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Questions About Your Dog or Cat's Gut Microbiome

6 Important Questions about Your Pet’s Gut Microbiome

  1. WHAT IS A MICROBIOME?

A cat or dog’s microbiome are all the microorganisms living on or inside of each cat or dog’s body. All microorganisms include bacteria, fungi (yeasts), protozoa and viruses

  1. WHAT IS THE GUT MICROBIOME?

When it comes to the GUT microbiome that means the gastrointestinal or digestive tract. More precisely the large intestine (or, the colon) receives the most attention because it contains the highest concentration and greatest diversity of microbes in the dog’s entire body.  We call this the pets gut microbiome.

  1. WHY IS THE GUT MICROBIOME IMPORTANT?

Your pet’s gut microbiome has trillions of microorganisms also known as “gut flora” and most of these organisms are bacteria that work hard to aid in the digestion of food, fight off harmful bacteria (like E. coli), fungi (like Candida), viruses (like Parvo.) and protozoa (like Giardia) as well as supporting the dog’s immune system.  

  1. WHAT CAN AFFECT THE GUT MICROBIOME?

Just like humans, with pets there are several factors that can lead to a weakened gut microbiome, such as age, diet, activity level, stress, use of antibiotics, and environmental conditions. When the canine or feline digestive system is disrupted or upset, this is referred to as “dysbiosis”. When the microorganisms become imbalanced it typically causes digestive issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, or a range of other wellness or immune issues. 

  1. HOW CAN ANTIBIOTICS HARM MY PET’S MICROBIOME?

Antibiotics are antibacterial substances that are designed to kill bacteria or slow their growth.  Antibiotics are indiscriminate killers so they can’t distinguish between good bacteria or bad bacteria.  Antibiotics often kill “friendly” bacteria causing the microorganisms in the microbiome to become imbalanced and leaving the immune system depleted and vulnerable.  This imbalance can leave your dog susceptible to other diseases and serious issues, or contribute to serious digestive issues like diarrhea, vomiting or constipation. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics for dogs by veterinarians are: Amoxicillin/Clavulanate, Gentamicin, Chloramphenicol, Sulfamethoxole and Tetracycline. For cats: Amoxicillin, Cephalexin, Clindamycin, Enrofloxacin, and Metronidazole. 

  1. HOW DO I STRENGTHEN MY PET’S MICROBIOME?

As noted above and in our antibiotic post, certain medications like antibiotics can have a negative effect on our pet’s gut health. There are several things we can do to best support our pet’s gut microbiome.

  1. Add some fermented foods such as tripe to your pet’s diet (it is now available in cans and dogs love it!). For cats try sauerkraut, kimchi or kefir as they are a little pickier than dogs. Yogurt and cheese can work but do not contain as much fermented food as tripe and sauerkraut.
  2. Use probiotics and prebiotics to boost the new growth of bacteria
  3. Try a high protein low fat diet for a couple weeks
  4. Try to increase water intake in your pet

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