Go With Your (Dog's) Gut

What is the gut microbiome?

It is all the microorganisms (which are mainly bacteria) that live in your dog’s intestinal tract, of which there are TRILLIONS.

These bugs breakdown food and provide nutrients to the dog, and also other rend products referred to as postbiotics.

The results of the bugs (gut microbes) work means that the dog has nutrients and postbiotics available to be absorbed through the intestine. These nutrients affect a dog’s health, and also, it is believed, their behaviour.

Your dog’s microbiome actually provides:

· More than 80% of the body’s serotonin – which is an important neurotransmitter – hence why it makes sense that our diet impacts on how we behave, Dogs are not different in that respect.

· Most of the dog’s entire Vitamin K requirement


· Bugs can actually ‘educate’ the dog’s immune system to be able to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘harmful’ bacteria.

When we think of bacteria it is easy to picture that bacteria are bacteria, right? Wring. For instance, the bugs that live inside a dog’s mouth, will not be the same as those that inhabit the large intestine. The ones in the large intestine are what we are talking about in this article.

When dogs become ill, changes occur within the gut microbiome. There are different species of bacteria in different numbers, and these populations can change in number – putting the gut out of balance and causing illness.

What should we feed to promote good gut health?

There is no simple answer to this, and I do not intend for this blog to become an essay, so I will keep it simple here – and leave the door open for you to research further on this topic should you choose to do so. However, we do know that some basic changes to a dog’s diet can impact heavily, for example:

Simply changing the proportion of protein or carbohydrate in the diet can increase or decrease certain species of gut bacteria, these can impact things like the efficiency of the dog to digest fibre, or protein.

Some studies show benefits to a raw diet over kibble. However, a raw diet can increase certain species of bacteria which increases the dog’s risk of infection.

In addition, the quality of protein that is fed to your dog is of significant importance when look at a healthy gut microbiome, and poor-quality protein can lead to chronic inflammatory disorders and gastrointestinal disease, more so than when higher quality protein is fed.

Prebiotics and Probiotics – do they help?

Prebiotics are, in the main, types of fibre or starch that are moderately to highly fermentable by gut microbes. However, as they are not digestible (cannot be broken down by the dog’s digestive enzymes), they bypass the small intestine and end up in the large intestine. This can cause an anti-inflammatory effect in the dog as a result of the productions of SCFAs and is also thought to promote the population numbers of good bacteria.

Probiotics are the bugs themselves, as in live organisms – intended to alter the gut microbiome directly.

There is no research to support giving prebiotics or probiotics to an otherwise healthy dog. Although, there are some studies that show benefits of giving probiotics to dogs with certain forms of gastrointestinal disease.

Prebiotics could be beneficial but making sure you have the correct type of prebiotic, as well as ensuring that the diet is at optimum level, is just as important.

Source: Your Dog’s Microbiome – What You Should Know [Linda P. Case]

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