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Dog Gut Health: What It Is and How To Get It Right

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Dog gut health mightn’t be top of mind when you’re thinking about your pet’s needs. After all, there’s pet vaccinations, worming, weight maintenance, exercise, grooming, vet bills and all kinds of other things to consider. But just like humans, achieving a healthy and balanced gut can have your dog feeling on top of the world.

Gut health has a domino effect on a number of other areas for your pup, including their immune system, coat and skin condition, weight, dental condition, and overall stress levels and wellbeing.

Good gut nutrition is crucial in making sure your dog has the right balance of bacteria in their digestive tract – it’s basically the same reason humans take probiotics. And as you probably know, getting the right bacterial balance is an important element in holistic management of your dog’s health.

So dog gut health isn’t just about the digestive system, but about the whole dog.

The basics of dog gut health

A dog’s digestive tract is home to about 80% of their immune system. On top of this, the digestive tract also regulates blood sugar levels.

Just like us, dogs have a range of intestinal flora in their stomachs. These are to help with digesting food and liquid, as well as absorbing nutrients. A dog’s microbiome (their gut environment) consists mostly of good bacteria.

When the balance is disturbed, your dog can end up with more bad bacteria than good. This is where problems may begin. An imbalance of bacteria can cause a condition called dysbiosis.

If your dog develops this, you might notice they have symptoms like bad breath, loose stool, bloating, and weight loss. If there aren’t sufficient amounts of good bacteria you may start seeing problems like constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and flatulence.

What can cause this imbalance? A dog’s microbiome can be disturbed by antibiotics, age, illness or disease, as well as stress.

JRT dog on floor with man's  hands on gut

Dog food and good gut health

Restoring your dog’s gut health may take weeks. Or even months. But the good news is that it is possible. Getting the right food is one of the first steps towards creating the right balance in your dog’s gut.

There are several ingredients in food which contribute to its effect on dog gut health. This includes the quality of the ingredients, the type of protein and fibre, the fat content, and the balance and quantity of vitamins and minerals. Just like humans, a balanced diet is key to good gut health.

What to look for in dog food

When it comes to protein sources, your dog might digest some proteins better than others.

There’s no way to predict this in advance, but one dog might digest fish or chicken better than beef or lamb, for instance. Switching the main protein source in your dog’s food could help them digest their food more easily.

Food with more fibre can also be beneficial for dog gut health.

Think of it as the dog version of fruit and veggie intake. A good start is to look for a dog food containing beet pulp, inulin or psyllium as these are all good sources of fibre.

Unsurprisingly, a high-fat diet is harder to digest. If a dog is eating too much of this food, it’s likely to negatively impact their gut health.

The easiest way to check dog food for fat content is to check the label. The fat percentage should be listed clearly. If fat is in the first four ingredients on the ingredient list, it’s probably a food which is high in fat. If your dog’s struggling to digest this, try switching to a food which is higher in fibre and lower in fat.  

Considering a raw food diet? While feeding raw can be beneficial, there are some drawbacks. Namely, it can be hard to achieve the right balance of nutrients – and some dogs don’t digest a raw diet as well as others. Read more about about the pros and cons of raw food for puppies if this is an avenue you’re considering.

Things you can add to dog food for good gut health

Once you’ve decided on an appropriate diet for your dog, there are a couple of additions which can help your dog’s gut health. Namely superfoods, probiotics, and prebiotics.

What’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics? Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates. They help good bacteria grow in your dog’s gut. Probiotics are live cultures of good bacteria. These can be taken in supplement form, or they can be found naturally. Fermented foods and natural yoghurt are good sources of probiotics. Read more about the benefits of probiotics for pets here.

Superfoods are, as the name suggests, super nutrient dense foods. They’re great sources of vitamins and minerals, which can sometimes be lacking in commercial dog foods. Including them in your dog’s diet is a good idea, even if your dog already has a healthy gut.

What superfoods can your dog eat for gut health? Foods like pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, and blueberries are all great options for a nutrient boost.

The right dog food is crucial to dog gut health

Finding a good dog food

With so many dog food brands available, making the right choice can sometimes feel overwhelming. The ideal dog food depends on many factors including age, breed, exercise, food sensitivities, and more.

The best way to ensure you get it right is to consult with your vet. They’ll be able to recommend an appropriate food for your dog’s unique circumstances.

And if your dog’s had a low appetite, read our advice on why your dog isn’t eating. Hopefully it’s an easy fix.

Pet insurance for your dog’s gut and more

Responsible pet parents will always keep their pup’s health top of mind. And part of that means making sure you’re able to provide adequate medical care in the event of illness, accident, or other emergency. Luckily, it doesn’t mean you have to win the lottery!

Our dog insurance will give you the peace of mind that you have financial cover if something doesn’t go to plan…

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