Dogs Need Probiotics, too!
We all hear about the importance of digestion when it comes to our own health. We’ve heard that the gut is where it all begins and where the beginning of our nutrient absorption really occurs, but we often overlook the digestive health of our furry friends.
You see, in the fitness world, we tend to look at digestion as just another component to the pursuit of being healthy and building muscle. But the fact is, it is so much more than that. Heck, at the end of the day, if you’re not absorbing your nutrients, then you’re not able to build any muscle at all, and unfortunately in today’s world, we have so much in the way of artificial ingredients and additives, that we are wreaking havoc on our own intestinal tracts and hindering how much protein and nutrients we can actually utilize.
But what if I told you it was actually taking years off of your dog’s life by not taking care of their intestinal system? It’s true; dogs will respond the same way that humans will over time by not getting the right nutrients. But let me explain what some of the differences are between a dog’s digestive system, and our familiar human digestive system.
For one, dogs lack the enzymes in the saliva to begin breaking down food in the mouth like we have as humans. This means that larger particles are entering into the stomach and the small intestine, which of course, means that there is more work to be done when the food actually enters the stomach. In addition to lacking the enzymes, since dog’s jaws only allow them to chew up and down and not to the side like humans, it prevents them from chewing the food into tinier, absorbable pieces, again putting more stress on the digestive system.
As we move on down the digestive path, we find that dogs have a highly acidic stomach. This highly acidic environment is great for dissolving food particles into a highly absorbable form, which is imperative because food breakdown virtually stops once it hits the intestinal tract. You see, dogs have an exceptionally short intestinal tract, in fact, it is one of the shortest of all mammals. It is this point right here that seals the deal on making sure your dogs are getting the right kind of nutrients to encourage a healthy gut. With less time to actually be absorbed, it is critical that dogs have highly absorbable, easily digestible foods in their diet (this is the premise behind a raw food diet, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the way to go). The bottom line is that most of our dogs are lacking a lot of the nutrients that they need to really live healthy lives, and unfortunately, many of the foods out there aren’t helping the case.
So, what can you do to ensure that your pup has a healthy digestive tract, absorbs their nutrients and gets the most out of everything they’re eating?
Look for a food that has probiotics in it. When they first came out, people snickered at the idea of probiotics in dog food, but as it’s become more and more widespread, It’s becoming the “norm.” The important thing is to look for a food that has a probiotic that is added AFTER the manufacturing of the food. This is because the manufacturing process usually kills most of the healthy bacteria added into the mix. There are a couple brands of dog food that actually have a probiotic coating on their kibble that allows for the bacteria to stay alive while in the bag!
Exercise. Just like humans, exercising gets the bowels moving. Why do you think that the second you take Spot out on a run, he has to go find a tree! It’s a matter of digestive stimulation, and the fact is, when we are active, it stimulates blood flow to the intestines and gets “things moving.” This keeps the tract clear and able to absorb what it needs.
Feed a higher protein food. Since dogs need lots of protein to remain healthy, it’s important to feed them a food that has a higher percentage of protein to carbohydrates (and avoid grains if at all possible). Because the intestinal tract is shorter, dogs naturally won’t absorb as much protein, so more has to be added into the diet to ensure enough is actually absorbed. There are a number of foods that now contain small amounts of quality, selective ingredients rather than fillers and by-products, so keep an eye out for foods that really have a high amount of protein and easy to digest foods like sweet potato or yams.
Give them a probiotic. Yep, just like we take probiotics to help us aid in digestion, giving our pups probiotics can definitely help them out as well. But its super important that you give them a probiotic designed for dogs because it needs to be able to withstand the higher concentrations of stomach acid within the dog’s stomach. Another thing that we’ve done is give our dogs a little bit of Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt to aid in digestion, but unfortunately, even yogurt’s probiotics aren’t always a match for the highly acidic environment in our dog’s guts.
So next time you say, “You trusted your gut,” you can truly mean it. Because at the end of the day it all starts in the gut. The same goes for your pup. As a by-product, you’re going to see a nicer coat, less bloating, and best of all, more consistent bathroom breaks (no more waking you up at random hours)!
Remember, our dogs respond to things very similar to us humans, and the sooner that we bridge that gap and make the connection between their health and ours, the easier life will be. By that I mean healthier, happier dogs that spend much more time with us over the course of the years!