Optimizing Your Dog’s Gut Health

A Dachshund dressed as a superhero

Your dog’s health depends primarily on the health of their digestive system. A major part of the canine immune system, a dog’s “gut” (stomach, colon and intestines) is responsible for reducing food into nutritive molecules comprising the carbohydrates, fats and sugars necessary to keep your dog as fit and healthy as possible. When something interrupts the normal functioning of your dog’s digestive process, their body fails to receive the nourishment it needs to sustain all physiological operations. In addition, the stability of your dog’s gut flora (bacteria) is compromised as inflammatory bacteria overwhelm and upset your dog’s GI tract.

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How Your Dog’s Digestion Works

From the time food enters your dog’s stomach until waste products from food are eliminated, thousands of chemical interactions occur in the intestines that are powerfully affected by bacterial activity.

The canine digestive process begins when stomach enzymes churn chewed food into chyme, a viscous liquid containing broken down proteins. Just before chyme enters the small intestines, the pancreas releases enzymes that further digest the chyme so that intestinal walls can easily absorb and disperse nutrients. In addition, your dog’s liver contributes bile that helps decompose fats to facilitate absorption in the intestines.

What the small intestine does not absorb, the large intestine eliminates. Prior to elimination, the large intestines removes some water from what is left of the chyme before expelling it in the form of feces. If your dog’s large intestine is suffering inflammation, it cannot remove enough water to prevent diarrhea or loose stools from occurring.

Illustration of bacteria in the digestive system

Bacterial activity affects thousands of chemical reactions that occur in the intestines.

Digestive Disorders in Dogs

Just like humans, dogs experience issues with digestion due to:

  • Changes in diet/overeating/ingesting corrupted food scavenged from garbage cans, etc.
  • Developing previously unknown food allergies
  • Suffering parasitical, bacterial or viral infections
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ingestion of foreign bodies
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Pancreatitis, kidney or liver disease
  • Colitis
  • Gastritis

Some actions may help optimize your dog’s gut health depending on what is disturbing its normal functioning. For example, certain dog breeds prone to constipation could respond well to a high-fiber diet that provides more consistency to the dog’s stool. Ensuring the dog receives plenty of exercise can also stimulate intestinal movement to facilitate waste elimination.

Dogs suffering colitis are often put on bland diets consisting of meat mixed with rice or cottage cheese to minimize stress on their colon. Inflammatory bowel disease is typically treated with antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian, as is gastritis caused by vast numbers of harmful bacteria swarming in your dog’s intestines.

Avoid Giving Your Dog These Items

When dogs consume certain foods, their digestion not only suffers interruptions in its normal functioning but also has a negative effect on their overall health. Avoid the following foods:

  • Fish, poultry or meat bones
  • Fatty pieces of meat
  • Baby food
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee or tea
  • Calcium supplements
  • Raisins or grapes
  • Dairy products
  • Garlic or onions
  • Vitamin/mineral supplements meant for humans

When dogs are given these consumables, they can suffer everything from vomiting, diarrhea and constipation to allergice reactions that result in severe dermatitis, significant hair loss and blocked airways requiring emergency medical attention.

Pieces of dark chocolate on a table

Chocolate has a negative effect on a dog’s health and must be avoided.

Why Probiotics are Essential to Your Dog’s Good Health

In addition to enzymes, hormones and other chemicals necessary for digesting and absorbing food nutrients, bacteria living in your dog’s gut play a vital role in helping your dog get the most from what he eats. Moreover, the ratio of “good” bacteria to “bad” bacteria existing in the intestines has a direct impact on how well your dog’s immune system fights off infections and diseases. When the bulk of a dog’s intestinal bacteria population tips in favor of “bad” bacteria and is not quickly modified, dogs will inevitably suffer one or more of the following:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Dehydration from continued fluid loss
  • Dry, itchy, irritated skin
  • Severe seasonal allergy symptoms
  • Lethargy/tires easily
  • Flatulence
  • Bad breath and body odor
  • Poor coat quality (rough, brittle, easily matted hair)
  • Eye tear staining (excess tearing in response to infections and allergens)

When growth of “bad” bacteria gets out of control, your dog is experiencing small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and needs the benefits of daily supplementation with probiotics.

Yellow Lab strewn lazily on the floor

An overabundance of bad bacteria can lead to your dog suffering from symptoms like lethargy.

“Good” Bacteria Just for Dogs

Canine probiotics contain live bacteria promoting all types of digestive processes essential that keep your dog disease and infection-free. High-quality probiotic supplements for dogs will provide the following microorganisms that have all been extensively researched and found to solidly support immune system fortitude:

  • L. acidophilus
  • B. thermophilum
  • B. longum
  • L. fermentum
  • L. casei
  • B. bifidum
  • E. faecium

(For additional information about these bacteria types, visit this article published by the Journal of Nutrition).

Supplementing your dog’s diet with probiotics and maintaining a healthy gut flora provides a wide range of health benefits:

  • New cell growth stimulation
  • Repression of harmful bacteria reproduction
  • Promotion of a rapid, defensive response by the immune system to invading pathogens
  • Enhancement of intestinal absorption of essential nutrients needed to maintain muscle health and elevate energy levels
  • Decreasing the risk of dogs suffering from cancers, tumors and degenerative chronic diseases as they age
  • Reduction or even elimination of bouts with diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, dehydration and skin irritations

Maintaining rich amounts of “good” bacteria with probiotic supplementation also prevents “bad” bacteria from overpowering your dog’s gut and causing disease by making it easy for “good” bacteria to consume all the nutrients available in the intestines. With nothing to eat, pathogenic bacteria weaken and quickly die off, leaving your dog’s gut as healthy as it can ever be!

Start optimizing your dog’s digestive system today by giving him supplements of canine probiotics, the safe, natural way to keep your best friend in the world healthy, energetic and vibrantly alive for many years to come.

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Disclaimer: the advice and information in this article is not intended to be used as a replacement for professional medical advice from a veterinarian.

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