Leaky gut is a common problem that’s linked to many health issues … digestive issues, allergies, autoimmune disorders, arthritis … it’s even linked to multiple sclerosis.
And it isn’t only humans who have to deal with leaky gut. It can make your dog sick as well. Maybe it already has and that’s why you’re here. So here are 5 natural solutions you can use to prevent and help resolve leaky gut in dogs.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome In Dogs?
Your dog’s gut has a semipermeable lining called the mucosal lining. It controls what passes from the gut to the rest of your dog’s body. The mucosal lining allows nutrients from food to pass into the bloodstream to fuel the body. It also keeps undesirable substances out of the bloodstream and lymphatics … like toxins, undigested food and pathogens.
When your dog has leaky gut, the spaces between the cells in the mucosal lining get bigger. And that means more substances are able to pass through the protective layer, including…
- Undigested food
Once these substances are in his bloodstream, your dog’s body will launch an assault. The liver has to work harder to filter what it can out of your dog’s body. His immune system will attack the foreign invaders. But over time more and more substances pass through the mucosal lining. That means your dog’s liver and immune system will eventually become overwhelmed.
This leads to inflammation. And chronic inflammation can lead to …
- Skin issues
- Digestive disorders
- Autoimmune disease
It’s clear to see that leaky gut is a big issue. But what causes the gut lining to become more permeable in the first place?
What Causes Leaky Gut?
Experts debate the reasons behind the increased permeability of the gut lining. But most experts agree on one thing … leaky gut starts with the health of your dog’s microbiome.
You see, your dog is a host to microorganisms … like bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses. Most of them are in your dog’s digestive tract. Others are in his ears, mouth, respiratory tract and on the skin. This community of microorganisms is the microbiome. And it plays such an important role in your dog’s health that it’s referred to as the forgotten organ.
Most of the microorganisms in your dog’s microbiome are good bacteria. They have a symbiotic relationship with your dog … meaning both they and your dog benefit. Other bacteria are harmful and can promote disease. But in a healthy dog, the good and bad live together in balance.
If this balance gets thrown off … dysbiosis occurs. Bad bacteria and yeast take over. And that can lead to gut inflammation and leaky gut.
Many factors can contribute to an imbalance in the gut …
- Processed diets
- Grain-based food with rice, wheat, spelt and soy
- Lectins from unsprouted grains
- Additives and preservatives
- Genetically modified foods (GMOs)
- Flea and tick treatments
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Chronic stress
- Lack of exercise or mental stimulation
But what you need to know is how to maintain the balance. This is what will help you prevent leaky gut … and resolve it if your dog is already diagnosed.
Signs Of Leaky Gut In Dogs
Leaky gut causes inflammation that can affect your dog’s whole body. This makes it incredibly hard to recognize.
Common symptoms of leaky gut in dogs are …
- Autoimmune disease
- Skin issues
- Yeast Infections
- Digestive problems
- Liver disorders
- Kidney issues
- Pancreas disorders
- Problems with the gallbladder
- Behavior issues
- Thyroid problems
Food intolerances are also big leaky gut symptoms in dogs. When your dog’s immune system detects an invader, it moves in to destroy it. It then flies away information about the invader in memory cells. That way the immune system can recognize it and launch an attack more quickly in the future.
As mentioned earlier, when the gut lining becomes more permeable, undigested food can pass through into the bloodstream. When your dog’s immune system detects these food particles outside of your dog’s gut, it sees them as invaders … the same way it would a virus or bacteria. So it attacks and stores information about them. And this leads to intolerances and hypersensitivity.
5 Natural Solutions To Prevent And Improve Leaky Gut
If there’s anything you take away from this discussion … it’s that there are 2 major factors associated with leaky gut.
- An overpopulation of bad bacteria and yeast
Fortunately, there are ways to control bacteria populations and reduce inflammation.
There are many foods that can cause and worsen leaky gut syndrome. If you take them out of your dog’s diet, you can help fix his leaky gut. Here are some of the top diet-related causes …
The food that you give your dog not only feeds his body … it feeds the bacteria that live in him as well. So your goal is to choose foods that prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast.
That means you want to steer clear of sugar. This includes starchy foods like grains, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. When your dog eats these foods, the starch breaks down into sugar. The yeast that lives in and on your dog thrives on sugar. If you feed your dog sugary foods, you promote the growth of yeast. And that can throw off the balance of your dog’s microbiome.
Many dogs are also gluten-sensitive. That means they produce a chemical called zonulin when they eat grains that contain gluten. This chemical sends signals to the gut that increases permeability. To make matters worse, grains are pro-inflammatory. And as you know inflammation is a major factor in leaky gut.
Many dogs are lactose intolerant which means that dairy is not easy for them to digest. This strains the digestive system. Dairy also contains whey and casein proteins. These can also cause inflammation in the gut. And inflammation plays a big role in leaky gut syndrome.
Grains and other foods like potatoes, legumes and soy also contain glyphosate. Glyphosate is a herbicide that farmers spray on crops to prevent weeds. The WHO has designated glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. And it’s linked to many health issues, including leaky gut.
Mycotoxins are cancer-causing molds found in starchy plants. They are in many commercial pet foods and can increase gut permeability (1).
Lectins are plant proteins that cause digestive upset to protect them from predators. Some lectins are so toxic they can lead to death. Legumes and nightshades like tomatoes and peppers are especially high in lectins. Smaller amounts are in many grains as well.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids help regulate the immune system and lower inflammation (2). They do this by reducing the release of proinflammatory cytokines (3). The problem is that processed diets lack omega-3s. Instead, they’re rich in omega-6 fatty acids that promote inflammation.
