Dog Care 101: Understanding Your Dog’s Gut Health

Dog Care 101: Understanding Your Dog’s Gut Health

Much like for humans, your dog’s gut is an integral part of what keeps them healthy. From food to treats to supplements, find out how you can ensure your pup’s gut is staying healthy.

dog with gut healthy pet snacks

What exactly is gut health for dogs?

Your dog’s gut health is very similar to your own! As has been said about humans, the gut acts as a “second brain” in the body because it produces neurotransmitters — making it an extremely important part of our overall health, and the overall health of your pup, too! A healthy gut impacts how we feel in a myriad of ways (and it’s not just physical, gut health has a huge impact on mood!) and does the same for pups, too.

Much like us hoomans, dog gut health has to do with the kind of bacteria that exists in the gut microbiome — there’s good bacteria and bad bacteria. It’s important to keep a proper balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria, because unsurprisingly, when there’s too much bad bacteria in your dog’s gut, that’s when unwanted (and uncomfortable for your pup!) symptoms could arise.

How can you tell if your dog’s gut health is good?

Curious how you can check for signs of good gut health in your dog? In many cases, a healthy happy pup can indicate a healthy happy gut!

You should expect to see things like:
- Good energy levels
- Normal bowel movements — in terms of frequency, color, texture, etc.
- Maintaining a consistent, healthy weight
- Maintaining a normal sleep schedule

What are the symptoms of bad gut health in dogs?

It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of poor gut health in your dog so that you can take the necessary actions towards improving it! So, what should you be on the lookout for?

Symptoms of bad gut health in your dog could look like:
- Changes in mood/behavior — is your dog more lethargic? Less interested in playtime?
- Lower than normal energy levels
- Noticeable changes in weight — this could go in either direction, keep an eye out for weight gain or weight loss
- Changes in sleep patterns — waking up in the night when they used to sleep through, or a general sense of restlessness throughout the day when they’re usually napping
- Changes in bowel movements — texture, color, coating, etc. Keep an eye out for diarrhea, too!
- Changes in digestive behavior — gas, bloating, vomiting, etc.

It’s important to be in tune with your dog's normal behavior so that you are able to detect changes. Even something as small as changes in sleep patterns could be an indicator that something is up with your pup.

Your dog’s poop, in particular, can tell you a lot about their health. What’s normal for your dog is unique to them, so The American Kennel Club (AKC) has come up with a few key things to look at when it comes to knowing your dog’s poop habits and what’s normal for them.

You’ll want to pay attention to:
- Color
- Shape
- Consistency
- Size
- Content (The AKC specifically mentions to look out for things like mucus, white bits, and hair)

Embark Vet describes the “perfect” poop as “medium brown in color and should not be too hard or too soft. Ideally, your dog’s stool should be formed, firm in consistency, and have a segmented appearance. (If it’s hard and dry, your dog might have constipation.)”

Keep in mind that things outside of food/treats/your dog’s diet can impact their gut health, too.

Other non-diet related factors that can impact your dog’s gut health:

  • Antibiotics/medications: Similar to what humans can experience when on medications, dogs can experience stomach upset when on particular antibiotics and medications. Be sure to check with your vet if stomach upset could be expected if your dog is prescribed something new. Keep an eye on how your pup is feeling, and have some helpful ingredients on hand (like pumpkin or sweet potato) if your pup’s stomach takes a turn for the worse.
  • Stress: Again, much like humans, stress can have a huge impact on your dog’s health — including their gut health! We know it’s not possible to eliminate all stress triggers from your dog’s life, but doing your best to minimize the amount of stress your dog experiences can surely help their gut!

  • Allergies/Intolerances: Keep an eye on how your pup is feeling after particular foods. While it’s a common suggestion to give your dog yogurt for their gut health, some dogs do not tolerate the food well, so be mindful and check with your vet before offering yogurt to your pup! If you’re thinking that a food sensitivity, allergy, or intolerance could be responsible for your dog’s stomach upset, chat with your vet and see if they have an allergist or GI specialist they can recommend.

How can you improve your dog's gut health?

Improving your dog’s gut health — or keeping it consistently healthy if it’s already in great shape — starts with what you’re feeding your pup. The bacteria in your dog’s stomach can be hugely impacted by the foods and supplements they eat, in both positive and negative ways.

So, try to steer clear — or at least limit them amount — of ingredients that can negatively impact your dog’s gut health like:
- Wheat
- Corn
- Soy
- Overly processed foods, and foods with a lot of additives or sodium (like deli meat/cold cuts)
- High-fat foods (that are not *healthy* fat!)

And try to add in good-for-their gut ingredients like:
- Pre or probiotic supplements
- Healthy fats (look for food and treats reach in omega-3 & 6 fatty acids)
- Blueberries
- Pumpkin
- Sweet Potato
- Eggs
- Bone broth
- Turmeric
- Apple
- Beets (*note: these can alter the color of poop!)
- Flaxseed

If your pup loves treats, and you want to make sure you’re keeping their gut healthy while also keeping them happy and satisfied, we’ve got a range of treats that offer digestive support for your pup!

Check out these Shameless Pets treats that are helpful for your pup’s gut and offer digestive support:

Remember, a healthy gut = a healthy pup, and a healthy pup = a happy pup!