How to Tell If Your Dog's Microbiome Is Healthy
by Jessie Quinn
It’s hard to find someone in the wellness industry not talking about the gut microbiome. It is, after all, considered the second brain. And, while our digestive health might be at the top of the list of hot topics, us humans aren’t the only beings who benefit from listening to our gut — our fur babies do, too!
Having a better understanding of the microbiome as it pertains to dogs — especially how to tell if your dog’s microbiome is healthy — can help equip us with the knowledge we need to ensure we are not only properly caring for our pups’ needs, but we are advocating for them when things seem off, too.
Ahead, we break down what to look for when monitoring canine gut health, plus how to restore the microbiome when things fall out of balance.
Is Your Dog’s Microbiome Healthy?
When it comes to canine gut health, it can be tricky to know whether or not your dog’s gut health is in check. After all, they can’t exactly tell us about their symptoms in the way that us humans can. But, as it turns out, there are a few things us fur parents can do to check in on our dogs’ tummies (aside from a recommended trip to the vet’s office, of course).
“The most common way to determine if your dog’s intestinal microbiome is healthy is by their stool,” says Dr. Michelle Burch, DVM from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance. “Stool has four main characteristics, which should be evaluated,” she adds, noting that color, content, consistency, and coating are what to make note of.
Color: As far as color goes, “healthy stool will range from golden brown to darker mahogany, which depends on the ingredients of their diet,” explains Dr. Burch.
Content: While we might have a good idea of if our dog’s poop color looks normal, content is harder to determine and requires a vet visit. “Your veterinarian evaluates content to ensure microscopically there are appropriate numbers of bacteria and no evidence of intestinal parasites, which can alter the microbiome,” says Dr. Burch. This is why it is important to take your pup to the vet for an annual physical and stool testing.
Consistency: Like color, consistency is another area us fur parents can keep an eye on and inform the vet about. “The consistency of your dog’s poop should be a little firm, consistent with playdough, and shaped like a log,” says Dr. Burch.
Coating: As for the coating component, Dr. Burch says “there should not be one on a healthy stool compatible with a healthy gut microbiome.”
In addition to a dog’s stool, Dr. Burch adds that a dog with a healthy microbiome “will have no history of vomiting and maintain a healthy weight,” adding that “a shiny coat will also help establish if your dog’s gut bacteria are in order.”
All things considered, your vet is the best person to tell if your dog’s microbiome is healthy and it is recommended that you take your pooch in for their regular check-ups. But, being armed with knowledge — and keeping an eye on your dog’s elimination — can help you watch out for any irregularities.
How to Support Your Dog’s Gut Health
If your dog’s gut health needs some extra love, there are a few common ways to restore healthy bacteria in canines.
Probiotics: Adding probiotics to your dog’s daily regimen “can help restore and improve their gut health,” says Dr. Burch. “Probiotics are living bacteria and yeast that are beneficial and healthy for the body,” she adds. Just like us humans might use probiotics to support our gut flora and their immune system, pups can also benefit from supplementation. According to Dr. Burch, “the most common bacteria found in probiotics include Lactobacillus sp.., Bifidobacterium longum, Enterococcus faecium, and Bacillus sp.
Fiber: Gut bacteria loves fiber. “Fiber is typically not digested and will pass through the colon and most intestinal bacteria,” says Dr. Burch. “The bacteria found in the colon will use the fiber as energy, then generate short-chain fatty acids, [which] play a critical role in a dog’s health and immunity,” she adds.
Diet Management: Above all else, “good dietary management will help to ensure your dog’s intestinal microbiome is as healthy as possible,” says Dr. Burch. “Feeding high-quality food with a good quality protein will help ensure bacteria’s fittest in the intestines,” she adds. In addition, Dr. Burch says to keep in mind that every dog is different and “the same diet will not benefit every animal, resulting in trial and error to find the best food.”
Much like humans, gut health in dogs is an important topic to think about. And, although a certified veterinarian is the best person to determine how healthy your dog’s gut microbiome is, having a level of awareness of your dog’s gut health — and of the beneficial ingredients that can help improve it — will help ensure your dog is getting the nutrients they need to live a happy, healthy life.
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