Written by: Jackie Thomas
Dog owners are passionate about keeping their fur babies happy and healthy at all times. Between veterinary care, gourmet pet food and treats, dog walking services, engaging new toys and the latest pet technology, there are endless ways to care for your pup.
One commonly overlooked aspect regarding your pup’s health is their gut bacteria.
Just like in humans, gut health is critical for the overall health of your puppy. From digestion to the immune system to the risk for various diseases, having a properly balanced gut microbiome can benefit your dog’s health in every way.
What is a gut microbiome?
All animals have unique collections of microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses and other tiny living things) in their digestive tracts, collectively termed the gut microbiome. Bacteria in the microbiome are crucial for digestion and obtaining nutrients from the food your puppy eats. When these gut bacteria are out of balance, your dog could experience digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel disease. Beyond digestion, gut bacteria influence many aspects of your dog’s overall health. In humans and animals, they have been shown to have important roles in developing allergies, diabetes, and even depression and anxiety.
But how do you maintain proper gut health for your dog?
Follow these strategies to help your pet build and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
Tip 1: Discover specific gut imbalances early
Although they are young, puppies can have imbalances when it comes to their gut bacteria. Puppies receive their earliest gut microbes from their moms when they feed. Their microbiome changes when they wean towards an adult state and they begin consuming other types of food. Some puppies are taken from their mothers too early, which may not give them enough time to benefit fully from contact with their mother. If you adopt a puppy, you are in a position to help shape their gut health early and can discover specific imbalances as soon as possible before they become a potential health problem down the line.
Getting an assessment of your pup’s gut microbiome can reveal if your dog is lacking in healthy gut bacteria, or if he or she has too much unhealthy gut bacteria. Early detection of imbalances in your pet’s microbiome could help you make dietary and lifestyle changes that might protect your dog from developing certain health issues as they age.
Tip 2: Select your puppy’s food carefully
Feeding your new puppy is a big responsibility. With the numerous available brands and varieties of dog food, it is important to be sure that you are selecting an option that best fits your puppy’s needs. Because food interacts with the gut directly, this is also one of the biggest opportunities for you to influence your dog’s gut health. A study released in 2017 showed that the amount of protein and carbohydrates consumed directly influences ratios of certain bacteria in a dog’s gut microbiome. This study focused on bacteria that have the potential to influence weight gain and weight loss.
While there is not one single best brand or variety of dog food, there are a few things to consider when trying to make sure your hound is healthy and happy. Studies suggest that foods with high protein levels and low carbohydrate levels have numerous health benefits for our furry friends, including better weight control, better cardiovascular health, and healthier gut microbiomes. For a rough idea, you can look at the first few ingredients listed and be sure that most or all of them are meat-based. Pet foods with lots of rice, grains, or vegetables as the main ingredients provide lots of calories but little nutrition. If you’d like to truly maximize protein levels and minimize protein levels, consider feeding raw food to your puppy, taking care to ensure that the foods are properly balanced and contain everything your puppy needs to thrive.
Tip 3: Consider natural supplements for your pup
While diet is certainly an essential component of maintaining proper gut health for your pup, additional supplementation might be a good idea. Finding a probiotic supplement that is designed to promote gut health is a wonderful way to set your dog up for a healthy life. Supplements can either be used to correct an imbalance, or to maintain a healthy gut microbiome on a daily basis. If your puppy has been experiencing mild digestive issues, supplements are also useful in relieving symptoms. It's wise to choose a probiotic that has several strains of bacteria, so that their different benefits can complement each other and no group becomes too abundant. The right probiotic will be gentle on your puppy’s system, help them maintain normal stools, and soothe the intestinal tract.
Probiotics can be helpful for alleviating digestive problems in many pets, but for more serious chronic digestive issues like chronic diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting, simply adding a probiotic might not be enough to turn things around. For these cases, you might consider a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT), which will deliver a whole healthy community of dog-specific microbes to your pet. These can be delivered via an FMT oral supplement at home or via an enema in a vet’s office.
Tip 4: Work with your veterinarian
With all the recent advances in our understanding of the roles played by the gut microbiome in dog (and human) health, it’s essential to talk with your veterinarian about how you can help support your pup’s gut health. Many veterinary practices today are leveraging the best of conventional medicine and natural approaches to help your dog maintain a healthy gut microbiome. If your dog struggles with digestive issues, your veterinarian will be able to advise you on proper treatment. Depending on the cause of your pup’s issues, this treatment may include antibiotics to eliminate pathogens, diet changes to avoid triggering allergic responses, or fecal transplants to help introduce healthy microbes where they are missing.
Balancing your puppy’s gut bacteria from day one is an important step for their overall health.
By discovering and correcting gut imbalances as soon as possible, you may help your furry friend be less susceptible to certain diseases, immune conditions, and other health challenges. Along with the help of your veterinarian, taking good care of your puppy from the innermost folds of the intestines all the way to the outermost tips of their fur will help keep them healthy for many years to come.
----A healthy pet starts with a healthy gut. AnimalBiome offers gut microbiome assessment kits for cats and dogs. See how the bacteria living in your pet’s gut microbiome compare with those found in healthy cats and dogs. We also offer supplements for cats and dogs with chronic digestive issues including diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation that introduce whole communities of healthy microbes to your pet.