ingredients and high content of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins and Increased level of electrolytes. SPECIFIC’s Digestive Support diets also contain ingredients to restore full gut health. postbiotic yeast fermentation product and natural plant-based antimicrobial mixture support gut barrier integrity and a healthy gut and microbiome.

Ingredients in the digestive support diet provide immediate nutritional needs for supporting GI compromised patients, including:

  • Highly digestible ingredients to ensure optimal uptake of nutrients
  • A high content of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins to compensate for compromised absorption
  • Increased level of electrolytes to compensate for losses from diarrhoea and vomiting


Additional features to help restore full gut health, including:

  • Supporting a healthy microbiome
  • Supporting gut barrier integrity
  • Supporting a balanced inflammatory response

specific digestive support diet for cats and dogs


A new ingredient in our Digestive Support diets based on a mix of natural polyphenol containing plant extracts and organic acids (citric acid, malic acid and citrus extract) supporting gut barrier integrity


Post biotics 

Postbiotic yeast fermentation product (Saccharomyces cerevisiae products, calcium carbonate), providing modulation of gut health, microbiota and immune function

post biotics

Beta-glucans and beneficial fibres 

To support the immune response and intestinal health

beta-glucans and beneficial fibres

Why gut health matters 

While not all diseases begin in the gut, many chronic metabolic diseases do. The gut has many roles beyond basic digestion. Recent studies see it involved in a wide range of life processes, including energy needs, metabolism, immunological activity, and neuro-behavioural development (Mondo et al. 2019). The microbiota is made up of the trillions of micro-organisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa) – a healthy gut is one in which the micro-organisms in the microbiome are balanced. Functional or structural disturbances in the gut and unbalanced microbiome have been linked with the development and progression of many diseases, including autoimmune and inflammatory conditions and metabolic disorders as obesity and diabetes as well as reduced nutrient absorption.

Prolonged digestive disorders can lead to leaky gut giving rise to much more serious problems.

In a healthy dog or cat, the gut microbiome is balanced, and the gut integrity is intact with ‘tight junctions’ that allow water and nutrients to pass through, while blocking harmful substances.

Inflammation and the associated oxidative stress can disrupt these tight junctions making the gut barrier permeable – leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability).

Leaky gut allows bacteria and other toxins to pass the gut barrier into the gut mucosa or even the bloodstream causing the development and progression of many, more serious, diseases, with the underlying cause often being missed, including:

  • Digestive issues (diarrhoea, vomiting)
  • Colitis and IBD
  • Skin problems (allergies)
  • Joint issues (inflammation)
  • Behavioural problems
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Liver complications
  • Immune system problems
  • Respiratory issues
  • Ear problems

intestinal permeability - leaky gut

Many cases of leaky gut arise from gradual and long term intestinal damage caused by issues such as food allergies, long-term antibiotic or prolonged periods of digestive malabsorption and maldigestion. Prolonged periods of digestive malabsorption and maldigestion can unbalance the microbiome with an overgrowth of adverse bacteria and reduced presence of beneficial bacteria, giving rise to inflammation.

While short term exposure to these triggers may not always cause leaky gut, longer term exposure may damage the gut integrity, potentially resulting in even more serious conditions.

Digestive disorders need to be managed to avoid them becoming something more serious.

The Dechra academy provides a range of on-line learning including this course related to gastrointestinal disorders 


The Role of Nutrition in Managing Gastrointestinal Disorders

This course covers the diagnosis and appropriate nutritional response for the different underlying causes of GI disorders and the role of fat and fibre levels, hypoallergenic and hydrolysed ingredients and PUFAs.

