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Gut Health for Pets

October 11th 2021
Gut Health in Pets—Why Your Dog’s or Cat’s Whole Body Depends on It!
Your pet’s gut health impacts much more that his digestion. Everything in the body is affected by the microbiome, and it is up to you to nourish it.
Inside the intestinal tract of every human and animal lives a colony of good and bad bacteria, fungi and viruses. This is known as the gut microbiome, and it plays a very important role in the overall health of the body, regulating digestive function but also influencing the immune system, helping with the production of vitamins and minerals, and even supporting the production of hormones and neurotransmitters which support the health of the nervous system. 
A healthy gut has a balance of micro-organisms 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. Signs that your animal’s gut is not as healthy as it should be include poor skin and coat quality, poor stool quality or an oversensitive digestive system, and decreased energy. An unhealthy microbiome can cause inflammation not only in the intestinal tract but throughout the body, contributing to issues such as skin or respiratory allergies, and inflammation in joints and other systems of the body.
So how do we help keep our pet’s gut microbiome as healthy as possible? There are several steps that you can take to help.
1)Improve his/her diet. 
A healthy diet is full of high quality proteins and fats, vegetables and some fiber (prebiotics which help support the lining of the intestinal tract and the production of good bacteria). Poor diets high in carbohydrates, sugars and low in prebiotics can feed bad bacteria and starve the good bacteria. Unprocessed or minimally processed diets are generally healthier and easier for the gut to process and use.
Soluble fiber such as cooked pumpkin, squash or sweet potatoes in small quantities are good sources of prebiotics for the gut, and are especially important in puppies and kittens to help support the intestinal bacteria and keep the gut in balance.
2)Exercise
Regular exercise has been shown to increase the diversity of the microbiota in the gut, which may reduce the risk of disease.
3)Reduce stress
One study found 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 pets’ lives.
4)Limit the use of unnecessary antibiotics
These drugs are prescribed to kill harmful bacteria but unfortunately they also wipe out beneficial bacteria strains. Sometimes antibiotics are necessary to treat infections but in these cases, it is a good idea to give probiotics while the pet is on the medication and for at least a week afterward, to help support the gut bacteria.
5)Probiotics
Support your pet’s microbiome on a regular basis by supplementing his/her diet with “good bacteria” in the form of probiotic powder, live culture yogurt or kefir, fermented vegetables or frozen tripe, or a combination of these. In the wild, carnivores are constantly replenishing their gut bacteria by eating the intestinal tracts of their prey, or sampling the stools of herbivores such as deer or rabbits (dogs do this as well!)
 
6)Fecal transplants/microbiome replacement therapy
This procedure is a relatively new therapy (used in human as well as veterinary medicine) to boost the gut microbiome by supplying the gut bacteria from pets with healthy digestive systems to the patient with chronic intestinal issues. It is usually done by instilling the healthy bacteria via an enema using the bacterial slurry from the feces of the healthy pet, and is a simple and minimally invasive procedure. It can be extremely helpful in boosting and correcting the bacterial balance in pets that have had intestinal disease or multiple prescriptions of antibiotics in their past.
The gut is a very important part of the body, and the micro-organisms that live in it are a vibrant, essential part of the body. Do your best to help your pet live his/her best life by supporting the microbiome; you may be adding years to his/her life!

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