Improving your dog’s digestion will help improve his quality of life. A healthy digestion & gut balance for dogs means function and balance of bacteria, yeast and other microbes that are present throughout their gastrointestinal tract, which allows them to digest and absorb nutrients from food in an optimum manner. 

Dogs with healthy gut have:

  • Stronger immune system
  • Healthy skin & coat
  • Well-formed &  brown-coloured stools
  • Lower risk of auto-immune diseases
  • Reduced allergies 
  • Enhanced resilience to stress
  • Less anxiety, aggression and mood changes
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Less food sensitivities
  • Better energy 
  • Improved absorption of nutrients
  • Hormonal Balance
A healthy microbiome depends on many factors – the type of diet, food ingested, antibiotic exposure, health of gut lining, physical activity etc. Filtering out the good bacteria from the bad bacteria and protecting the immune system is another important factor in gut health. Feeding highest quality fresh food, limited use of medicines and reasonable physical activity are the key factors that contribute to microbial diversity and balance. 

If your dog has skin rashes or infection, dull coat, ear infections, food sensitivities, gas, dry segmented or soft stools or weakened immunity – he probably has an unhealthy and imbalanced gut. Manipulation of the microbiome through diet, exercise and probiotics can help restore his gut health.

Ways you can improve your dog’s gut health:

Remove food that irritate your dog’s gut

The most important step of healing a dog’s gut is eliminating ingredients that irritate his gut lining, most common being – gluten and casein. Many dogs are gluten sensitive and casein (protein found in milk) can also cause gut inflammation. Foods high in starch and antinutrients like Lectin can damage your dog’s gut lining. Beans, lentils, soy are high in lectin and should avoided. 

 Feed fresh ‘biologically appropriate’ food

Dogs in their natural state are carnivorous scavengers, meaning that they thrive on a diet that is rich in meat, but will take advantage of any available food. Recent studies have shown that dogs fed fresh meat diet have a healthier and more diverse microbiome. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid made by commensal bacteria which helps heal the gut lining. Dogs have bacterial species present in their gut that produce butyrate from animal protein sources. Therefore, a balanced diet comprising meat, and functional carbs will help restore your dog’s gut health.

Avoid overuse of antibiotics

Antibiotics have serious consequences in the gut microbiota. Antibiotic administration can induce gut dysbiosis, with broad-spectrum antibiotics causing rapid and significant drop in the richness and diversity of beneficial microbes. After antibiotic course, the original healthy bacterial composition is rarely achieved in dogs or humans. Overuse of steroids, pain meds, antihistamines, fleak & tick preventatives are also major stressors that contribute to gut dysbiosis. Hence, excessive use of these medications should be avoided to prevent adverse effect on gut. 

Repair using gut friendly food

Bacteria in the gut produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that nourish the intestinal epithelium by producing mucus that feeds beneficial bacteria & lines the gut. SCFA also reduce inflammation and modulate immune responses. Some fibre rich foods contain prebiotics that help feed the good bacteria. They are fermentable fibers that your dog’s body cannot digest and act like food for the commensal bacteria. Common prebiotics are bananas, apples, asparagus, berries, oats bran, flaxseeds etc. Curd, Kefir, Fermented vegetables also help repair a dog’s gut, improve the antioxidants in food and help build beneficial microorganisms. Turmeric is another supplement that will help decrease overall inflammation in your dog’s gut. 

Repopulate the microbiome with a Probiotic 

The next step involves restoring the microbiome to its healthy state by repopulating it with healthy bacteria and yeast. Probiotics have beneficial effect through the production of metabolites and antimicrobial peptides that modify the gut microbiota. They also help in tightening intestinal junctions and restoring mucosal homeostasis. In case of diarrhea, look for a multi strain probiotic product with lactobacillus strains and Sacchromyces Boulardii. For gut maintenance, a spore-based probiotic is more helpful. The important part of this step is to continue feeding the fermentable fibers as they serve as food for the Probiotics.

Exercise and reduce stress

Exercise modifies the gut microbiota and results in increase in the bacterial metabolite – Butyrate. Butyrate has been shown to increase colonic epithelial cell proliferation, promote gut barrier integrity, and regulate the host immune system and gene expression. Exercise-induced shifts in the gut microbiota can also guard against obesity and improve metabolic function in dogs. Even modest physical activities can lead to an increase in commensal bacteria in a dog’s gut. Stress affects not only their behaviour but their gut health as well. It can make intestinal barrier weaker leading to inflammation. Eliminate the stressors and work on physical and mental stimulation exercises to help reduce stress for your dog.

The composition of the gut microbiome in dogs is correlated with overall health. Many diseases, systemic or localized, impact or are impacted by the gut microbiome, and are associated with dysbiosis. A healthy and stable gut microbiome can keep a balance to prevent excessive inflammation while still being able to promptly respond to infections. It will boost your dog’s immune system and improve his overall health.