Click here to register for the academy

Already registeted for the Dechra academy - 

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New SPECIFIC Digestive Support - Low Fat:

The only low fat hypoallergenic food with high levels of omega-3 on the veterinary market

A combination of low fat with high levels of EPA and DHA and hypoallergenic ingredients make this diet suitable for a wide range of digestive disorders including pancreatitis, EPI, protein-losing enteropathy,
lymphangiectasia, cholestasis and hyperlipidemia.

specific digestive support low fat diet

Low fat level at 7% of dry matter

High digestibility to ensure optimal intake of nutrients

Supplementation with AuraGuard – a mixture of natural polyphenol containing plant extracts and organic acids -  supporting gut barrier integrity and intestinal health

Low allergenicity for support of GI-disorders with potential involvement of adverse food reaction (the diet is based on tapioca, hydrolysed salmon, rice protein and potato protein)

High levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 from fish supporting the body’s natural anti-inflammatory processes

With beneficial fibres, beta-glucans, fish oil and a blend of natural ingredients to support a healthy gut microbiome, immune response and barrier function of the gut

Supplementation with free nucleotides supports both immune function and rapid repair of the gut, increasing villi length, aiding nutrient absorption and speed of return to full digestive health

Specialist digestive support diets are a valuable tool for the management of GI disorders. These include:

Fasting – generally not appropriate to fast during GI-problems as a lack of nutrients for the enterocytes will cause the villi to shorten
and the integrity of the gut wall to get even worse
Antibiotics – Suitable in case of serious pathogenic infections, but just routine antibiotic use will also reduce beneficial gut bacteria and will contribute to microbial resistance
Bland home-made chicken and rice diet - gives the digestive system some rest and helps relieve diarrhoea or vomiting but is not nutritionally complete so only a very short term option and does nothing to support the microbiome or gut integrity
Specialist digestive diets - Nutritionally complete diets that provide the immediate
nutritional needs, with highly digestible ingredients and increased levels of vitamins
and minerals but also with specialist nutrients and ingredients to help restore full gut health

The most well-known function of intestinal tract is digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. However, the surface of the intestinal tract is one of the largest interfaces between the environment and the internal milieu of the body. The gut is therefore not only responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients, but has also an essential role as intestinal barrier as first line of defence against potential harmful bacteria, toxins and food-derived allergens.

This important role is for instance reflected in the fact that the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) makes up about 70% of the body’s immune system

There is a close interplay between the intestinal barrier, intestinal microbiota and the immune response. A disruption in the interaction can lead to intestinal but also systemic diseases.

When animals have a healthy balanced microbiota, this forms a stable community that resists invasion by foreign or pathogenic bacteria. This is called ‘colonization resistance’.

GI tract microbiome colonisation resistance

Although there has been a time that microbes where especially regarded as harmful and pathogenic organisms, nowadays there is a different look at microbials, since it is becoming more and more clear that the intestinal microbes play a crucial role in the host health.

Thousands of years of co-evolution has resulted in a symbiosis of microbiota and host which provides mutual benefits. The host provides the microbiota with nutrition and an comfortable environment to live in, and in turn microbiota provide the host with enzymes and biochemical pathways that the host itself does not own, thereby providing support in

  • digestive function,
  • nutrient and drug metabolism,
  • regulation of the immune system,
  • protection against pathogenic bacteria and
  • maintenance of the gut barrier.

A well-known benefit from intestinal microbiota is that they can ferment so called fermentable fibers (such as beet pulp, FOS, pectine) and produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA; butyrate, acetate and proprionate), which can be used as energy source by the colonocytes (intestinal cells) of the dog and cat. Studies have shown that SCFA are also important for maintenance of the barrier function of the gut and the immune response.  

How nutrition can support the gastrointestinal tract

Nutritional support of GI problems depends on the underlying cause. A SPECIFIC diet can:

  • Diet can support general condition of the animal - its immune system and intestinal mucosa
  • Diet can support motility of the GI-tract
  • Diet can manage presence of toxins and allergens
  • Diet can affect the composition of microflora and prevention of bacterial overgrowth
  • Diet can support absorption

How nutrition can support the gastrointestinal tract

Food allergy or intolerance is a potential underlying cause for GI-problems (vomiting, diarrhoea). In inflammatory GI conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), food allergy may play a role.

For GI-problems related to food allergy or intolerance hypoallergenic diets can help reduce clinical signs.

Low allergen ingredients in hypoallergenic diets reduce the risk of triggering an adverse food reaction and can be based on novel proteins or hydrolysed proteins.

Hypoallergenic diets can be used to prevent cases of food allergy from developing.

In GI-problems where intestinal mucosa is damaged, intact protein can pass the mucosa and might induce an immune reaction.

