As I have mentioned in many articles already, a healthy gut and digestive system is pretty much key to your dog’s overall good health.
As well as getting overall feeding right for your dog, there are some additional bits of “magic” that are very useful to know and use as and when needed. Such as at the following times:
After a round of antibiotics - Administration of antibiotics can actually create other health issues. Antibiotics destroy both good and bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (GI Tract). The destruction of good bacteria causes a suppression of the immune system leaving your dog’s or cat’s natural defence against bacteria, fungal infection, parasites, and viruses in a weakened state. The GI tract is also the body’s major centre for serotonin production. The death of good flora has a negative impact on serotonin levels. This can result in creation or heightening of anxiety and stress.
Alleviating tummy upsets after stressful incidents, such as while pets are in kennels or dog rescue, other significant change in environment or routine
Calming digestive upsets caused by travel and dietary changes
Improving loose or mucous covered poops
Boosting immune system function, especially in pets that are very young, elderly, or have compromised health from long term illness
Your dog's digestive system is home to billions of bacteria that keep their gut running smoothly.
Probiotics are living microorganisms very similar to these resident bacteria. Adding probiotics as a dietary supplement can increase these "good" bacteria, which help to boost their number and lower intestinal pH, lowers the numbers of disease-causing bacteria in your pet's gut, while making it harder for potentially disease-causing pathogens to set up shop in the small intestine.
Probiotics can also beneficially modify immune function. Studies have shown that probiotics can help treat infections outside of the gastrointestinal tract as well as some types of allergic or inflammatory diseases. Given that a large proportion of the body’s immune system is associated with the gut, it makes sense that anything that influences the immune system could provide a more wide-spread effect.
For short term illness, such as diarrhoea, probiotic supplements need only be administered over a few days. However, as they are live bacteria that don’t stay long in the gut, for longer term chronic illness use of probiotics may need to be continuous.
When looking at supplements the following are important for you to know:
The bacteria in a probiotic must be live and able to reproduce in order for it to be beneficial. Probiotics added to commercial pet food are destroyed and dead as they are sensitive to moisture and heat.
A good supplement should have at least 10 “strains”. The more strains the better as diversity will ensure that the good flora is varied enough to protect against all of the bad strains of bacteria. Some examples of the diversity of strains:
L. plantarum fights viral infections, cancer;
L. salivariusfights fungal infections such as candidia; helps the digestive system break down undigested protein and detoxifies the GI tract, may prevent colon cancer;
Lactic Streptococci protects against colitis and IBD (irritated bowl disease);
Lactobacillus caucasicus fights diarrhea;
Lactobacillus GG (L. rhamnosus), protects against respiratory illnesses, treats candida, colitis and diarrhea, reduCFU (Colony Forming Units)
Food sources of probiotics include kefir, yoghurt, Manuka honey and sauerkraut. Herbal sources include, linseed, and peppermint leaf particularly for IBS.
It is, however, important to note that probiotics only work if the environment is suitable for them to grow. When dogs have been very poorly, or after a course of antibiotics, the digestive tract is not a probiotic friendly place! In this situation you will also have to administer prebiotics which are a source of food to allow probiotics to grow, multiply and survive in the gut.
Generally it is good practice to feed pre and probiotics together.
Prebiotics feed the "good" microorganisms in the gut, giving them a potential advantage in their competition with the "bad" microorganisms.
The most commonly used prebiotics are Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), but other oligosaccharides, arabinogalactans, and lactulose are also considered prebiotics. Sources include inulin (a form of FOS extracted from chicory), larch (a source of arabinogalactins), pectins, beet pulp, gums (e.g., guar gum), and wheat dextrin (Benefiber).
Food sources include legumes (beans, lentils, peas), fruits, vegetables, and Jerusalem artichokes. Some commercial dog foods have added sources, such as chicory and beet. Herbal sources include chicory, burdock and dandelion root, linseed, artichoke leaf.
One of the vital forces and energy of life, enzymes are tiny protein molecules found in every living cell. They're responsible for countless activities and functions involving energy production, metabolism, detoxification, and so much more:
Supports the immune system
Aids the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food
Promotes normal body weight without hunger cravings
Promotes respiratory health
Helps reduce minor food sensitivities
Helps promote normal cell growth
Supports healthy teeth and gums
Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels that are already within the normal range
Reduces occasional bloating, gas, heartburn, and constipation
Lessens skin irritation and excessive shedding
Provides more energy due to better utilization of nutrients
Helps remove toxins from the body
Promotes comfortable movement of joints
Digestive enzymes work in the stomach and intestines to break down the food your pet eats.
The four basic digestive enzymes are:
Protease – helps break down and digest protein
Amylase – helps break down and digest carbohydrates and starches
Lipase – helps break down and digest fat
Cellulase – helps break down fibre
A lack of digestive enzymes may result in incomplete digestion, allowing partially digested food particles to enter the bloodstream directly from the large intestine.
Metabolic enzymes function throughout your pet's body to help carry out the critical bodily functions of building and maintaining every cell, tissue, and organ
Enzymes are fragile and can be easily destroyed from heat, pesticides, preservatives, additives, artificial colourings and flavourings. Pretty much everything in commercial pet food! In addition, environment such as air pollution, smoke, excess UV rays and medications can also kill off enzymes. Even your pet’s own body – producing free radicals – can destroy them.
If your pet consumes mostly processed or cooked food, they will pretty much have to rely on just the enzymes that their own body can manufacture.
Your pet's pancreas produces protease, amylase, and lipase, but likely not enough to completely digest her food.
Just about every raw, fresh food – whether it is plant or animal source – contains enzymes.
Many holistic veterinarians recognize that a lack of enzymes – both digestive and systemic – may be a major factor in less-than-optimal health.
If your dog's cells, tissues, and organs can't function without enzymes, then this will have a negative effect on his body and speed up the aging process.
The first step in providing your pet with the enzymes she needs for both digestion and metabolic functioning is to provide the foods appropriate for her species, by switching your pet over to a diet containing as much living, raw ingredients as possible.
Raw food certainly supplies more digestive enzymes than processed food, but supplementing with enzymes helps ensures your dog can completely digest their food without dipping into their fragile bank of enzymes.
When you feed your pet enzymes with her meals, they aid in digestion. When you feed the exact same enzymes at other times, they work systemically for metabolic purposes.
Enzymes can come from three different sources: plant, animal, or fungal.
Animal-sourced enzymes most closely mimics what you find in the ancestral animal's prey's GI tract
Enzymes from fungal sources can be problematic for many pets. Particularly with pets who suffer from allergies.
Plant-based enzymes are better suited to vegetarian pets (rabbits)
When selecting any enzyme – for human consumption or for use with your pets – you want to ensure the source of the enzymes is pure and from a reliable source.