Your dog's gut health is directly linked to his overall health. Hundreds of microorganisms live inside your dog's digestive tract: bacteria and microbes such as viruses, fungi, etc. By keeping an abundance of good bacteria in your dog's microbiome, you can help your dog's immune system and health and solve allergies.
When your dog's microbiome is unbalanced, it can cause disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, other digestive issues, and immune system reactions.
Due to modern dog food diets, other pollutants, and harmful substances, we see a rise in dogs' microbiome-related disorders. As simple as it sounds, restoring your dog's gut health without using medications may be the key to restoring his overall health and supporting a long, happy life.
How can I improve my dog's digestive system?
Improving dog gut health and your dog's digestive system might seem daunting to dog owners. For example, it took me years to realize I was lactose intolerant. Gut health is hard to understand, but the symptoms are always easy to see: frequent allergies, itching, scratching, ear infections, diarrhea, etc.
A dog with good gut health is a healthy dog. So let's look at all the ways your can support your dog's gut microbiome.
1. Try raw food: it could have the biggest impact.
Switching your pet's diet is a big step and might seem scary. However, if you have already tried several options and dog foods to restore your dog's gut health and nothing works, you may try a raw food diet. Here is a short story from an actual veterinarian, Jenny Elwell-Gerken: "I adopted Boomer towards the end of vet school. I thought he was perfectly healthy. After about two years, he developed diarrhea. He had diarrhea for TWO YEARS!".
Jenny claims that she went to seven other vets at the time and tried everything: antibiotics, diet changes to grain-free, steroids, and more. Then, she adds: "Finally, I switched him to a raw diet out of sheer desperation. His diarrhea was gone in two days."
There is more! "His monthly ear infections and constant licking also began to disappear."
According to a 2019 study on dog raw diet, 68% of the participants in the study switched their dog's diet to raw food for the following reasons:
- improving their dog's health condition
- because commercial pet food had caused problems in the past
- because they did not trust commercial pet food
- because their dog did not eat commercial pet food
Just like for us humans, and in my case with dairy, what our dogs eat is extremely influential on how healthy they are or not. So if you read this article because your dog has gut health issues or bad digestive health, the cause might be what your dog is eating, and switching diets could be beneficial.
Raw fresh ingredients provide a source of natural microbes for your dog's stomach. Dog raw diet is considered very healthy and nutrient-rich, as long as you take the necessary precautions against contamination. A raw diet could also be a way to help your dog maintain a healthy weight and optimal health.
Another study found that 98.7% of dog owners who fed their dogs raw food noticed their dog's health improved.
2. Enhance your pet's microbiome by adding prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics and probiotics are often referred to together, but they are different.
Prebiotics are microorganisms that support the well-being of probiotics. Prebiotics are commonly found in food. Some ingredients became well-known because of their prebiotic benefits, such as:
- Chicory root
- Raw oats
Probiotics are healthy microbes that help convert fiber and plant-based sugars into vitamins and fatty acids, increasing nutrient absorption. Vitamins and fatty acids then improve your dog's biochemistry.
Probiotics help protect your dog's gut health and have anti-inflammatory properties. Some foods also naturally contain probiotics, such as kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
3. Feed your pet a nutritious, biologically appropriate diet.
Whether you want to give the dog's raw food diet a try, there are other ways to make sure your dog's food is nutrient-dense and healthy. Raw meats, organs, bones, organic fruits, vegetables, and food-based vitamins all help to make your dog's diet healthier and richer.
4. Pay attention to ingredients.
Boosting your dog's gut health starts with paying attention to ingredients. Some ingredients will help develop harmful bacteria, which you want to avoid. On the other hand, some ingredients help foster beneficial bacteria. Such ingredients are:
- High meat protein
- Animal fat
- Prebiotics (more on that soon)
Whenever shopping for dog food, meat should be the first ingredient. Ingredients are ordered by share of the total food, so the first ingredient is always the main component. However, it is not unusual to see meat listed 2nd or 3rd on some bags, a red flag.
5. Add bone broth to their meals.
Are you looking for the perfect food topper? Adding bone broth could be the perfect moisture your dog's food needs.
Bone broth provides your dog with easily digestible liquid gelatin or collagen. Collagen is a connective tissue that helps strengthen the structure of body organs, the intestines, and the skin. In addition, collagen includes antioxidants, such as glutathione, that help detoxify the liver and restore the gut lining.
Giving your dog bone broth can provide the perfect environment for gut flora to thrive.
The bone broth requires a long time to make at home. You can also buy pre-made bone broth if you're in a pinch.
