Improve your dog's gut health: a vet expert's guide to the microbiome

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Dr Matthew Muir
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Did you know: the gut microbiome has a major influence on your dog’s overall wellness? 

It’s estimated that dogs have over 10x more bacteria in their gut microbiome, compared to cells in their body. This means the gut microbiome needs to be managed, which parents can do through a real food diet. The biggest difference to gut health comes from feeding your dog real food rich in nutrients and gut-friendly bacteria.  

Dr Matthew Muir (Lyka’s co-founder) is an Integrative Veterinarian specialising in gut health. This article taps into his expertise, collecting everything you need to know about healing your pup’s gut.

What is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms, like bacteria, and even viruses and fungi, that live in the gastrointestinal tract — as well as all the neurotransmitters, hormones and vitamins that are produced. The more diverse the microbiome, the better, as this is where diet can help to play a huge role in the overall health of your pup.  

How can the gut microbiome affect your pup’s health?

The gut microbiome can have far-reaching effects on the overall health of your dog, not just on their digestion. This is because of the gut-brain axis, which plays a role in: 

  • Immune system modulation: a microbiome with a healthy balance of bacteria can help to protect against invading pathogens 

  • Metabolism: which acts on components in food to provide nutrients to your dog — also playing a role in appetite and weight management 

  • Skin allergies: being the most common reason for vet visits and often the result of weakened defence against external irritants 

  • Mental health: gut microorganisms influence your dog’s ability to produce and regulate mood and behaviour chemicals (like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) 

Gut-brain axis diagram

What is dysbiosis?

It’s not just the number and diversity of microorganisms in the microbiome that’s important, but the balance that exists between them as well. In a healthy microbiome, all the microorganisms live in harmony. When this balance is disrupted, it results in dysbiosis, which can lead to health problems. 

Common causes of dysbiosis include:

  • Antibiotics — they can cause dysbiosis because they don’t just target the ‘bad’ bacteria – they affect the ‘good’ bacteria that exist in the microbiome, too 

  • Inflammation of the GI tract can also cause dysbiosis 

Effects of dysbiosis include:

  • Gut hyperpermeability – this is where the gut lining doesn’t function properly, allowing food particles to leak into the bloodstream 

  • Increased competition for nutrients including Vitamin B12 

  • New studies are linking aggression and anxiety or phobia to certain dysbiotic microbiome patterns 

  • Increased flatulence 

  • Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), also known as Chronic Inflammatory Enteropathy (CIE)

How can I restore my dog's gut microbiome?

Pre and probiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that feed the probiotics in the gut.  

According to Dr Lu Fenny from Holistic Vet @ Home, prebiotics include inulin, mannan oligosaccharide, and other sources of fibre that are consumed with the intent to support the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

A great way to support your dog’s gut health is through high-prebiotic foods, like: 

  • Apples 

  • Chicory 

  • Mushrooms 

  • Bananas 

  • Flaxseed 

  • Fermented foods (like sauerkraut) 

Probiotics are good bacteria that provide health-giving benefits to their host. They can also help restore gut health for dogs by playing a role in maintaining the balance of bacteria within the gut. 

Healthy probiotic strains consist of L. rhamnosus GG, B. lactis BB-12, B. longum BL-999 and L. plantarum PS128. 

Sometimes, good microorganisms can go bad. These are known as “frenemy” probiotics. Most probiotic supplement strains have an extremely low chance of this happening, but not every probiotic strain works in every dog’s digestive tract. If you’re uncertain or unsure, speak to a holistic vet. 

"Soluble fibres and phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, seeds and spices, are great for promoting a healthy gut microbiome. They are transformed by gut bacteria and produce fatty acids which support gut health. An ultra-processed diet is less digestible and contains limited vegetables and antioxidant properties. This can lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria and negatively impact digestive health."

— Dr Matthew Muir, Lyka co-founder and Integrative Veterinarian 

Feed a rainbow of real foods

What you feed your dog can affect their microbiome – it comes down to the ingredients themselves and how the food is cooked or processed.  

Read our guide to nutrition and gut health, or get the highlights: 

  • Simple carbohydrates in the diet may lead to changes in the microbiome that could be associated with metabolic disease – complex non-digestible carbohydrate substrates on the other hand, may have a positive impact on gut microbiota composition and diversity 

  • Foods like kibble, which are cooked under extremely high direct heat, undergo something called a Maillard reaction – this is a chemical reaction that gives browned foods their distinctive flavour, but which also reduces microbiome diversity in heat-processed foods 

  • A high protein, low carbohydrate diet leads to higher levels of phylum Fusobacteria, a key bacterial species that’s present in faecal samples of healthy dogs 

  • Tryptophan (found in chicken, eggs, turkey, lamb, beef) is metabolised by bacteria into indole, a chemical which has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and may help strengthen the gut barrier – the first line of defence against harmful pathogens 

By feeding your dog a wide variety of real foods, you can reduce the risks of an imbalanced diet. Bringing variety to your dog’s food doesn’t have to be tricky — aim for colour! Colour equals nutrients, which nourish the microbiome. 

Lyka has a mix of meals varying in proteins and foods to improve dogs’ gut health — like shiitake mushrooms, ginger, and turmeric. 

Consider other options

Common remedies such as antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can impact the gut by indiscriminately killing bacteria — bad and good. We recommend speaking with your veterinarian professional regarding any medication your dog needs and always following their advice. 

Your vet may recommend treatments like Microbiome Restorative Therapy (MBRT), which can help restore balance to your pup’s gut bacteria. 

Nourish your pup's gut with Lyka

Our gently cooked dog food boosts the gut's health with every meal, having knock-on benefits for a stronger immune system. 

Louie microbiome case study

A healthy gut is essential for your dog to be strong, happy, and healthy. Are you ready to improve your dog's digestive health? Start your Lyka journey today. 

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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