Great Gut Blog

Dogs Have Gut Health Problems, Too

Posted by Brad Dennis, Ph.D. on

Dogs Have Gut Health Problems, Too

There are few pets out there that will give you their complete loyalty like a dog will. This is why most dog owners consider their dogs as family members more than pets. They put in a lot of effort to keep their canine friends happy, healthy, and safe.  

Dogs these days, and cats, too, are suffering a gut health epidemic like us humans are. Many dog owners struggle to find a way to keep their dog’s stomach in good shape. There is actually a lot of things to keep in mind if you want your dog to have a healthy gut and keep it that way.   

Keep in mind that dogs are opportunistic scavengers 

The first thing you need to learn about your dog is that they will eat every and any food they stumble upon. This kind of behavior is a part of their genetics and their instinct as scavengers. They don’t even need to be hungry to eat something!  

According to Dr. Rebecca Remillard, a veterinarian and dog dietician, dogs are a lot like humans in the sense that they will eat because the feeling of eating is satisfying to them. This is why you need to train your dog early on not to eat things off the street, the table, or things given by strangers.  

While dogs may have the mentality to eat anything anytime, their stomach will not necessarily to support this mentality.  

It is quite a common occurrence for a dog to pester their owners about being hungry when they are not. They will throw tantrum, give you the sad puppy eyes, or even straight out steal food if they see a chance. This drive that they have may confuse some owners and make them think that they are not feeding their friend enough. There is a fairly easy way to determine this. 

Dog body composition score 

The composition score serves the purpose of determining how much your dog is off his proposed ideal weight. Most vets can help you determine how your pet fairs on this score. Some will use a 1 to 9 composition score, while others will use 1 to 5 scoring, but in both cases, you want your dog to fall in the middle.  

So, 4 – 6 or 3 (in the case of the 1 to 5 scoring method), since this means that your dog’s weight is near optimal. Anything lower indicated an underfed dog and anything higher indicates an overfed dog. This scoring system is necessary since not all dogs are built the same and it can be helpful to determine their ideal weight.  

Once you know your dog’s ideal weight, it will be far easier to determine if you are overfeeding, underfeeding, or doing things just right. You should be aware that it is not just about how much you feed them, but what you feed them.  

A recent study conducted in Washington seems to indicate that a dog’s diet may impact their stomach microbes. They are hoping to use this study to change the way of creating dog food and focus on including prebiotics and probiotics in its creation.  

Does your dog have a sensitive stomach? 

In some cases, dogs will have an out of balance gut and the symptoms of this are quite easy to pinpoint.  

  • Frequent flatulence 
  • Vomiting 
  • Intermittent loose stool 

In a majority of cases, a diverse diet composed of dog food, table scraps and so on is perfectly fine, but if they have a sensitive tummy, then you might have to simplify their diet. You will have to create a steady diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics for them and avoid giving them junk food as well as prevent them from getting access to your garbage.  

Give them high-quality, high fiber dog food and avoid greasy stuff. Proteins and carbohydrates are much easier to digest. Prebiotic fiber is also great for their gut health and there are more than a few sources of fiber suitable for canines. It can be a bit difficult to find dog food that has “high fiber” indicated on the packaging, but you should be able to find in the nutrition chart. Your dog's gut bacteria needs nourishing too! Beta carotene, selenium and vitamins A, C and E can also help.   If you can't find any, you should consider adding a small sprinkling of your own prebiotic fiber to their meals.    

Still, in cases where dogs have sensitive bellies, a sudden diet change can create a whole lot of trouble for them. This is why it is a good idea to change their diet gradually, by slowly adding new foods into their old ones and increasing the ratio over time.  

Natural remedies for an upset stomach 

If your dog is not eating, there are a couple of home remedies you can try before you take them to the vet. You can give them banana based baby food or you can boil some chicken and rice. If your dog isn’t drinking water either, you can add some to the mixture.  

Dogs have a natural way of resolving their own stomach troubles by eating grass. This process makes them vomit in order to clear their digestive tract from whatever is upsetting it. 

In all of these situations, you need to ensure that your dog is hydrated. Vomiting, diarrhea, and a sick digestive tract can lead to dehydration really fast, which can make things a lot worse. You can check if your dog is dehydrated by trying to pick him/her up by the neck like their mother would. If the skin doesn’t go back to its original position by itself, you are looking at a case of dog dehydration.  

One last piece of advice, a lot of dog owners tend to react only when they notice that there is something wrong and go back to their old ways as soon as the situation is resolved. A bad tummy is usually an indicator of an underlying dietary issue, so if you keep doing the same thing, you will get the same result. Now you know; prebiotics and probiotics can help you and your pets get a healthy stomach and change their diet to keep them healthy and happy.  

Stick around to find out more about gut health. 



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