6. Add fermented foods.
Another way to improve gut health is to feed your dog more fermented foods. Fermented food is good for the immune system and building beneficial bacteria. In addition, they contain high quantities of live microbes that support digestion.
Here is a shortlist of fermented foods you can try:
- Apple cider vinegar
These foods have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
7. Consider grain-free dog food.
It is no secret that dogs can be allergic to grains. Remember, however, that beef and chicken alone cause more food allergies than all grains combined. Therefore, when looking to relieve your dog of his allergies, you should consider food as the main solution to the root cause.
Some common grains are rice, oats, corn, and wheat. If your dog suffers from allergies and shows any of the following symptoms, it may be because of grains:
- Itchy skin
- Upset stomach
- Hair loss
The truth is that grains do not contribute to better digestion. Also, some grains lack any beneficial nutritional value. However, there are some healthy grains you can also try, such as quinoa.
8. Try immune-boosting mushrooms.
Your dog's gut health and immune system are linked. Boosting your pet's immune system will benefit your dog's gut. Certain varieties of mushrooms, such as Turkey Tail and Lion's Mane, are extremely beneficial to dogs. These mushrooms bring immune-boosting beta-glucan that helps get rid of harmful bacteria.
Mushrooms also include fiber that serves as a prebiotic. Finally, they have anti-inflammatory properties. Knowing which mushrooms are the most beneficial and where to find them might be confusing. Don't feed raw Turkey Tail mushrooms to your dog; instead, find a supplement blend specifically made for dogs.
Here at Petsmont, we have taken the time to research all the mushrooms that are most beneficial and created a 100% USDA Certified Organic blend.
9. Add Omega 3 to your dog's bowl.
You have probably heard of fatty acids before, but how do they benefit your dog's gut? Fatty acids, especially Omega-3s, bring lots of health benefits. Like certain mushrooms, Omega-3s support your dog's immune system and gut health.
Most of the time, you can supplement your dog's diet with Omega 3s by adding fish oil or salmon oil. Another option is to cook fresh salmon fillets or give your dog sardines. Salmon oil, especially Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil, supports a nutrient-rich diet and your pet's health.
There are plenty of options out there for Omega 3 supplementation for dogs. You can read my article on how to choose the best fish oil. If you are in a rush, you are welcome to check our Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil Formula for Dogs.
10. Reduce stress.
Unfortunately, stress can have negative effects on gut health. As you may know, stress releases cortisol, which may increase your dog's blood pressure and damage his gut health.
If your dog is showing increased aggression, loss of appetite, or avoiding other humans or pets, he may be a victim of stress.
11. Reduce harmful ingredients and toxic substances in your home.
Many products and substances commonly found in households are toxic (either to touch or inhale). These substances can be detrimental to your health and your dog's health, including his gut. Here is an incomplete list, so you can get an idea:
- Antifreeze, motor oil, latex paint, oil-based paint, windshield washer fluid, etc.
- Laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, bleach, oven cleaners, etc.
- Air fresheners, drain cleaners, carpet cleaners, etc.
- Insecticides, chemical flea & tick collars, etc.
Try to avoid this type of product when you can, and if they are necessary, always look for the most natural option.
12. Avoid unnecessary vaccines & antibiotics.
Core vaccines are enough to protect dogs from 7 to 15 years, and anything extra could be detrimental to their health.
While prescribed by veterinarians, antibiotics can sometimes do more harm than good. The reason is that they kill both harmful bacteria and good bacteria, leaving your pup's gut microbiome depleted. So if you need to give antibiotics to your dog, make sure to take extra steps to replete your dog's reserves.
13. Add superfoods for dogs.
Superfoods don't bring any superpowers to your pup, but they certainly benefit their health! Aside from feeding your dog fish such as Wild Alaskan Salmon, you can consider adding blueberries, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. These superfoods are full of antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.
14. Use herbs instead of dewormers.
Getting tapeworms, whipworms, and other parasites are common problems for dogs. Unfortunately, dewormers recommended by vets can include harmful ingredients that can disrupt your dog's gut. Other vets recommend herbs to get rid of worms, such as:
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
15. Don't feed human-food.
Sometimes, it can be so tempting, but don't feed your dog human food! Human food may not be balanced for your dog and may cause more harm than good.
16. Add exercise.
Are you giving your dog enough exercise based on their breed? Exercise brings tons of benefits to your dog. Whether walking, running, or playing, engaging your dog in physical exercise can reduce stress and release endorphins.
17. Regular vet visits.
It is recommended to take your dog for a vet visit at least once a year. Your vet can detect issues you may miss and that even well-written articles like this one cannot help you. Unless your dog has a serious condition, he shouldn't need to consult a veterinarian more than once per year. If your dog has chronic allergies, you should look into fish oil.