Did you know that your dog (and you!) are covered inside and out with a layer of microorganisms? I know what your thinking “ewwwww gross!” But many of these microorganisms are helpful and live in harmony with us. We help them and they help us. The highest concentration of these microorganisms is in the gut.
Why Your Dog’s Gut Health Matters
Any food that you choose to feed your dog is made up of nutrients micro and macro. Macronutrients include protein, fat, and carbs. Micronutrients include things like vitamins and minerals. We all know that we need to feed our dogs the right balance of macro and micro-nutrients for a happy and healthy dog.
But did you know that even if you feed the best possible diet for your dog, he may not be getting all the nutrients from it? Every part of the digestive tract plays a roll in digestion. The teeth chew to make food items smaller, stomach acids help to break down the food even more. But the gut, the intestines, is where the majority of the nutrients are broken down into usable forms. From there the nutrients are carried throughout the body and used wherever needed. Allowing your dog to be truly well nourished.
If your Golden’s gut health is out of whack he won’t be well-nourished even if you feed him the diet that is best for him. This can cause a host of health issues including hormone issues, difficulty detoxing, anxiety, depression, behavioral issues, premature aging, and more. If your dog is missing even one essential nutrient for long enough it can be a major issue.
The gut has also been called the second brain. This is because a lot of hormones and enzymes are made in the gut. And both hormones and enzymes play a huge roll in thinking and emotions. If your dog is not properly nourished because his gut health is poor, then he might be more prone to overreact, growl, bark, be aggressive, be fearful, scratch all the time, and do strange things. So, if you are currently going through a behavioral issue with your Golden it would be worth it to work on your Golden’s diet and especially his gut health.
While there are lots of amazing things about the gut I’m going to give you just one more. The gut holds 70% or more of your dog’s immune system. So, if the gut is not healthy that means your dog’s immune system is lacking. This leaves your dog open to invasion and illness. The invasion could be bad bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast, and all sorts of other things. So, gut health affects your dog’s immune system, his brain and mental health, and his nutrition. It’s pretty darn important!
What Can Damage Gut Health?
Okay, but how do you know if your Golden’s gut is unhealthy? What would damage it, anyway? Sadly, there are tons of things in our world today that can damage your Golden Retriever’s gut health. Antibiotics are a big one. Antibiotics can be life-saving, but they are indiscriminate killers. They will destroy good bacteria along with bad bacteria. Basically, if your dog has ever been on a round of antibiotics you can bet that his gut health is not in good shape.
Other things that can have a negative effect on gut health include vaccinations, preventatives for fleas ticks and heartworms, prescription drugs, chemicals, fragrances, long bouts of diarrhea or vomiting, poor diet, stress, herbicides, pesticides, cleaners, antibacterial anything, and so much more. We live in a world that can be very harmful to our dog’s guts, and our guts too!
So, what can we do to actually improve gut health? Well, there’s always probiotics! Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms. They help to breakdown the foods that you feed your dog, create hormones and enzymes, balance emotion, and more. You can feed your dog probiotic-rich foods or supplements to help enhance his gut health.
If your dog’s gut is low in beneficial microorganisms that will give bad microorganisms the chance to take over your dog’s gut. However, if you feed your dog probiotics this can help to move out some of the bad microorganisms. Good microorganisms that are living and thriving in your Golden’s gut are a very good thing!
However, there can be too much of a good thing. You see, the gut is meant to be like a rainforest with all of its different species of flora and fauna. A typical patch of rainforest will contain 1,500 different flowering plants, 750 species of tree, 400 species of birds, 150 species of butterfly, and who knows what else! This is what we want a gut to be like with tons of variety.
What you don’t want the gut to be like is a kitchen herb garden. You might have oregano, parsley, rosemary, chives, mint, and others. No herb garden is ever going to match the variety and diversity of the rainforest. Yet when we consistently give our dogs the exact same probiotic supplement with the exact same 5 probiotic strains in it, we aren’t going to create much variety in his gut. And your dog’s gut needs a variety of probiotics for optimal health.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are food for the probiotics and if you don’t feed the probiotics they may die, which would defeat the purpose of feeding them to your dog. Typically prebiotics are undigestable fiber. They include mushrooms, chicory root, garlic, larch arabinogalactan, burdock root, and dandelion greens.
Feeding a variety of prebiotics is a great way to boost the health of the probiotics in your Golden’s gut.
Other Foods To Support The Gut
Gut health can also be enhanced but feeding your dog plenty of foods containing collagen and gelatin. The lining of the gut is mostly made of components found in collagen and gelatin. Foods that are good sources of collagen and gelatin include bone broth, raw chicken feet, raw duck feet, raw knucklebones, raw turkey necks, raw chicken necks, raw duck necks, and raw trachea. Pretty much any food that has a joint or is mostly made of collagen.
Feeding these foods can help to enhance the structure of the gut and can help prevent and heal leaky gut. Leaky gut is when the foods that your dog eats leak through the gut before they are broken down into their smallest form. If food is not in its smallest form this can cause allergies, inflammation, and all sorts of nasty issues.
Are There Probiotic-Rich Foods?
If you seek out whole foods first and supplements second, good for you! You can find foods that are excellent sources of probiotics. These foods can be just as effective if not more effective than supplementation, they are typically more cost-effective when you make them yourself too.
Here are some foods that are rich in probiotics raw milk, kefir, raw goat milk, kimchi, kavass, raw apple cider vinegar, fermented veggie, sauerkraut, fermented broths or stocks. One nice thing about feeding probiotic-rich foods is that since they are naturally fermented you may get a variety of probiotics from one batch to another. One batch of kimchi is likely to have different probiotics than the next batch. It is still a good idea to feed a variety of these foods for maximum benefit! Remember we want a rainforest.
What To Look For In A Probiotic Supplement
If you want to use a supplement you most certainly can. But there are a few things that you need to keep in mind when looking for a good doggie probiotic supplement. First of all, you definitely need a probiotic that is made for dogs. Dogs are carnivores and should be eating a very different diet than a human, this means that a dog will need a very different probiotic than a human. So, choose a probiotic specifically for dogs.
You also want to look for a probiotic with as many strains as possible, remember the rainforest. There are two things that probiotic supplements mainly talk about: CFUs and strains. CFUs simply means the overall amount of probiotics in the supplement and has nothing to do with the number of strains. The amount of strains is much more useful to know. You want the most strains possible.
It is awesome if you can find a probiotic that already has a prebiotic added in. This will give the probiotics instant food, which will help them live and thrive. This is the best option for a probiotic supplement.
Lastly, you are going to want to find several different probiotic supplements that meet these standards from different brands. This is because you need to rotate which supplement you feed. So, you could feed one probiotic until it is gone and then do a different brand and when that’s gone do a different brand. Eventually, you may come back to the original brand. Be sure to choose supplements with different strains and different sources of prebiotic for maximum benefit.
The health of your Golden Retriever’s gut impacts all of his health. From how well he digests the good food you feed him to his mental health to his hormone balance. It is all impacted by his gut health. You can take steps to minimize your dog’s exposure to the things that damage his gut health. You can also feed probiotics either from food sources or in a supplement form for maximum health!