What if we said the secret to a good, long life with your best mate starts inside their gut? We’ve untangled the complicated topic of gut health to give you easy, actionable steps to a healthier dog.
What do you think when you hear about gut health for your dog? If you’re like most people, it’s probably something you think you should know about… but don’t.
Maybe your eyes glaze over ‘coz you’ve seen the term tossed around all too much. Always with lots of general language that doesn’t give you any real steps on reaching said gut health. Or instructions that rarely go beyond “buy this product”. Or maybe you’ve never heard of it at all!
It’s a tricky topic. But it’s really important. So as a warm up, here are some facts about gut health that just might knock your socks off:
Are you hooked? We hope so.
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty.
The massive population of microorganisms that live inside your dog’s gut is called the microbiota – and is unique to every dog, like a fingerprint.
A healthy microbiota is a healthy gut. It means your dog is nursing a thriving, balanced, powerful mini-ecosystem of beneficial bacteria that work in tandem to protect your dog from sickness. They’re involved in nearly every biological process your dog has, and how healthy their microbiome is directly influences their mood, energy, appetite, skin, coat, digestion… the list goes on.
Over 70% of your dog’s immune system exists in the gut because of the GALT – or “gut-associated lymphatic tissue”. The GALT’s job is to protect your mate’s body from invasion and illness. It does that with a ton of lymphoid tissues that create and house immune cells. Cells that attack & defend against pathogens and parasites your dog encounters every day.
Poor gut health is called dysbiosis.
It means there’s an unhealthy balance of organisms in the gut, working out of sync and not protecting your dog’s health efficiently (or even harming it). Dysbiosis is almost always caused by diet (the ingredients in your dog’s food) and medications, especially antibiotics or pain relievers.
The microbiome is a massive player in your dog’s overall inflammation, a word we’ve all heard but might not totally understand the consequences of.
Systemic inflammation is a huge contributor to many common health complaints like oral disease, stomach issues, skin trouble and ear infections. But chronic, long-term inflammation (even just low-grade) can be the beginning of most diseases – including the most serious ones.
Cancers and serious GI issues can also be, in large part, related to how healthy your mate’s microbiota is.
Poor gut health can be visible – or not. Since dogs can’t tell us they’re feeling crook, a dodgy gut can go unnoticed until the symptoms are really serious.
Besides avoiding or improving all the symptoms up top, we really can’t overstate how integral gut health is to your mate’s overall wellbeing.
It keeps their immune response sharp, helping your dog heal from sickness or injury, re-building damaged cells and buffering against bad bacteria. It also stops their immune system from inadvertently attacking its own cells or healthy tissue.
And inflammation is nothing but bad news for your best mate – more than you might realise. At the surface level, inflammation can mean itchy, irritated skin, red and raw paws, ear infections and excessive shedding. But it can also cause or contribute to more serious diseases like cancer; heart disease; diabetes; arthritis, and much more.
We’ll say it again, and again, and again. The microbiome is a crucial component of your dog’s health, from top to bottom. It’s one of the easiest, most reliable, most inexpensive ways you can invest in your dog’s life and longevity. And it’s never too late to start!
Here are some basic, actionable ways to bolster your best mate’s gut.
Food is fuel to your dog’s microbiome. It can power their long term health or fan the flames of disease. It’s one of the biggest players in how balanced, effective and intelligent your pup’s microbiome is – and as owners, we’re totally in control of it. Woof.
Vet scientists from The Forever Dog have discovered that swapping out as little as 10% of your dog’s daily highly-processed food to something more gut-friendly will create positive changes in their body. So what does that mean?
These bad boys help regulate gut bacteria, used by certain microflora to become stronger and more resilient. They can be added directly to your dog’s grub or found in dietary sources: like whole grains, apples, bananas, asparagus, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and chickpeas.
A direct dose of beneficial live bacteria for your dog’s gut. These can also be an ingredient in your dog’s grub, given as a supplement or found in dietary sources (kefir, yoghurt, ginger, kimchi, beets, celery, or cabbage).
Fibrous food or ‘roughage’ is essential fuel for gut microbes. Oats, lentils, wholegrains and some green veg are brilliant sources. Make sure your mate’s daily meal has a high source of fibre, no matter the source!
Stick to dog foods that are less processed, cooked at lower temperatures and don’t undergo multiple heat treatments in the process. More processing means more inflammation, which sets off the immune system and disrupts the gut microbiome.
Choose vitamin-rich, bioavailable foods for your mate. So grub with lots of protein, healthy fat, reduced carbs and tons of superfood fruits & veggies.
These incredible compounds lower overall inflammation, which builds up resilience in the gut. This leads to more beneficial bugs, more diversity, and better health in the long term.
