For many years the word bacteria has usually been associated with something bad i.e. something needing an antibiotic to get rid of. More recently however, the understanding that animals and humans also have ‘friendly’ bacteria, has become accepted and most of us are familiar with the use of probiotics to replace ‘friendly’ bacteria in sick animals or animals that have had antibiotics.
One of the reasons that this has taken so long to become common knowledge is that traditional methods of culturing pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella or campylobacter have not detected the normal organisms in the gut. Recent DNA-based techniques have made it possible to study this world of organisms that share ours and our dog’s world although there were workers such as Dr Edward Bach and Dr John Paterson who did incredible work on this in the early 1900’s, but as is so often the case throughout history, their work was largely dismissed by the mainstream medical fraternity.
We now know that different species and individuals within a species have different complex combinations of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses that collectively make up what is called the gastrointestinal microbiome or microbiota. The word microbiome means the collection of microorganisms that inhabit an environment, creating a mini ‘ecosystem’.
Humans and dogs do carry many organisms in common but also each species has microorganisms that are specific to the species. Each individual also has its own specific balance and susceptibilities.
The gut microbes play several crucial roles in helping maintain the health of mammals:
• They help breakdown nutrients and harvest energy from food
• They help manufacture vital substances for health e.g. Vitamin B12, K2, biotin and folate
• They play a crucial role in the regulation of the host immune system
• They help to protect against pathogenic microorganisms
The flip side of this is that we now know that imbalances in the normal flora of an animal lead to ill health and there is evidence to suggest that acute haemorrhagic diarrhoea, atopic dermatitis, autism, calcium oxalate urolithiasis (stones), IBS, metabolic syndrome, obesity, stress diarrhoea and even anxiety itself in some circumstances can all be associated with changes in the intestinal microbiome in different species.
Looking after the ‘friendly’ bacteria and the mix of other helpful microorganisms in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract (and your own!) is vital to health. To help achieve this:
• Feed high quality, species appropriate diet, free from additives and colourants. Natural Instinct’s raw food offers the best natural option, free from artificial additives, colours, preservatives and fillers. Their ranges are packed full of the best human grade, DEFRA approved meats and bone with added fruit, vegetables and supplements. They are keen supporters of British produce and use only 100% British meat, poultry and fish.
• Avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics (They have their use in life threatening disease of course but not for every little problem that your dog presents with)
• Be careful with treats and make sure that they are not full of sugars and other poor quality ingredients that can alter the bacteria in the gut. Natural Instinct have an extensive range of natural treats for your pets.
• Avoid feeding probiotics for prolonged periods of time as whilst these are providing so called ‘good’ bacteria, they do not represent the complexity of each individuals normal healthy microbiome
Keeping your dog’s gut healthy is one of the most important things that you can do to influence your dog’s health.