Unless your dog is having digestive issues, dog gut health is probably one of the last things on your mind. Even when healthy, though, your dog may need some support for their gut microbiome.
That’s because the gut microbiome can have a big influence on their overall wellness. Although diet plays a significant role in gut health, environment and genetics are also factors. Diet is just one of the ways you can support your dog’s gut microbiome.
Choosing the best dog food for your dog’s unique needs and including any veterinarian-recommended supplements can help to build and maintain a healthy and diverse microbiome.
What is a Dog Microbiome?
A microbiome is the vast collected genetic material of organisms living in a particular area within the body. Your dog’s skin has its own microbiome and so does its mouth. In terms of your dog’s overall health, however, the gut microbiome is the most influential.
The organisms living inside the microbiome within your dog’s digestive tract include bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, viruses and protozoa. t These microorganisms help digest food, and they also help combat dangerous pathogens within the body, influence inflammation and even play a role in the communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. The overall health of this community is vital to your dog’s wellness.
Keeping a diverse and balanced population of gut bacteria within the gut is essential for a dog’s wellness. Want to know why? Seventy percent of a dog’s immune system is associated with their gut. An imbalance of gut bacteria (dysbiosis) can lead to flatulence, gastrointestinal upset, allergens, auto-immune conditions, obesity, chronic enteropathies, cognitive impairments and more.
How Do I Help My Dog Maintain a Healthy Gut?
Factors like medications, environment and genetics all factor into the health and diversity of a dog’s microbiome. Some diseases can also cause or contribute to imbalances within a dog’s gut microbiome. A major component to a healthy digestive environment is diet.
That’s why it’s important to find the best dog food for gut health based on your dog’s unique needs. You may want to choose a food that includes plenty of safe and effective prebiotics and/or probiotics.
Food Sources for Prebiotics
Prebiotics are special plant fibers that enhance the functionality of a dog’s digestive system by nourishing the healthy bacteria within the gut. They do this by providing a food source for the “good” bacteria within the lower digestive tract.
Prebiotic foods safe for dogs include:
- Green vegetables
- Raw oats
Food Sources for Probiotics
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that benefit your dog’s digestive system. Among the benefits probiotics deliver are the ability to support the body’s production of various vitamins and short-chain fatty acids, as well as inhibit harmful bacteria within the gut.
Probiotics also help restore gut health for dogs by playing a role in maintaining the balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria (microflora) within their gut to help keep it healthy and in working order. When medication, illness or stress cause an imbalance, probiotics can help restore balance.
Talk with your veterinarian before using any human probiotic foods or supplements, as they aren’t always safe or effective for dogs. Your veterinarian can recommend the best food and supplements to support your dog’s unique needs.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
To support the health and wellness of your dog, ask your veterinarian about finding dog food that delivers complete gut health for dogs. If this requires changing the dog food formula you are currently feeding your dog, make sure to do it slowly rather than all at once.
If you have more dog health questions, find out what our experts have to say on our Pet Expertise page.