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Dog gut health: Pet parent’s guide to supporting a healthy dog gut

Dog taking food out of hand

If you’re paying attention to the latest health trends, you know that human gut and digestive health has gained significant attention. So, should we be thinking more about our dogs’ gut health, too? Your job as a pet parent is to support your dog’s health and happiness, and it turns out that their gut health does play a significant role in their overall health and quality of life. 

Table of contents 

The importance of a healthy gut 

To understand how to best keep your dog healthy, you need to have a basic understanding of the gut microbiome. The microbiome is the environment of your dog’s gastrointestinal tract that’s made up of bacteria, archaea, viruses, and eukaryotic organisms. All of these organisms work together to control digestion, metabolism, and nutrient absorption, direct inflammatory responses, and educate your dog’s immune system. 

It is extremely important to ensure your dog’s gut health is in optimum condition. Pet wellness expert Katelyn Son says that this is because the gut is the gateway through which the body gets nourished. Indirectly, gut health impacts other areas of your dog’s body like joints, brain, coat and skin, teeth, and the hormones that affect stress and mood. 

The bottom line is that if the gastrointestinal tract is not in good health, the rest of the body cannot be in good health. So, your dog’s gut health is incredibly important!  

What pet parents need to know about poor gut health 

Not only are there advantages to a healthy gut, but there are also serious consequences for your dog if they suffer from poor gut health. How can you tell if your dog has poor gut health and what causes it? 

Symptoms of poor gut health 

Some early signs of poor gut health include constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. You may notice that your dog has more gas than normal, goes to the bathroom more or less frequently than usual, or burps with bad breath. You should also pay attention to changes in energy levels, weight loss, loss of appetite, signs of joint pain, and overall mood. These can all be symptoms of digestive distress. 

Causes of poor gut health 

Many things can disrupt your dog’s gut microbiome, sending them into dysbiosis. Characteristic of poor gut health, dysbiosis occurs when a dog’s gut microbiome becomes imbalanced due to the loss of beneficial bacteria or the emergence of bad bacteria. 

Medications, particularly antibiotics, can lead to dysbiosis because they only kill bad bacteria, but the good bacteria, too. In fact, Dr. Audrey Cook, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, notes that over-treatment with antibiotics is one of the most common causes of intestinal dysbiosis in pets. Dr. Cook also points to infection with gastrointestinal tract pathogens, changes in diet, anesthesia, stress, and starvation as causes of poor gut health.   

Impacts of poor gut health 

 Poor gut health can lead to serious issues for your dog, including: 

  • Leaky gut syndrome, which can lead to a wide variety of inflammatory conditions like gastritis, enteritis, and inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Allergies that manifest as itchy, red skin, runny eyes, ear infections, and sneezing 
  • Mental health issues that can lead to aggression and stress 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Obesity 
  • Diabetes 

The role of diet in your dog’s gut health 

One thing most veterinary experts agree on is that diet has a major influence on dogs’ gut bacteria. The quality of the ingredients, the type of protein and fiber, the fat content, and the balance and quantity of vitamins and minerals all impact your dog’s gut health and are important considerations when you are buying their food. 

Some of the ingredients pet food manufacturers add to their products have a negative impact on your dog’s gut microbiome and overall health. Son notes that food additives like artificial colors and antioxidants can reduce the number of bacteria in the gut. So, what should you look for? 

  • Fiber – High-fiber diets have been associated with greater diversity and number of gut bacteria, which have positive health benefits for us and our dogs. Dogs can get the fiber they need from vegetables like pumpkin and carrots, sweet potatoes, and certain whole grains.  
  • Superfoods – Nutrient-dense foods like blueberries, kale, and salmon are full of vitamins and minerals that support a healthy gut. 
  • Low-fat and high-quality – Diets high in fat content are more difficult for your dog to digest and can cause gastrointestinal upset. Instead, opt for high-quality, digestible ingredients like whole fruits and vegetables that move faster through your dog’s system.  

Just like humans, a balanced diet is key to good gut health. With so many dog food options available, making the right choice can sometimes feel overwhelming. The ideal dog food depends on many factors including your dog’s age, breed, exercise, food sensitivities, health, and more. The best way to ensure you get it right is to consult with your veterinarian.  

It is important to remember that dog nutritional needs vary from human nutritional needs. For example, dogs require more taurine and protein in their diets to maintain optimal health, while humans can proportionally tolerate more fiber and grains than our canine companions can. There are also several human foods, like onions, garlic, and chocolate, that can be dangerous or even fatal if ingested by a dog.  

Stress and gut health 

Your stomach sometimes feels like it’s in knots when you’re stressed thanks to the gut-brain axis, which is how the digestive tract communicates back and forth with the central nervous system. Dogs have this gut-brain axis, too, and the Purina Institute notes that stress plays an important role in their gut health. 

Bacteria in the gut produces “feel good” chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which have calming, positive effects on our dogs’ mood, comfort, and sleep patterns. However, the gut is also responsible for chemicals that promote stress and mood disorders. When dogs become stressed due to changes in living environments or schedules, separation from their people, or any other reason, the number of beneficial bacteria is reduced and bad bacteria flourishes. You may notice that when your dog is stressed, they often suffer from digestive upset and diarrhea.   

How can ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA help stressed dogs? 

Pet parents and veterinarians will agree that stress is not good for the short- and long-term health of you and your dog. ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA chews, soft gels, and oils can address your dog’s generalized stress by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in their body to help their stress levels return to a normal state of balance.  

Constantly being in a state of stress, even low-level stress, can take a serious toll on your dog’s health and happiness. By calming without sedating, CBD + CBDA can help your dog feel more relaxed and lead a healthier, happier life.  

How to support your dog’s gut health 

In addition to providing your dog with high-quality food, there are several ways pet parents can support their dog’s gut health: 

  • Consider going grain-free – While whole grains can be a good source of important vitamins and minerals, some veterinarians recommend dogs eat a grain-free diet to minimize weight gain, address gastrointestinal inflammation, and help alleviate allergies. Talk to your veterinarian about the pros and cons of a grain-free diet for your dog. 
  • Supplement with prebiotics and probiotics – Prebiotics provide nutrients to probiotics, the good bacteria in your dog’s gut. According to animal nutritionist Ann Wortinger, prebiotics and probiotics work together to help maintain the balance of healthy gut bacteria. 
  • Reduce stress – We’ve discussed how ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA can offer support for your dog’s stress. You can also help reduce your dog’s stress by maintaining an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise and playtime. Exercising can also go a long way towards minimizing your own stress, which your dog picks up on. 

The bottom line on your dog’s gut health 

Although often overlooked, gut health is a key component of your dog’s overall health. As the gateway through which the rest of their body is nourished, your dog’s gut impacts everything from their joints, brain, coat and skin to their dental health and stress levels. Fortunately, there are many ways for pet parents to support their dog’s gut health in order to avoid serious issues that can reduce their furry friend’s quality of life.