What can I use to Improve My Dog Gut Health?
There are a variety of ways you can improve your dog’s gut health including giving a healthy diet, adequate physical exercise, and supplements like CBD and turkey-tail mushrooms.
It is extremely important to ensure your dog’s gut health is in its best shape at all times. This is because the gut is the gateway through which the body gets nourished. If it is not in good health, the rest of the body cannot be in good health.
If you are looking for ways to improve or maintain your dog‘s gut health, here are a few helpful tips from us.
Incorporate Dog Prebiotics and Probiotics
Probiotics are microorganisms that live in or on the body and provide health benefits. They are sometimes referred to as good bacteria. Prebiotics are foods that support the well-being of probiotics.
Probiotics protect gut health in dogs by reducing inflammation levels, boosting immunity against bad bacteria, preventing infection, and helping with food intolerances or allergies.
All dogs have good bacteria in their digestive tract but sometimes the numbers can get thrown off. Dogs whose gut microbiome composition is not in balance show signs like digestive discomfort, gas, bloating, diarrhea, reduced immunity, and lower tolerance for certain foods.
To replenish the gut microbiome numbers, you can give fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Fermented foods contain large numbers of good bacteria that can supplement those of the gut.
In addition to giving probiotic-containing food, your dog’s daily diet should also be rich in prebiotic foods. High-fiber foods are the best sources of prebiotics in the diet. Such foods include apples, legumes, oats, and flaxseed.
You can also boost gut microbiome numbers with a probiotic supplement. Probiotic supplements are simply many good bacteria packaged in tablets or capsules.
The Honest Paws Pre + Probiotic For pets is a combination supplement that contains both prebiotics and probiotics. Not only will it increase the number of good bacteria in your dog’s gut, but it will also provide food for the bacteria.
The supplement contains six types of bacteria, inulin, and spinach extract to strengthen your dog’s immune system, improve digestion, and maintain a healthy microbiome.
Another interesting development in pet gut health is a procedure known as a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT). During fecal microbiota transplants, feces from a healthy dog are implanted into a sick dog with the hope that the good bacteria in the feces will transfer and multiply.
Use Grain-Free Dog Food
The debate on grain-free food is still ongoing. Some vets say that you should not feed your pet with any grains while others say that it is okay in controlled quantities. A grain, simply defined, is any type of cereal. Common grains include rice, oats, corn, and wheat.
What most vets agree on is that we should try and limit the amount of grains in a dog’s diet. Just because they can digest it does not mean they need it.
The reasons some vets do not recommend grains for dogs include weight gain, increased inflammation of the gastrointestinal or GI tract, allergies, and GMOs.
Signs that your dog is grain-intolerant include itchy skin, vomiting, upset stomach, hair loss, diarrhea, infections, and gas.
If your dog shows any of these signs, look out for grain-free foods and monitor to see if symptoms improve.
Add Bone Broth to Meals
Bone broth contains a variety of beneficial nutrients but the most relevant to gut health is collagen. Collagen is a connective tissue that helps maintain the structure of body organs including the intestines and the skin.
The inside of a dog’s intestines is lined with a layer of tissue known as the intestinal mucosa. The role of the mucosa is to prevent dangerous substances like food molecules and bacteria from crossing from the gut to the bloodstream.
The mucosa, however, can get damaged causing the intestines to become permeable. In other words, substances like bacteria can leak through. This is what is known as a leaky gut.
By giving your dog collagen-rich foods like bone broth, you strengthen the connective tissue in the mucosa, therefore, reducing how leaky it is.
You can make your dog’s bone broth at home but it can be a lengthy process that takes over a day. The easier option is to purchase already-made high-quality bone broth. Packaged bone broth is still rich in collagen and doesn’t require more than 24 hours to make.
Turkey tail is a type of mushroom that grows on logs of wood. The mushroom has rings of colors that resemble the tail of a turkey.
Turkey tail supports the health of the gastrointestinal tract for dogs in two ways: boosting the immune system and providing plant fiber.
The cell walls of the turkey tail mushroom contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that can interact directly with the body’s immune cells. Beta-glucans have the ability to activate immune cells like macrophages and killer cells.
Macrophages are cells of the immune system responsible for destroying invading cells like bacteria and viruses.
The fiber in turkey tails also improves intestinal health by acting as a prebiotic. The good bacteria in a dog’s gut can feed on the beta-glucan in the mushrooms allowing them to multiply and thrive.
In addition to these two benefits, turkey tail mushrooms may also have the ability to reduce inflammation in the gut.
You cannot give your dog raw turkey tail mushrooms as they can cause your dog side effects like liver damage and digestive discomfort.
Instead, you should give your dog turkey tail in supplement form.
The Honest Paws Turkey Tail Mushroom Blend contains four types of mushrooms to help your dog achieve good gut health. The blend was designed to boost your dog’s health by boosting immune function and reducing inflammation.
Pay Attention to Dog Food Ingredients
Some of the ingredients pet food manufacturers add to their products have a negative impact on your dog’s gut flora and overall health. Food additives like artificial colors and antioxidants can reduce the number of bacteria in the gut.
Always read the ingredient list of the foods you buy for your food to make sure that non are toxic.
Studies have shown that stress can have negative effects on the health of the gut microbiome[*]. When the gut microbiome gets damaged, it causes an increase in stress resulting in a cyclical pattern.
Stress causes changes in the gut microbiome by causing hormonal changes in the body. In particular, stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol (the stress hormone). Cortisol has several negative effects on the body including increased blood pressure and damaged gut health.
