Your dog’s or cat’s gut health impacts much more than his digestion. Everything from his head to his toes is affected by the microbiome, and it’s up to you to nourish it! Here’s how.
Inside the intestines of every human and animal lives a colony of good and bad bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This is known as the gut microbiome. An individual’s microbial makeup plays a very important role in his overall health, regulating digestive function, influencing the immune system, helping with the production of certain vitamins, and more. Given its substantial influence on the body, the microbiome is an important research focus, and promoting gut health has become a priority for many people – dog and cat parents included!
Defining gut health
“A healthy gut has a good balance of microorganisms that enable it to work at optimal levels to absorb nutrients and facilitate energy production, destroy bad bacteria and toxins, and support a strong, healthy immune system,” says Leasa Moltke, Nutrition and Regulatory Manager at Solid Gold Pet. “Signs that your animal’s gut is not as healthy as it could be are poor skin and coat condition, poor stool quality and decreased energy.”
An overarching influence
As noted above, the gut microbiome has an impact on so much more than digestion. It supports (or undermines) the skin and coat, protects the body from inflammation, and has been linked to mental and emotional health. But that’s not all! The state of your animal’s gut also influences his:
- immune system
- nails and paw pads
It almost goes without saying, then, that nourishing your dog or cat’s gut is crucial to his well-being. Luckily, there are a number of easy ways to accomplish this.
How to keep his gut healthy
There is no magic recipe for a healthy gut, but there are a few basic steps you can take to support the delicate colony of microorganisms in your animal’s digestive tract:
1. Improve his diet – “A healthy diet full of high quality proteins and fats, complex carbohydrates, and indigestible fibers – prebiotics – is vital for gut health,” says Leasa. “These diets feed the good bacteria in our pets’ guts, which in turn are stronger and more able to fight off bad bacteria and toxins. Poor diets high in sugars and low in prebiotics can actually feed bad bacteria and starve good bacteria, causing an imbalance which can lead to a host of issues.”
2. Exercise – Want to improve your animal’s gut health? Take him on regular walks! Exercise has been shown to increase the diversity of microbiota in the gut1, which may reduce the risk of disease.
3. Reduce stress – A study2 published in 2014 suggests that even short-term exposure to stressors can disrupt the microbiome in animals. Do your best to remove stressors – such as loneliness, loud noises and frequent, disruptive changes – from your dog or cat’s life.
4. Limit use of unnecessary antibiotics – These drugs are prescribed to kill harmful bacteria but, unfortunately, they also wipe out beneficial strains. Ask your vet about natural antibiotic alternatives to see if they’re an option.
Nourishing your dog or cat’s microbiome isn’t just about his gut – it’s about his health, happiness and longevity. Taking steps to nourish it will help ensure he’s the best version of himself…right down to the bacteria in his intestines!
To learn more about how your dog or cat is influenced by gut health, click here.