Dog Gut Health: 7 Simple Ways to Support Your Pup’s Gut
The gut microbiome has been called “the second brain.” In studies in mammals from mice to humans, we’re now learning more and more about the complex interactions between the gut, nervous system, immune system, and more.
This is just as true for our canine friends as it is for us, and if we want our pups to have a happy, healthy life, we need to pay attention to what we feed them. After all, as their owners, we’re responsible for what goes into their body.
Suboptimal gut health, on a more practical day-to-day level, can be a culprit in everything from stinky farts to diarrhea. Both of these are not only miserable for your pup, but they’re going to be a disaster for you as well.
Remember, just as in humans, the gut is a complex environment. Why these can be healthy steps with low risks, you should be in contact with your vet about changes you make to their diet and lifestyle.
Make Dietary Shifts Slowly
The first place to look when improving gut health is your pup’s diet. However, if you drastically change what they eat, their gut won’t be ready for it. This can make things worse. Well-intentioned doggy parents often cause more gastric stress by changing their food overnight.
Instead, make changes slowly over the course of several weeks. If you add a supplement, start at a very small dose and gradually increase it. If you change their food, start mixing the new food with their current food and substitute out for a few weeks.
Shift to a Diet a Dog Should Actually Have
The pet food industry has a MASSIVE problem. Over the years, it’s gotten a lot of publicity, but it still hasn’t caused lasting shifts in pet food.
We’ve written about the problem here, but to summarize, pet food manufacturers are loading up dog food with crap, despite the best efforts of the marketing team to get you to think otherwise.
Even putting aside the more dangerous concerns like poisonous melamine contamination, a dog’s gut isn’t designed to digest dehydrated grains.
Most pet foods primarily contain ingredients like dehydrated corn meal and wheat meal. In reality, dogs should eat a meat-first diet, just like their wolf ancestors.
Many experts advocate for a raw food diet, which mimics what dogs evolved to eat. The fact that it’s raw gives owners pause, because it’s filled with bacteria. However, for dogs, unlike humans, they evolved to have these bacteria in their diet.
The last time I checked, we didn’t have any archeological accounts of dogs starting fires and grilling rabbits and squirrels before eating them.
There’s a lot more we could say about this, but simple steps you can take, even if you’re not ready for raw food, or can’t afford raw food, choose a canned food with less grains and more meat, or at least a kibbel with its ingredients clearly shown.
You can read more about the pet food problem here.
Limit How Much Human Food They Get
No matter what their eyes tell you after dinner, resist the urge to spoil your pet with your scraps. You’ll especially want to avoid giving them grains and vegetables. Dogs are carnivores. They don’t need vegetables the same way we do. And grains, as we talked about, can cause distress on their gut.
Even meat, while it may be healthy, you’ll want to watch the amount. A common practice is to give your pup all the fatty parts of a steak, but fats are a challenge to digest in large quantities, so it may cause some gut stress.
Use the Right Probiotic
Even more so than humans, dogs were meant to flood their digestive systems with bacteria. Like I said, wolves don’t start fires. They eat their food raw. However the modern doggy diet often doesn’t contain the bacteria that a dog’s gut evolved with. In fact, a lot of their food contains harmful antibiotics.
Adding a probiotic can add this back into the diet. However, there’s a lot of crappy dog probiotic products out there. Pet supplement companies have the same poor regulation and corporate incentives as the food conglomerates.
Additionally, probiotics are an inexact science. We’re adding bacteria, but we don’t exactly know if those bacteria will help the gut or cause other changes.
That’s why we worked with top veterinarians, educated on the problems with the pet food industry, to develop our probiotics. It’s definitely not the only good product on the market, but we built it with our own pups in mind.
Learn more about Pup Labs Probiotic.
Add More Play to Reduce Stress
Our pups can improve their gut health in more ways than just changing their intake. As we mentioned, the gut interplays with all the bodily systems. The link to stress and gut health has been most famously linked in Robert Sapolsky’s book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. In sum, the answer is stress, or lack of it.
When our doggies are stressed, and don’t have healthy outlets to get it, then they’re going to foster a stressed-out attitude just like a man sitting in his car honking his horn. The same physiological mechanisms are at play.
So you can improve their health by adding more play. Inject regular walks into their (and your) day. Take the time to play fetch, throw a frisbee, or practice tricks.
Not only will this improve gut health, but they’ll all-around make your dog happier and healthier.
Pay Attention to Dental Health
In dogs, heart disease has been linked to gum disease. The health of the mouth is the first line of the defense for the health of everything else. If their mouth is flooded with damaging bacteria, that can make its way into their gut, and impact everything else.
Not to mention, you’ll want to do this to avoid stinky breath, cavities, and other health problems.
Brushing teeth is one way to do this, but you can also buy treats that clean your pup’s mouth and flood it with healthy prebiotics (precursors to the formation of healthy bacteria. Like a lot of products, there’s a lot of crap, which is why we made these Pup Labs Teeth-Cleaning Treats.
We demand it. The rest of these are suggestions but this one is actually a requirement. Just like movement will reduce stress, so will extra snuggles. Make sure you’re taking the time to give your pup the one-on-one attention they deserve. That emotional connection is crucial for their well being and stress.
The dog’s gut is a complicated process. While taking steps like changing food or adding a supplement seem like big changes, remember to institute them slowly over time. This will make them feel more manageable for you and your dog.
Finally, remember that a healthy gut is one of the best signs of good health. It’s a sign that their diet is on point and that they’re not too stressed. This, in the end, will be crucial to giving your pup a happy, healthy life.