Understanding the Gut Microbiome: A Key to Your Pet’s Health

Understanding the Gut Microbiome: A Key to Your Pet’s Health

What is the gut microbiome? The ‘M’ word seems to be everywhere at the moment, however it’s not always clear what it even is. Fortunately, we’re here to cut through the jargon and break things down in a way that’s simple and easy to digest (pun fully intended!).


What is it?

The gut microbiome is an ecosystem made up of trillions of microorganisms, living within the digestive tract of all animals (including us humans). Often referred to as the gastrointestinal tract, the digestive tract refers to the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, etc. Essentially everything from your mouth to your bum.

Every living animal’s microbiome is unique, influenced by factors such as diet, environment, age, and genetics. The microorganisms that make up the microbiome perform a variety of functions that are essential to the animal’s overall health. When this balance is off, it can affect a range of different health areas, not just gut health.


What does it do?

The gut microbiome performs a range of functions, including assisting with digestion and nutrient absorption, supporting the immune system, helping to regulate mood and helping to prevent disease. Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail.


Digestion and Nutrient Absorption

Microorganisms in the gut break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats from the food we eat, facilitating their absorption into the body. There are certain bacteria for example which produce enzymes that help to digest fibre, which pets could not otherwise break down on their own.

This process not only allows the body to absorb essential nutrients but also produces something called short-chain fatty acids. These serve as energy sources for your pet’s intestinal cells and also possess anti-inflammatory properties, helping to prevent any digestive discomfort from inflammation.

In essence, a well-balanced gut microbiome ensures that pets are able to extract everything they need from their food, supporting every element of their physical and emotional wellbeing.



Immune System Support

The gut microbiome is a crucial component of the immune system, acting as a first line of defence against harmful pathogens. With 70-80% of immune cells being present in the gut, there is an obvious relationship between the gut microbiome and the immune system. This is true of both humans and our four-legged friends.

A healthy microbiome effectively ‘trains’ the immune system to distinguish between harmful pathogens and harmless antigens, thus reducing the risk of allergic reactions and autoimmune diseases developing.

In younger pets, the development of a robust and varied gut microbiome is essential for establishing a strong and resilient immune system. Early exposure to a range of different microbes helps to ‘educate’ the immune system, increasing its tolerance and modulating its immune responses. Effectively what this means is that they’re less likely to get poorly as they get older.


Emotions and Behaviour

A lot is talked about when it comes to the gut-brain axis, with the health of your gut widely believed to be linked to the health of your brain. The gut microbiome produces neurotransmitters and metabolites which can influence brain function and behaviour. Certain bacteria within the gut produce something called gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is a substance that helps to regulate mood.

Scientific research has shown that pets with a balanced gut microbiome exhibit less anxiety and stress-related behaviours. On the other hand, those with an imbalance (sometimes called dysbiosis) have been observed to exhibit more behavioural issues such as excessive barking, aggression, and compulsive behaviours. By maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, pet owners are able to support not only their pet’s physical health, but their mental health too.


Disease Prevention and Management

A healthy gut microbiome plays a pivotal role in disease prevention, as touched upon earlier when discussing the immune system. Pets who suffer from dysbiosis are at a higher-risk of developing a variety of adverse health conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or even certain allergies. By maintaining a balanced microbiome, pet owners can reduce the risk of these types of conditions and manage symptoms more effectively if they do occur.

For pets with IBD, restoring a healthy microbiome can be achieved through dietary changes, with the introduction of probiotics and prebiotics. This can help to alleviate symptoms and improve overall gut health. Similarly, in pets with allergies, a balanced microbiome can help to modulate immune responses and reduce hypersensitivity reactions. Essentially, this allows pet owners to prevent the symptoms of allergies occurring in the first place, rather than trying to treat them once they have.



What can you do to support a healthy gut microbiome?

To help support a healthy gut microbiome, we recommend these three strategies:

1.) Balanced Diet: Feed your pet a balanced and varied diet that includes high-quality sources of protein, healthy fats rich in omega-3, 6 and 9, and plenty of dietary fibre. Fibre in particular is crucial for guy health and is present in a whole range of fruits and vegetables that you can easily (and cost-effectively) add to your pet’s diet.

2.) Probiotics and Prebiotics: Consider incorporating probiotics (live beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (non-digestible fibres that feed beneficial bacteria) into your pet’s diet. These can be found in a range of different foods, however if you have a fussy eater (or if you just want a simple one-stop solution for your pet) they can be found in various dietary supplements, including our Pre & Probiotic Powder.

3.) Healthy Lifestyle: Regular exercise and physical activity help to promote a healthy digestive system, whilst reducing the risk of other health concerns like obesity. Try to create a calm and stress-free environment for your pet, as stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome. so creating a stable and enriching environment for your pet will also help.


In Conclusion

The gut microbiome is a cornerstone of your pet's health and wellbeing. It can affect your pet’s immune system and impacts on the healthy functioning of almost every organ in their body. This is why we often talk about keeping pets healthy from the inside out!

By implementing the strategies outlined above, you can strengthen your pets gut microbiome and help them maintain optimal gut health. By doing this, it’s no exaggeration to say that you are directly contributing to them living a longer, healthier and happier life.


Contact Us 

For further helpful advice, visit our pet advice blog or contact us with any questions. Our friendly customer care team will be happy to help.  

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.