When you think of your dog's health and wellness needs, the gut might not be the first area you consider. But did you know that your dog's gut makes up a majority of your pet's immune system? That's one of the reasons that good gut health is so important for our canine companions.
Hundreds of different types of microorganisms live in your dog's digestive system, making up what is called the gut microbiome. And while the effect of the microbiome on your dog's overall health is still not completely understood, one thing is quite clear: When your dog's gut health is in good shape, the rest of your dog is more likely to be well too.
Could your dog's gut health use improvement? What can dog owners like yourself do to give their pets' gut health a boost? Read on to learn more about gut health for dogs and find out how to keep your pooch's gut health in order.
Does My Dog's Gut Health Need Help?
It's not always easy to gauge your dog's digestive health from the outside. Surprisingly, some symptoms of poor gut health aren't related to the digestive system at all — that's because your dog's gut health affects the entire immune system and, therefore, the entire body.
Some common symptoms of poor gut health in dogs include:
- Gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, or constipation
- Fatigue and/or lethargy
- Frequent licking of the paws, limbs, or other areas of the body
- Restlessness and/or disturbed sleep
- Poor coat quality
- Weight loss or gain
Dogs are also susceptible to a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. Most of the time, this condition is a result of long-term intestinal damage caused by bacterial imbalance in the gut.
Essentially, too much bad bacteria outweighs the good bacteria for too long, and it compromises the barrier function of your pet's intestines. This allows substances like bacteria, allergens, and toxins to pass through your dog's intestinal wall. The resulting symptoms include many of those listed above like vomiting, weight loss, and diarrhea.
If you see symptoms like these, the best course of action is to set up an appointment with your veterinarian. Since many of these symptoms could be caused by other health problems (inflammatory bowel disease, for example), you'll want to rule out other causes before focusing on improving your pet's gut health.
4 Ways to Improve Your Dog's Gut Health
In most cases, improving a dog's gut health doesn't need to involve medication or drastic measures like surgery. Most likely, you can take steps to improve it at home.
Whether you've been directed by a veterinarian to improve your dog's digestive health, or you'd just like to try to prevent gut-related issues, the methods below can help.
1. Feed a Quality Diet
One of the simplest but most effective ways to promote a healthy gut in your dog is by feeding a high-quality diet. That's right — your dog's kibble is designed to provide your dog with all of the nutrients your pet needs for a healthy life, including intestinal health.
Wondering if your dog's diet is up to par? Check with your veterinarian, and ask for a recommendation on a great dog food choice that suits your pet's needs. Make sure it contains the right mix of essential nutrients like proteins, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, fatty acids, and electrolytes.
For some dogs, a raw food diet might help improve gut health. Raw meat contains live enzymes that aid in nutrient absorption and help to create a healthy microbiome in the gut. Grain-free diets are also popular at the moment and can help improve some dogs' digestive health. You can also try giving your pet dog food formulated specifically to soothe sensitive stomachs. Ask your vet about these options to learn more.
2. Add Prebiotics and Probiotics
Aside from changing the pet food that your dog eats, adding supplements to the diet is an easy and effective way to improve gut health for dogs. Prebiotics and probiotics are particularly helpful for digestive health.
Probiotics are the "good" gut bacteria that live in your dog's intestinal tract. They help to build microflora to balance the microbiome, and they provide all sorts of gut-friendly benefits: Increased resistance against harmful bacteria, defense against pathogens, regulated digestion, and better immune system function are just a few examples.
Prebiotics are a form of dietary fiber. They act as a food source for the probiotic bacteria to feed on, resulting in the growth of beneficial bacteria. So, a combination of probiotics and prebiotics is a great way to improve your dog's gut health.
Looking for a great probiotic and prebiotic supplement for your dog? Native Pet's powdered probiotic is a great choice. Formulated with both probiotics and prebiotics, it helps to create a thriving environment for healthy flora, and it tastes great for your pooch.
3. Deal With Food Intolerances and Allergies
Food allergies and intolerances can cause health issues in various parts of the body, including the gastrointestinal tract. Allergies and intolerances can create inflammation in the gut, letting harmful bacteria proliferate and possibly leading to the breakdown of the intestinal wall. This can lead to leaky gut syndrome.
If you think your dog has a food allergy or intolerance, check with your vet. A food trial or elimination diet may be necessary, which involves switching certain ingredients in dog food in and out to find out what your pet reacts to. An adjustment of diet may be all that's needed to keep your dog happy and healthy moving forward.
To help your dog’s allergies, try Native Pet's air-dried Allergy Chicken Chews. They target itchy skin and other allergy symptoms with all-natural antihistamines, which builds defense against allergens and even aids in long-term immune support.
4. Reduce Stress
Did you know that your dog's mental health can have an effect on gut health? When pets experience stress and anxiety on a regular basis, the body releases cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Over time, this can weaken the immune system and have a negative impact on gut health.
Keeping your dog well-exercised via walks and playtime is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Try to keep your dog away from stress triggers like loud noises or neighborhood pets they're frightened of.
You can also try adding a calming supplement to your dog's diet. Native Pet's Calming Chicken Chews contain the natural sleep aids melatonin and vitamin B1, and can help reduce general anxiety and improve sleep.
Gut Health for Dogs: What to Keep in Mind
Veterinary experts are only beginning to understand the depth of the connections between pet health and the gut's microbiome. But it's clear that maintaining the proper microbial balance in the GI tract has a positive effect on your dog's overall health.
Improving gut health for dogs involves feeding a high-quality diet, supplementing the diet with prebiotics and probiotics, resolving any food allergies or intolerances, and doing your part to keep your dog's life as stress-free as possible. And when you keep your dog's gut health in order, it's good for their entire body.
To learn more about your dog's health and wellness, visit the Native Pet blog.