Temporary use of hypoallergenic diets can prevent the development of allergies towards protein sources in the pet's usual diet.

Undigested food in the GI tract can:  

  • Provide a substrate for bacterial growth with associated production of toxins;
  • Attract water causing osmotic diarrhoea
  • Act as allergen causing an allergic food reaction.

A highly digestible diet results in most of the food being digested and absorbed in the first part of the small bowel, providing rest for the remaining part of the small bowel.

It helps to maximise nutrient uptake, compensating for maldigestion / malabsorption and results in less undigested food in the GI tract.

A highly digestible diet is ideal for patients with EPI, however often additional use of pancreatitic enzymes is recommended.

Inflammatory bowel disease covers a group of chronic gastrointestinal disorders, characterised by infiltration of inflammatory cells in the lamina propria of the intestinal mucosa. The inflammation can be located in the stomach, small and/or large bowel.

High levels of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DGLA) can help to support the body’s natural anti-inflammatory reaction in cases with inflammatory bowel disease (including colitis).

In a rat-model for colitis (Vilaseca et al 1990), inclusion of 8% fish oil in the diet:

  • reduced the severity of clinical symptoms
  • shortened the course of the colonic disease

In a double-blinded, placebo controlled study with humans with ulcerative colitis (Hawthorne 1992, Stenson 1992), supplementation with fish oil:

  • reduced required dose of corticosteroids
  • reduced the inflammatory mediator LTB4
  • improved the histology of the colon

High-fibre diets can result in larger, softer stools helping them move through the bowels.

  • Insoluble fibre (cellulose, wheat bran) bulks up stool
  • Soluble fibre (psyllium) absorbs water softening stools
  • Lactulose, a non-digestible, fermentable disaccharide can be used as an osmotic laxative
  • In case of constipation, it is important to drink sufficient water


Large bowel diarrhoea can be the result of too little fibre in a diet, causing a too low motility associated with release and irritation of toxins. Higher intake of fibre will reduce fibre-responsive diarrhoea


Pathogenesis of colitis is not completely understood, but some cases of colitis respond well to higher intake of insoluble fibre or psyllium.

Cholestasis is impairment of bile production or an obstruction of bile flow. Bile is needed to emulsify fat in the GI tract in order to enable digestion of fat.

Due to insufficient bile release in patients with cholestasis, fat is poorly digested resulting in stearrhoea (fatty diarrhoea). Dogs and cats with cholestasis can therefore be supported by low fat diets.

Low fat diets are also beneficial by reducing the flow of fat in lymphatic vessels in dogs and cats with lymphangiectasia and reducing blood lipid levels in cases with hyperlipidaemia.  

Pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition of the GI-system causing clinical signs such as vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain.

Inflammation of the pancreatic tissue can occur after premature activation of the digestive enzymes within the pancreas, resulting in autodigestion of the pancreas.

Breed, increased age, obesity, drugs, hyperlipidaemia, hypercalcemia and also diet are risk factors for development of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be induced by feeding a high-fat diet to dogs.

Nutrition can play a role in the management of pancreatitis and prevention of recurrence by feeding moderately reduced dietary levels of fat and protein to minimise stimulation of pancreatic secretion.

  Protein Fat
15-30% Dry matter         

10-15% Dry matter

<10% in more severe cases of pancreatitis and in cases of concurrent hyperlipidaemia or severe obesity

30-45% Dry matter

10-15% Dry matter

<10% in cases of concurrent hyperlipidaemia or severe obesity

The presence of concurrent clinical conditions in cases with pancreatitis requires diets that meet both the guidelines for nutritional support of pancreatitis and additional needs arising from the concurrent condition.