Stress in dogs can be triggered by a variety of factors including:
- Living with a stressed person
- Change in routine
- Change in environment
Watch out for signs and symptoms of stress in your dog. Some of the signs that may mean your dog is stressed include:
- Increased aggression
- Loss of appetite
- Avoiding touch or contact with humans or fellow dogs
Provide your dog with comfortable surroundings to minimize stress. If your dog is ill, give her medication, provide her favorite foods, and give her a comfortable place to sleep. This will calm your dog down helping to relieve some of her stress.
Implement a Healthy Exercise Routine
Engage your dog in various types of physical exercise like walking, running, playing, or solving puzzles.
Research shows that physical exercise reduces stress by stimulating the release of endorphins in the body[*]. Endorphins are neurotransmitters released in the central nervous system. Their main role is to reduce pain and enhance pleasure.
The body also releases endorphins during other pleasurable activities eating and spending time with a loved one. This shows that physical activity is as important for well-being as these activities
Regular Vet Checkups
You should take your dog to a vet at least once a year. Your vet has the training and expertise to identify potential health concerns in your dog that you may miss. Not to mention the access your vet has to vet equipment to test for health problems.
Having your dog checked by a vet regularly reduces the risk of the disease going undiagnosed. Gut diseases tend to get worse without treatment because the digestive system works multiple times each and every single day.
If your dog is in good health, having your vet see them once a year should be enough. You could also ask your vet when they would recommend you bring your dog back for a general checkup.
If your dog is living with a chronic disease like hip dysplasia or diabetes, you should see the vet more often. Usually, your vet will let you know when to come in next.
Finally, you should see your vet whenever you are unsure of what is wrong with your dog.
Conditions Linked to Bad Dog Gut Health
Leaky Gut Syndrome
This is a condition of the gut where the lining of the intestines becomes more permeable. This means that the lining allows more substances to go through it like bacteria, food molecules, and toxins.
Leaky gut has many causes for example damage to the intestines, severe infections, poor diet, exposure to toxins or poisons, and overmedication.
Dogs with leaky gut will exhibit digestive signs and symptoms like gas, bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea.
It can be challenging to diagnose leaky gut syndrome because it is usually an effect of another condition like Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Your vet will carry out tests like stool tests, x-rays, and blood tests to determine if your dog’s gut is leaking.
Treatment for leaky gut focuses on repairing the intestinal lining. This can be done by providing a diet rich in proteins that promote repair like collagen. Reducing inflammation can also relieve the leaky gut.
IBD is a condition where a dog’s gut is chronically inflamed and irritated.
The exact cause of IBD is hard to understand but the two most common causes are allergic reactions and severe bacterial or parasitic infection.
IBD affects a dog’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients resulting in digestive symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Your dog may also lose appetite and eventually lose a lot of weight.
To diagnose IBD, the following tests can be done:
- Blood tests to test for folate and B12 levels
- Fecal tests
If these tests are inconclusive, your vet may order a biopsy under full anesthesia. During the procedure, a sample of tissue will be taken from your dog’s gut and tested for inflammatory cells.
There is currently no known cure for IBD. However, you can manage your dog’s IBD through diet, medication, and other therapies like deworming and supplementation.
Parasites are organisms that live on or in the body usually resulting in harm to the host. Dogs can be affected by both endo-parasites and ectoparasites. Endo-parasites (the ones that live inside the body) are the ones that affect pets’ gut health the most.
Endoparasites in dogs include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, giardia, spirochetes, and coccidia. In small numbers, parasites might pose no real problem. In fact, most dogs have a certain degree of parasites living in them. It is when they multiply in number that they can be a real threat to your dog’s health.
The most common cause of parasites in dogs is eating food, soil, or feces that contain eggs or larvae of worms.
Signs of intestinal parasites include a distended belly (potbelly), vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Parasites are diagnosed by taking a stool sample and examining it for the presence of worms or other parasites.
Treatment of parasites is straightforward as it is a matter of giving deworming medication.
Anal Sac Issues
The anal sac is a gland found on either side of a dog’s anus. The role of the anal sac is to release a fluid that acts as a marker for sex, age, and state of health. This is the reason dogs often smell each other’s anuses.
The anal glands normally empty this fluid into the anus but when they get infected or inflamed, they can get plugged up. This can result in pain for the dog every time she has to pass feces.
Anal sac disease is treated by clearing the ducts of any material blocking them. If there is an infection, you can give antibiotics.
This is a condition of inflammation of the stomach. It is usually caused by a dog eating something harmful or a disease affecting the well-being of the stomach.
Common causes include eating food with bacteria or parasites, stomach cancer, ulcers, and IBD. The signs of the disease are usually a combination of digestive symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and blood in the stool.
There is no direct treatment for gastritis. If it is caused by an external factor like bacteria, treatment is removing the underlying issue. If it is caused by an internal disease, treating that disease should resolve stomach inflammation.
This is also known as gastroenteritis and is defined as chronic inflammation of the small intestinal tract.
Similar to gastritis, it can be caused by an external or internal factor. The most significant effect of enteritis is the poor production of digestive enzymes and reduced absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.
There is no direct treatment except addressing the underlying causes of the inflammation.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for things to go through a dog’s digestive system?
Dogs normally digest a meal in about six to eight hours.
What is good for a dog’s digestion?
Pet food made of high-quality digestible ingredients moves faster through a canine digestive system.
How do you know if your dog has digestive problems?
Your dog could be having indigestion if they’re constipated, have diarrhea, or is vomiting.
How can I clear my dog’s digestive system?
Dog digestion is helped by switching proteins, increasing vitamin and mineral intake, giving probiotic supplements, and matching food with activity levels. If symptoms like diarrhea or constipation continue, ask your vet for advice.