Omega-6s help with blood clotting, cell growth and brain function. But they also add to the inflammatory response. To lower inflammation, you need to balance the omega-3s and 6s. And in most situations, that means you need to add more omega-3.
Fish oil is often the go-to for omega-3. But fish oil …
- Is processed, making it unstable. This means it oxidizes easily.
- Rancid or oxidized fish oil leads to more inflammation, to disease and premature aging.
- Contains toxins like heavy metals, PCBs and even radiation.
- Isn’t environmentally sustainable.
Luckily there are alternatives that are rich in omega-3 and safe for your dog. These options include green-lipped mussels and organs like the brain and eyes.
3. Prebiotics and Probiotics
When you want to balance your dog’s gut … pre and probiotics should be an automatic go-to. Probiotics are live microorganisms that colonize in your dog’s gut. They’re made up of the good bacteria that help keep your dog healthy.
Prebiotics are soluble, indigestible fiber that help probiotics ferment … making them more effective. There’s another benefit to prebiotics …
When certain prebiotics ferment … they create a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. And butyrate helps heal the colon and prevents leaky gut (4).
You can add pre and probiotics to your dog’s diet with a supplement or whole foods.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are often touted as probiotic but … some of these foods may not have enough bacteria to be effective. To be probiotic, the bacteria must survive the passage through the gut. And not all of them do.
You also want to watch with dairy-based probiotics like kefir and yogurt. Many dogs are lactose intolerant which means they won’t be able to properly digest these foods. That’s important to remember if you go the whole food route.
If you choose to use a supplement … look for one with many Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains. Like the bacteria in fermented foods, these strains are more easily destroyed in the gut. That means you’ll want one with 30 billion CFU or more.
If you opt for a soil-based probiotic (Bacillus strains) … 1 to 5 billion CFU should be plenty. These strains are hardier and will survive the gut.
Because prebiotics fuel probiotics, use the two together
Common prebiotics are …
- Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
- Mannan oligosaccharides (MOS)
- Galactooligosaccharides (GOS)
- Burdock root
- Dandelion root
You can add whole foods to your dog’s meals … or you can buy a supplement that contains both pre and probiotics.
4. Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes help your dog break down food. This helps your dog absorb nutrients and digest food. How does this help with leaky gut?
When digestive enzymes help break down food …they reduce gut inflammation and irritation. Consider someone with lactose intolerance. If you’re lactose intolerant, you experience digestive discomfort and irritation. This is because your body doesn’t make enough lactase … the enzyme that breaks down milk sugars.
Your dog produces digestive enzymes in his body but it isn’t always enough. Feeding him a whole raw diet can help increase his enzymes. That’s because the food your dog eats contains live enzymes.
Food that’s highly heated and processed doesn’t contain live enzymes. This is because heating and drying food can destroy enzymes, along with important vitamins and minerals. Alternatively, you can buy a digestive enzyme supplement. These are a helpful boost if your dog has leaky gut.
L-glutamine is an amino acid that your dog can produce on his own.
It’s a conditionally essential amino acid. That means there are certain times when your dog can’t produce enough L-glutamine. Like when his body’s stressed from conditions like sepsis, trauma … or even leaky gut. But L-glutamine production isn’t just affected by leaky gut. Reduced production of L-glutamine can help cause leaky gut.
That’s because one of its roles is to help maintain the integrity of the gut (mucosal) lining (5). So if your dog’s L-glutamine is lowered because of a different stress … his gut lining may weaken. And that means he could be more susceptible to leaky gut.
You can add L-glutamine to your dog’s diet through food or a supplement. Foods high in L-glutamine include meat, fish and dairy.
Caution: some dogs are lactose intolerant, so dairy may cause more digestive upset. Glutamine can interact with anti-seizure medication so check with your vet if he’s on them.
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How can I tell if my dog has leaky gut?
The signs of leaky gut in dogs are varied because the chronic inflammation it causes can affect the entire body. Problems like arthritis, allergies, digestive problems, autoimmune disease and thyroid issues can be symptoms of leaky gut in dogs.
Leaky Gut In Dogs
Leaky gut can quickly escalate into major health issues for your dog. That’s why it’s so important to do what you can to prevent it. If your dog does get leaky gut, there are steps you can take to reverse it and repair his gut lining.
Do what you can to improve your dog’s diet. Promote a healthy microbiome and supplement important nutrients. That way you can keep your dog’s gut strong and help prevent chronic disease.
- Alassane-Kpembi I, Pinton P, Oswald IP. Effects of Mycotoxins on the Intestine. Toxins (Basel). 2019;11(3):159. Published 2019 Mar 13.
- Kiecolt-Glaser JK, et al. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Nov;25(8):1725-34.
- Nielsen AA et al. Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit an increase of proinflammatory cytokines in patients with active Crohn’s disease compared with omega-6 fatty acids. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Dec;22(11-12):1121-8.
- Canani RB, Costanzo MD, Leone L, Pedata M, Meli R, Calignano A. Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases. World J Gastroenterol. 2011;17(12):1519-1528.
- Rao R, Samak G. Role of Glutamine in Protection of Intestinal Epithelial Tight Junctions. J Epithel Biol Pharmacol. 2012;5(Suppl 1-M7):47-54.