Why it's important to support your dog or cat's gut microbiome

Keeping your pet’s GI tract healthy by supporting her gut microbiome is so important. Here’s how the right supplements can help!

In dogs and cats as well as people, the digestive tract is the largest immune-supporting organ in the body. It is home to the gut microbiome, a unique collection of bacteria and other microorganisms — also called “microbes” — that are crucial for digesting food, utilizing nutrients, and shaping immune health. While we often only give thought to the harmful microbes that can cause illness, it is also important to remember and care for the beneficial microbes that help keep your dog or cat’s GI tract healthy.

In addition to the presence of bad microbes, your dog or cat’s microbiome can be thrown out of balance by a number of external factors: stress from travel, separation anxiety, dietary changes, strenuous exercise, and antibiotic or drug use, to name a few. Proactively supporting his digestive health with supplements may be one of the most impactful actions you can take to bolster his immune health and help him live a long and healthy life.

Here are a few supplements commonly used to support a dog or cat’s digestive health and promote a balanced gut microbiome:

1. Digestive enzymes

Digestive enzymes are biologically active proteins that are given with food to help the body break down and digest the food. There are four types of digestive enzymes and each targets a specific type of nutrient, helping to maximize absorption and utilization:

  • Protease breaks down proteins into amino acids that the body can use for muscle building.
  • Amylase converts carbohydrates into simple sugars that the body can use for energy.
  • Lipase breaks down fats into their fatty acid components so the intestines can absorb them.
  • Cellulase breaks down fibrous foods to reduce bulk for easier digestion.

2. Probiotics

Probiotics are living beneficial bacteria and yeasts that can help to keep your dog or cat’s microbiome balanced or get it back on track by encouraging growth of beneficial microbes. Probiotics are measured in colony-forming units (CFUs) and are typically given in the billions of CFUs per administration.

3. Prebiotics

Prebiotics are carbohydrate-rich, plant-based fibers that pass through the intestines and into the colon undigested, where they ferment and become a food source for the beneficial microbes that live in the gut. Prebiotics feed probiotics, which helps the probiotics improve the balance of the microbiome.

If your dog or cat is experiencing severe or ongoing gastrointestinal symptoms, it is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. He or she will examine your animal, run tests, and potentially administer treatment to get him back on his paws. Once your dog or cat is feeling better, you can partner with your veterinarian to develop a strategy for keeping his digestive health in tiptop shape!

Finally, remember to look for the NASC Quality Seal when shopping for digestive health supplements. This tells you the product comes from a responsible supplier that complies with NASC’s rigorous quality standards. Visit nasc.cc/members for a complete list of NASC member companies that have earned the Quality Seal.