Concurrent condition

Additional nutritional requirements


Even lower dietary fat level at under 10% DM and/or high level of omega-3 fatty acids


Low fat level and a low energy density

Diabetes mellitus

Low carbohydrate or high-fibre diet with complex carbohydrates

Exocrine pancreas insufficiency

Highly digestible diets

Inflammatory bowel disease

Highly digestible, hypoallergenic diets, preferably with increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids


  Dogs Cats 

Additional characteristics









*fat level <10% DM

** High omega-3 fatty acid levels maintaining normal plasma triglyceride levels







*fat level <10% DM

Diabetes Mellitus






* protein level > 30% for CED-DM and > 45% for FED-DM, but due to low fat and carbohydrate level recommended for dogs and cats with pancreatitis and concurrent diabetes mellitus

**fat level <10% DM

Exocrine pancreas insufficiency








High digestibility

*fat level <10% DM

The following SPECIFIC diets meet the recommended dietary protein and fat levels for support of  pancreatitis: 


The diets in the above table are the most common recommendation.

Hyperlipidemia is a risk factor for pancreatitis. Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain normal serum triglyceride and low-density lipoprotein levels (Backes at al. 2016, Karalis 2017, Stroes et al. 2018).

 Inflammatory cytokines play an important role in the pathogenesis of pancreatitis and can even result in systemic inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids can support the natural anti-inflammatory process.

 Randomised controlled studies in human patients with pancreatitis showed that omega-3 fatty acids supplementation significantly reduced mortality, infectious complications and length of hospital stay (Lei et al. 2015)


Why a healthy gut microbiome matters

Promotion of the growth of beneficial bacteria can increase the production of short chain fatty acids such as butyrate, an important energy source for enterocytes. An increase in beneficial bacteria can promote the villi length of the gut mucosa (increasing the absorption capacity) and help to support the immune response and a healthy gut.

SPECIFIC’s Digestive Support diets contain multiple ingredients to restore a balanced  microbiome and bring the gut back into good health.

How to keep a healthy microbiome with SPECIFIC

  • Postbiotics are healthy bioactive compounds produced by beneficial micro-organisms, supporting the immune system and supporting a balanced inflammatory response of the immune system (Lin et al. 2019).
  • AuraGuard increases the levels of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium and postbiotics can increase the relative abundance of Bifidobacterium spp species promoting a more balanced and diverse gut microbiome.
  • AuraGuard reduces bacterial motility and biofilm formation (virulence factors) reducing the ability of pathogenic bacteria to colonise the gut and evade the immune system.
  • Mannan-oligo-saccharides (MOS) can bind pathogenic bacteria, preventing them from binding to the intestinal wall.
  • Fermentable fibres (beet pulp, XOS and FOS) promote the growth of beneficial colonic bacteria for support of a healthy gastrointestinal tract.

The gut barrier depends on the integrity of the tight junctions and the protection of a mucous layer lining the mucosa.

AuraGuard supports the tight junction integrity by increasing the level of occludin and ZO-1, cell proteins for the formation, maintenance and structure of tight junctions.
AuraGuard increases mucous production by Goblet cells as first line of defense of the gut mucosa.

The inflammatory response of the immune system to unbalanced microbiota, gut permeability and exposure to pathogens and allergens further reduces the gut barrier integrity and may, eventually when chronic, also affect the systemic inflammatory status.

  • AuraGuard reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and IL-8) in challenged cells
  • High levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 from fish help to support the body’s natural anti-inflammatory processes
  • Postbiotics and beta-glucans have the potential to help support a balanced inflammatory response (Lin et al. 2019;Li et al. 2006)

SPECIFIC Gastrointestinal diets - FAQ's

For management of pancreatitis it is generally advised to avoid too much fat and protein in the diet to prevent stimulation of the pancreas.

Guidelines are* :

  • FOR CATS Fat: 10-15% on DMB and protein between 30-45% DMB  (DMB=dry matter basis)
  • FOR DOGS Fat: 10-15% on DMB and protein between 15-30% DMB for dogs
  • In addition: fat < 10% in case of concurrent hyperlipidemia or severe obesity.

Suitable SPECIFIC diets for cats with pancreatitis:

The general recommendation for adult cats with pancreatitis is FDD-HY, FΩD-HY and FXD and for juvenile cats FDD-HY, FΩD-HY and FND

Note: FRD is suited for elderly kittens, if they are able to eat sufficient energy from FRD Note: FDD-HY and FOD-HY are at respectively 29.5 and 29.7% protein, and FQD-F at 15.2% fat which is also acceptable

(FID and FIW are too high in fat)

The presence of other complications will have an impact on the dietary recommendation

For cats with pancreatitis and hyperlipidaemia  FΩD-HY may be first choice as the high level of n-3 may help to reduce the triglycerides and/or cholesterol levels, whilst FRD, with even lower fat levels, is also suitable.