These are carbs that have been processed and stripped away during manufacturing. This includes foods like white rice, flours and white sugar. These disrupt gut integrity, lead to dysbiosis and create a culture where bad bugs can thrive.
Unfortunately, a ton of store kibble fits this category. Ultra-processed foods usually include artificial preservatives and modified ingredients like soy, corn, canola oil and colours that are very bad news for the microbiome.
Sugar is a good-gut-bacteria-killer. It encourages inflammation and spikes your dog’s blood sugar. Unfortunately, you’ll find it included in many big box brands as a palatant – but often hidden in high-glycemic starches (which convert back to sugar in your BFF’s body). Steer clear of ingredient lists including wheat, barley, corn and soy… all which convert back to sugars!
Not food, but well worth the mention: antibiotics are basically the antihero to gut bacteria. They kill infectious bacteria, but decimate helpful bacteria in the process. We’re definitely not saying to skip antibiotics when they’re necessary– but be conscious of what they do, and consider upping probiotics while your dog is using them.
Research has shown time and time again that exercise plays a really positive part in a healthy microbiota. Besides diet, it’s one of the most crucial steps you can take in strengthening your dog’s gut. 🏋️♀️
Exercise is significant to your BFF’s health (and yours) for tons of reasons – easily enough to fill out this whole article. So we’ll stick to the unique, pretty remarkable ways that getting your dog moving can help their gut flourish.
Back to the ‘inflammation’ word again. Exercise stimulates bacteria that improves gut immunity, builds up barrier functions and tamps down on bad bacteria. All of this means a stronger, more stable gut full of beneficial bacteria that works to keep your best mate in tip-top shape.
Exercise helps enrich the diversity of your dog’s microbiome, but it specifically boosts a few specific microorganisms. We won’t go into the scientific names (‘coz they’re loooong) but these unique bugs are associated with reducing obesity, metabolic diseases, and protecting against gastrointestinal disorders and colon cancer.
Y’know how puppies usually need to go after a play session? Exercise encourages the bowel to keep active, reducing ‘transient stool time’ and the time poo spends sitting around in the gut. This means less time that pathogens are being absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract – ‘better out than in’ really counts here.
There is a huge, growing body of evidence surrounding the microbiome of the gut: yours, and your dogs. This evidence can feel overwhelming – it’s tough to discuss something you can’t touch or see – but we like to see it as inspiring.
Just think: with a few tweaks to your dog’s diet and lifestyle, you could make a massive difference to:
This doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your dog’s whole life. Most of us are trying to do the right thing, in bits and pieces, wherever feasible. Changing just a little of your dog’s diet or lifestyle for the better can have a huge impact on their lifelong health.
Maybe this means switching to a brand of dog food that avoids gut-harming ingredients and prioritises building a strong, flourishing microbiome. Or getting a few extra steps in each day. Just being aware of your best mate’s microbiome is the best step you can take in building it up.
So congrats. You’re already a step ahead. 👏
Finding gut-loving grub for your dog can feel like a tall order.
During the early days of Scratch, founders Mike & Doug looked around and realised that much of the dry dog food out there was – well, pretty crap. It was stuffed full of ingredients that were cheap to produce, but at the detriment of our dogs. Foods that ate away at the microbiome overtime, increasing inflammation and fuelling the risk of illnesses.
So the mission with Scratch was clear: to do dry dog food right, for health-conscious owners who weren’t able to (or just didn’t want to) tread into raw feeding. Part of that meant:
Inside our three Scratch recipes you’ll find:
Chicory root extract, rosemary, and tumeric. All to help build up the trillions of beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut, for better digestion and better vitamin absorption.
Our kibble is cooked at 100 degrees & dried at 150 degrees – so lower than your oven at home! Then we do nutrition testing on the final product to make sure it’s ticking every nutritional box your dog needs. ✅
Scratch has significantly more fibre than most brands of grub out there, with:
No refined carbs, artificial preservatives & sugars here.
Our recipes are rich in superfoods like carrots, chia, spinach, pumpkin, kelp and turmeric.
Each recipe has a 0.7% average from bioavailable sources like Salmon & Sunflower Oil.
But since we’ve just spent so much time talking about dodgy brand behaviours, feel free to fact check for yourself. You can scan our ingredient breakdowns (down to the exact percentage) on each product page.
Your dog’s gut is so much more than a poo palace, digesting old socks and sticks they scoff in the backyard. It’s a garden of microbial goodness: a place where you can target so many aspects of your mate’s health, from anxiety to allergies to inflammation.
Welcome to your dog’s journey to total gut wellness. Even small changes can make all the difference – how are you gonna begin? 🔎