A healthy gut can be likened to weeds in a garden. If a lawn is healthy, few weeds can grow because healthy grass will crowd out the weed, barely giving it space to grow. There are 10 times more bacteria in a dog’s gut than there are cells in his body. There are roughly 100 trillion extremely diverse bacteria in the gut (known as the microbiome) and each of them plays a role in keeping its host healthy.
A healthy gut is also like a forest with large numbers of diverse animals living together with the ideal balance of prey to predator where no species gets too strong that it overwhelms the population or too weak that it dies off and gets taken over.
The beneficial bacteria keep the harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites in check and crowds them out, prevent them from overpopulating and occupying too much “real estate” and prevent them from causing serious disease. They also aid digestion by extracting and absorbing nutrients. These bacteria produce vitamins and important brain chemicals like serotonin. These bacteria can affect a dog’s mood and a dog’s mood can affect these bacteria.
These microbes are extremely influential that it comes as no surprise that 80% of a dog’s immune system is located in the gut. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) are produced by good bacteria to nourish the lining of the gut and make it inhospitable to harmful bacteria such as E.Coli, Salmonella, and many others. Needless to say, gut bacteria have a huge influence on your dog’s health. Overall, the beneficial bacteria protect your dog’s body from infections and help to keep their bodies in a state of balance.
What can disrupt the balance in gut bacteria?
Unfortunately, there are many factors that alter the delicate balance of the gut. In fact, there aren’t too many dogs(or humans) with a perfect microbiome. A dog’s gut must contain enough good bacteria to handle a large number of bad bacteria they get exposed to in their food and environment.
- Use of Antibiotics. ²Antibiotics can severely alter the delicate balance of the microbiome. It can also cause kidney/liver disease, UTI’s, kidney stones, yeast infections, bloody urine, lower immunity and may cause birth defects if given to a pregnant dog. Speak to your vet to discuss potential side effects.
- GMO’s. It can also cause abnormal cell growth in the gut and other major parts of the body
- Excessive vaccinations
- Stress. There is a 2-way communication between the brain and gut called the gut-brain axis which exists in dogs and humans. The gut is stressed when the mind is stressed and the opposite is true. If your dog gets left alone too long, arrange for a walker.
- Diet. A diet high in grains and carbohydrates promote yeast infections and feed bad bacteria. Dogs eating mostly kibble will have an unbalanced gut population. Grains are also one of the most common food items that cause allergies and sensitivities in dogs
- Chlorinated water
- Food coloring and preservatives
Symptoms of Gut Imbalance
- Poor poop quality
- Skin allergies
- Chronic itching
- Bad breath
The Many Health Benefits Of Probiotics
- Probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties thus reduces swelling and pain
- May lower cholesterol levels in healthy dogs
- Prevents leaky gut
- Improves stress response
- provides relief from diarrhea, bloating, gas and constipation. Can be used for bad breath, skin problems and allergies.
- Boosts the immune system
- Reduces fecal bacteria
- Helps with anal gland issues
- May prevent certain cancers¹
- Helps to maintain a healthy weight
- Regulate metabolism
- Regulate bowel function
- Improves growth rate in puppies
Are Probiotics Safe For Dogs?
Probiotics are considered safe for dogs because it only contains bacteria that are already naturally present in their bodies. However, Start slow – too many probiotics at once can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea and can put your dog out of commission. Gradually ease into it. Capsules can be inserted into a treat or opened and sprinkled into food. Each product is different so be sure to follow instructions carefully.
There are not too many side effects associated with probiotics however these are some precautions.
- Read the label to make sure it doesn’t contain Xylitol which is very toxic to dogs
- Only give probiotics that were specifically formulated for dogs. Humans have different species of bacteria that don’t benefit dogs
- Each capsule must contain at least 20 million beneficial bacteria to be adequate.
Strains To Look Out For:
- Bifidobacterium Lactis
- Bifidobacterium Animalis
- Enterococcus faecium
- Bifidobacterium Acidophilus
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum
- Bacillus coagulans
- Lactobacillus Casei
There are no known studies that indicate human strains are neither useful nor harmful to dogs. But just as humans won’t take bacterial strains meant for dogs, be sure to give strains formulated only for dogs.
To ensure that you’re buying a safe and high-quality product, not something stuffed with fillers, wrong, missing or dead strains, look for GMP or Good Manufacturing Practice on the label. Products that have them were made in a facility that received a certification that met or exceeded GMP requirements.
Can I Give Yogurt To My Dog?
Yes but be sure that it is unflavored and doesn’t contain Xylitol. Ideally organic and grass-fed which contains calcium and B vitamins. You can also give fermented vegetables to your dog. Just be sure it doesn’t contain onions. Start slow with 1 teaspoon a day. To complement probiotics, feed your dog prebiotics which are food for probiotics such as asparagus, apples(without seeds or core), cashews, and bananas. These foods will nourish your dog’s beneficial flora, not just your dog. Ask your vet if probiotics are right for your dog.
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All information in the article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice.