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What You Need to Know about Your Dog’s Gut Health

Updated: Jul 2, 2022




Science continues to find ways our gut health affects so many parts of our overall health. The more we learn about our own gut health, the more we begin to explore the gut health of our pets. Fortunately, there is plenty of information about how to keep your dog healthy by looking out for her gut. But before we get into the specifics of how to fix gut issues, I want to start by making sure we understand what a healthy gut looks like for your pet.



What Does a Healthy Gut Look Like?

In medical school, the first year is spent learning anatomy and normal physiology. This helps doctors get a baseline for what should be considered normal. The same concept applies to learning about animals. Understanding the normal way our pet’s digestive system works helps us recognize when there is abnormality. Here are the signs of a healthy gut in your dog.


They have a good appetite.

Keep an eye on how often and how much your dog eats. If you notice any concerning changes in the routine, there may be something distressing his stomach.



There are no teeth problems that would prevent them from eating.

When we talk about the gut, we don’t often think about it including more than the stomach and intestines. However, gut health begins in the mouth.

The digestive system includes the mouth, teeth, salivary glands, esophagus, stomach, intestine, pancreas, liver and gallbladder. The digestive system absorbs and digests food and eliminates solid wastes from the body.” —WSU College of Veterinary Medicine

Keeping an eye on your pet’s teeth is one way to visually determine if there are issues going on in their gut. Something like pawTree’s Dental Sticks can help with teeth issues. We’ll also talk more about this in the next section.



Their poops are solid and occur on a regular basis.

Dogs should poop once or twice a day. No poops should be runny or watery. Even soft and large poops are considered irregular for a dog.



How to Identify Digestive Problems

Going back to the medical school example, after the first year of learning how things SHOULD work, the second year is spent learning disease states and pathological conditions. Again, this order of learning is beneficial for humans and pets. To treat something that didn’t need to be treated is almost as regrettable as treating without a diagnosis. Below is some helpful information to help you learn more about when your pet may have gut issues. This information is based on the research of Dr. Barbara Royal, DVM, CVA, from Innovative Veterinary Care.


Teeth

Did you know that dog teeth are not for chewing? This may sound strange because you’ve watched your dog chew her food every day. But when you compare the sharp, pointy teeth of your dog to those of a horse or cow, you’ll notice your dog doesn’t have any flat teeth designed to chew. Even in our own mouths, our four pointy corner teeth are called canines. The purpose of our canines is the same as the purpose of your dog’s teeth: to tear and rip food. So while your dog “can” chew, her teeth were not designed for that. This means that certain dry and unhealthy foods can get stuck on your dog’s teeth if she has to chew it, causing issues in her mouth.

Saliva

You may not love your dog’s drool or slobber, but saliva has a special purpose in his mouth. Since dog teeth are for ripping food (just enough for it to be swallowed), the saliva in your dog’s mouth is there to help get those chunks down without needing to chew. And though dog saliva does contain enzymes and some antibacterial properties, the main function is lubrication to get food into the stomach.


Stomach

Have you ever given your dog a chunk of meat and she basically swallowed it whole? As humans, it’s hard for us to imagine that this doesn't do some damage to a dog’s stomach. We all know how it feels to swallow something before we’ve chewed it enough—it hurts! But evidence suggests that this doesn’t seem to be the case for dogs. In fact, the term “wolfing it down” is a completely normal and healthy way for dogs to eat—though only if the food is adequately moist, like the fresh meat they would eat in the wild.

Dog stomachs are meant to hold around 70 percent of the things they eat, while their intestines hold the other 30 percent. Humans are completely reversed. We need to eat smaller portions more frequently because most of what we ingest is in our intestines and the other 30 percent is in our stomachs. So when a dog wolfs down large pieces of moist meat, there aren’t any issues. However, when a dog swallows dry food too quickly, it can sit in the stomach and cause bloating. If your pup eats her dry food too fast, you can always moisten it with water and a shelf stable dry bone broth to help moisten it while providing digestive support.


The “Other End”

Let’s talk about poop for a second. Along with your dog’s mouth, her poop is the other place you can visually see (and smell) if there is something off about her digestive health. As a carnivore, your dog should use most of the food she eats for energy. So a healthy poop should be very firm, mostly dry, and not smell too bad. Yes, overly unpleasant odors from poop and flatulence in your dog can be a sign there is unwanted bacteria in her gut. So if you’re keeping track, that means large, soft, stinky poops are not normal! So how do you fix that?

How to Improve Your Dog’s Gut Health

Now that we know what a healthy gut should look like and some signs that your pet’s gut might not be functioning properly, let’s talk about how to improve it.


Diet

Since your dog’s gut was made to handle moist chunks of meat and larger quantities than is normal for a human, if you can’t give him chunks of meat to mimic what he would eat in the wild, the next best thing is to find fresh, adequately moist food.

In addition to what your dog eats, it’s important to think about how often he eats too. You may treat your dog to a full bowl of food all day because he likes to snack. However, that may not be the most healthy practice for his gut and digestion. A large meal once a day is perfectly healthy for a medium to large dog. Small dogs may benefit from twice-daily feedings, but either way, you should avoid leaving a bowl of food out all day. This is because there is evidence that shows feeding your dog once a day and letting him get hungry between feedings sends a signal to his gut to “clean up” as Dr. Royal calls it. If he is snacking on food all day and never allowed to get hungry, the natural processes of his gut don’t get the message to do their job.


Supplements

If fresh, moist food is something you can’t always provide, and/or if your dog can clear a room with her gas, providing a supplement to aid your pet’s digestion is a great way to keep her feeling healthy and functioning at 100%.

One of the best supplements out there is Gastro Pro Plus. It’s a combination of four things that all work together to help your pet’s digestion: probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and herbs.

Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms (these are the good bacteria)

Prebiotics are the food that the good bacteria eat

Digestive enzymes help break down fats, proteins, starches, and cellulose

Herbs offer a nice, soothing feeling in the gut

So whether your dog suffers from loose stool, bloating, gas, or any other stomach issues, Gastro Pro Plus is an easy (and appetizing) way to help your dog to get his gut health back on track.



ABOUT KRISTI DIAZ

Dr. Diaz’s nurturing nature led her into medicine where she became a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. While she loved her career and her patients, she also wanted to be a stay-at-home mother. After retiring from her practice and achieving her goal of being a home-based parent, Kristi began looking for ways to give back to her community. At the same time, she and her husband were looking for home-based business opportunities.


Kristi knew she found the perfect opportunity when she discovered pawTree. The value Kristi placed on diet and nutrition for health and wellness, coupled with her family’s love of animals, aligned seamlessly with pawTree’s company values.


Dr. Diaz’s philosophy is that diet, genetics, and luck all work together to create the quality of a pet's life. While owners can’t control their pets’ genetics or luck, they can control their diet. Pets have no choice but to count on their owners their entire lives for great nutrition. Feeding dogs and cats high-quality food and supplements will give them the best chance to live healthy, vibrant lives.

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