Our dogs are walking, barking ecosystems. Like you, your dog is carrying trillions of other organisms around in his body. These little guys outnumber the cells in the body 10:1.
This group of bacteria, fungi, archaea, and eukaryotes make up the canine microbiome. They’re nestled in your dog’s nail-beds, gathered in his gut, and spread all over his skin, lungs and urinary tract.
The latest research shows what we already know about our own microbiomes is true for our pets too.
The canine microbiome helps protect against disease, maintain healthy digestion and regulate hormones.
New studies have even linked an unhealthy microbiome to obesity and aggression.
So, a healthy microbiome = a healthy dog. But what happens when you add antibiotics into the equation? And once those antibiotics are finished, is there a way to rebuild the microbiome?
Canine Dysbiosis And Disease
Dysbiosis is what happens when the canine microbiome is out of balance. There’s tons of evidence linking an imbalanced microbiome to a variety of diseases:
Obesity is a fast-spreading epidemic among both humans and pets. It affects up to 50% of dogs … and can cause a bunch of different issues. The microbiome of obese dogs is less diverse than healthy dogs.
There’s evidence that improving the microbiome of overweight dogs can help weight loss.
2. Mental Health
It’s now known that the dog’s microbiome and central nervous system “talk” all the time. And this chatter has a profound impact on the mental state.
We now know that this can cause stress, anxiety, depression and cognitive dysfunction. New research has focused in on a link between aggression and dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis has been linked to the development of several different cancers … such as intestinal lymphoma.
4. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)
A diseased pancreas does a very bad job at digesting food in the intestines. One study has shown that dogs with EPI often have dysbiosis.
5. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
The microbiome supports your dog’s immune system. In the gut, it does this by helping to fend off intruders. New evidence shows that it also destroys sick immune cells that can cause diseases like IBD.
A healthy microbiome fends off disease. A dysfunctional microbiome leaves your dog vulnerable to nasty infections.
Diarrhea often comes from an imbalance in the microbiome of the gut. Feeding processed foods, disease and antibiotics weaken the microbiome. This can allow disease-causing organisms to flourish.
With many of these health conditions, conventional veterinarians reach for antibiotics …
[RELATED: What Are The Best Probiotics ]
The Impact Of Antibiotics On The Canine Microbiome
Antibiotics have the same effect on the microbiome as bulldozers in a rainforest. A few organisms in the microbiome are resistant to some common antibiotics. Many are not.
Killing the beneficial organisms exposes your dog to a host of diseases.
We’ve learned that antibiotics can be detrimental to the health of your dog’s microbiome. If this is the case… why should we use them at all?
Veterinarians are under increasing pressure to prescribe antibiotics with extra care.
Unfortunately, drug companies feed a lot of misleading information to vets. Combined with pressure from peers, this leads a lot of vets to over-use antibiotics.
Massive antibiotic misuse has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant organisms. These organisms continue to flourish even when treated with our strongest medicines. There are even concerns that otherwise healthy dogs carry and spread these bugs.
There’s a chance that some day your dog will come across a disease that his immune system can’t fight off. It’s important to use antibiotics sparingly, and only when they’re really necessary.
It’s important to make an informed decision when it comes to antibiotic use in your dog. Where the situation is not life-threatening, always consider other options.
Be sure to make it clear to your veterinarian that you’re happy to … (even better, would prefer to) … avoid unnecessary antibiotic use.
But it isn’t just antibiotics that can harm these beneficial organisms.
Your dog’s microbiome is also sensitive to other drugs and foods. One example is a drug called Omeprazole. This drug helps suppress stomach acid, in both humans and dogs. While further studies are needed, this drug has already been linked to dysbiosis.
Rebuilding The Canine Microbiome
Here are some handy tips to help rebuild a damaged microbiome (and just give your dog’s health a boost).
1. Feed High Protein – Low Carbs
A high protein low carb (HPLC) diet improves diversity in the gut microbiome.
Some studies have even shown knock-on effects with obesity. Beagles and Labradors lost weight … while minimizing muscle loss … on a HPLC diet supplemented with fiber.
The most important thing to prevent dysbiosis is to avoid dry food … (yes, that means kibble) … which is always high in carbohydrate. A raw, fresh food diet can promote a more balanced gut microbiome.
Balanced and nutritious high protein, low carb, raw food is usually the best diet for your dog. After all, dogs don’t need carbs.
2. Feed Your Dog Probiotics
To rebuild the canine microbiome … feed a probiotic that contains a wide variety of bacteria, with a high number of organisms.
Probiotics kill disease-causing organisms, and replace dwindling numbers of good organisms. You can find a probiotic supplement … but you can also feed probiotic foods like kimchi, kefir and fermented veggies.
And, don’t forget to feed the probiotics with prebiotics.
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that help feed the microbiome in the gut. Studies show that prebiotics help improve digestion in our dogs. Some great natural sources of prebiotics include bananas, dandelion greens, and asparagus.
Occasionally antibiotics are unavoidable. If so, pre and probiotics are really, really important for helping rebuild gut health.
[RELATED: Probiotics: A Vet’s Perspective ]
3. Try A Fecal Transplant
Fecal transplantation is exactly what it sounds like. Transplanting poop.
More specifically … it involves transplanting fecal matter from a healthy dog to an unhealthy dog. In humans, this type of therapy has shown amazing results … helping with everything from Clostridium difficile infections to Crohn’s disease.
In animals, fecal transplants can treat things like digestive issues and autoimmune disease. They’re especially useful for rebuilding the gut after antibiotics have damaged it.
[RELATED: Fecal Transplant: Is It Right For Your Dog?]
In the past, fecal transplants had to be done in the vet’s office … but technological and scientific advancements mean you can now do them at home.
Your dog’s microbiome is amazing. It’s a very important asset in the fight against disease. To keep your dog healthy and happy, you need to pay attention to gut health and do everything you can to keep it in check.