For cats with pancreatitis and (risk on) diabetes mellitus FED-DM is first choice (the protein level of FED-DM is higher at 55% DM, but due to the low carbohydrate level and reduce fat level it is recommended to support cats with DM and pancreatitis).

For cats with pancreatitis and obesity FRD and FRW are recommended.

For cats with concurrent struvite problems: FXD or FCD-L is a good choice.

Suitable SPECIFIC diets for dogs with pancreatitis:

The general recommendation for adult dogs  with pancreatitis is CID-LF, CIW-LF, CDD-HY and CΩW-HY and for juvenile dogs CPD-XL, CDD-HY and CΩW-HY

In case of concurrent hyperlipidaemia, CID-LF and CIW-LF would be the first choice as the high level of n-3 may help to reduce the triglycerides and/or cholesterol level although CRD-2 and  CGD, with lowfat levels, and CΩW-HY, with high level of n-3, will also be suitable.

For dogs with pancreatitis and (risk on) diabetes mellitus; CED-DM and CRD-2 are first choice (CED-DM is slightly higher in protein than guideline, but due to low carbohydrate recommended for dogs with pancreatitis and DM)

For dogs with pancreatitis and obesity CID-LF, CIW-LF are first choice although CRD-2 is also suitable

For dogs with pancreatitis and IBD, where food allergy may also play a role CID-LF and/or CIW-LF are recommended.

SPECIFIC FOD-HY Allergen Management Plus can best be used for a young cat with IBD and struvite urolithiasis:

The diet is hypoallergenic (based on hydrolysed salmon protein and rice). For pets with IBD a hypoallergenic diet is often recommended, since it is expected that IBD can have a food allergic origin

The diet has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, which can dampen inflammatory reactions (in studies in humans and rats, high intake of n-3 reduced the severity of colitis)

The diet is suited for all ages, thus also for young growing cats

The diet is formulated to prevent struvite through the induction of a low urinary pH (< 6.4)

For dogs with pancreatitis it is recommended to give a diet with a moderate level of fat and protein in order not to stimulate the pancreas too much. Rule of thumb is a fat level from 10-15% on a dry matter basis and a protein level of 15-30% on dry matter basis.

For management of IBD and also for allergenic skin reactions, hypoallergenic diets are recommended and high levels of EPA and DHA from fish can help to support the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response.

SPECIFIC CID-LF / CIW-LF Digestive Support Low Fat meets all these criteria and is recommended for dogs with pancreatitis with concurrent IBD and allergic skin reactions.
The presence of fermentable fibers, beta-glucans, AuraGuard and nucleotides furthermore help to support a healthy gut microbiome, immune response and gut barrier function.

For additional information including answers to SPECIFIC questions:

Visit the SPECIFIC FAQ page

Gastrointestinal Diet Resources:

The SPECIFIC owner web sites provide a valuable tool to help explain nutrition to your clients.  With pages talking about the condition and the role nutrition plays in supporting management of those conditions and details of the individual products that you may be recommending.

If you would like to link to the SPECIFIC owner web sites, the address is


Full product data sheets are available at the SPECIFIC product information book including

  • Indications for each diet
  • Properties and rational for the composition
  • Ingredients
  • Feeding amounts
  • Nutrient data
  • Any contra indications

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This provides details of the reccomended diets for dogs and cats with pancreatitis and other conditions

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This provides a detailed white paper exploring the gut micribiome and gut barrier function

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This provides details of the SPECIFIC GI diets to help all staff in practice understand and explain to clients the support that diet can provide

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This product selector helps you find the correct diet for the different types of GI condition

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A simple leaflet explaining SPECIFIC GI diets for dogs that you can e mail to your clients

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A simple leaflet explaining SPECIFIC GI diets for cats that you can e mail to your clients

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A simple leaflet explaining SPECIFIC allergy diets for dogs that you can e mail to your clients

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A selection of social media graphics and text that you can use on your social media discussing GI disorders

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