Believe it or not, stress can negatively impact your dog’s gut health. Here’s how gaining a better understanding of his adrenal glands can help you restore him to good health.

You may not be aware of it, but stress and boredom can have a lot to do with your pet’s gut health. Once the gut is compromised, your pet is at greater risk of developing a variety of ailments and health conditions, some that are difficult to correctly diagnose.

What causes stress?

Many aspects of a dog’s life can cause him stress. For instance, dogs’ need a lot of exercise, love and attention. If left alone for long periods of time (more than 3–4 hours), they become bored which causes stress by depleting cortisol, leading to behavioral and physical issues. Weekend exercise is not enough – they need daily runs and play to maintain good health overall. A dog walker or daycare a few days a week at minimum can help immensely to reduce stress in these situations.

A look at the adrenal glands

There are two adrenal glands located on each side of the kidneys. These glands are part of the endocrine system and are the body’s way of producing hormones including:

  • Epinephrine: stress response that stimulates the heartbeat and raises blood pressure
  • Oldster: regulates water balance, salt and potassium
  • Cortisol: balances glucose levels, responds to stress, metabolizes protein and carbohydrates, controls blood pressure and muscle strength

The stress-gut connection

When under stress, short bursts of cortisol is produced and released into the bloodstream. Prolonged exposure to stress could drain the adrenals leading to depletion of cortisol that can cause digestive issues that create poor gut health, low energy, depression, neurological issues and other symptoms.

How to prevent adrenal dysfunction and balance gut health

1. Diet

Your dog’s diet should consist of a blend of beneficial bacteria from a high-quality source of canine-specific prebiotics, probiotics and digestive enzymes. Look for simple formulas for best absorption and utilization.

Be sure your pet’s diet is free of GMO ingredients – basically most processed foods. If what you’re feeding doesn’t clearly state that it’s non-GMO, then it probably isn’t. Feeding a well-balanced raw or home cooked diet will also help to manage your pup’s stress response. Not only will this create a healthy environment throughout the entire GI tract and fuel a healthy gut, it will nourish and build the musculoskeletal system including connective tissue, ligament, tendon and bone.

As a bonus, a healthy diet will help create balance in the adrenals for a cohesive, healthy, anxiety-free relationship between you and your companion. When your dog is healthy, the fight or flight response returns to a more natural state with appropriate and expected responses in lieu of reactions.

2. Detoxing

I recommend detoxing your dog at least once a year and more often if you are feeding a commercial diet that contains GMO ingredients or if using pharmaceuticals. Vaccination and chemical flea and tick products may also may lead to overburdening of the eliminatory organs as well as adrenals causing their necessary function to lessen as time goes on.

3. Reducing stress

We all want our dogs to live long, happy, healthy lives. Dogs’ adrenal systems and gut health make up 80% of their immune system – so the importance of reducing stress and finding balance can’t be overstated!

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Joyce Belcher is the founder of Herbs for Life, Inc, d/b/a Sustenance Herbs™, herbal formulator and manufacturer of organic pet supplements and veterinary botanical medicine in Kittery, Maine. Her areas of expertise include immune balance, detoxification, endocrine system and tick-borne diseases in dogs & horses. In her practice, Joyce educates animal owners to be proactive in caring for the health of their animals, is a columnist for various publications. 207-451-7093