Seventy percent (or more) of your dog’s immune system is housed in their gastrointestinal tract, therefore, keeping it healthy is essential to your pet’s well-being. Leaky gut is difficult to diagnose because it involves trauma to the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract. Unlike an external injury, leaky gut is best diagnosed through its symptoms which include
- Allergies (both food and environmental)
- Skin conditions
- E.g., atopic dermatitis or yeast
- Chronic ear infections
- Collapsing trachea
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Autoimmune disease
- Organ disorders (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, etc.)
- Behaviour issues
Leaky Gut vs. Dysbiosis
Leaky gut and dysbiosis are often used interchangeably to refer to the same disorder but have separate definitions. Leaky gut is when the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract is unable to prevent small particles of undigested food and potentially toxic organisms from passing through this coating into the bloodstream. Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance of bacteria with too many pathogenic bacteria and not enough beneficial bacteria. Dr. Karen Becker explains the overlap best saying “imbalance of bacteria is what causes the problem – inadequate supplies of good bacteria, plus an overgrowth of bad bacteria, and sometimes yeast. This bacterial imbalance leads to inflammation of the membranes of the intestine, which results in the condition known as dysbiosis or leaky gut” (Source).
The lining of the gastrointestinal tract is like a very fine cheesecloth. It is meant to act as a filter allow microscopic nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to pass through. When this lining becomes damaged–because of over vaccination, inflammatory foods, and drug use–larger particles than intended can pass through the mucosa into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the body will recognize them as foreign, and the immune system will form antibodies against them. This can be especially problematic when it comes to food and is why many dogs do not get better even after being put on a strict elimination diet. This is because when the undigested food particles get into the dog’s bloodstream, their body will form antibodies against the food regardless of how exotic it may be. These dogs can become sensitive to every protein they are fed until their gut junctions are healed.
Causes of Leaky Gut
Many things can cause the microbiome of the gut to become unbalanced and inflamed thereby causing the mucosal lining to become permeable. Dogs and cats, as carnivores, are not meant to be ingesting starches and carbohydrates at the high levels found in commercial kibble and canned foods. These carbs and starches break down to sugar in their bodies, and these sugars, in turn, will feed yeast and harmful bacteria. Commerical pet foods are cooked at such high heat that any beneficial living enzymes once in the diet are destroyed. Many foods also contain carcinogenic dyes, colours, preservatives, and additives all of which can cause inflammation in the gut.
Giving your pet antibiotics is one of the quickest ways to throw off the balance of bacteria in their bodies. The biggest issue is that antibiotics are often prescribed for minor health concerns that could be effectively treated with natural alternatives. If your pet has a serious infection and must be given antibiotics, they should be given high-quality probiotics 2 hours after each dose. After the antibiotic treatment is finished, your pet should be put on “microbiome boot camp” for several months afterward to help their gut reestablish a healthy balance.
Over-vaccination is another leading cause of dysbiosis. Titer test your pet rather than revaccinating yearly and avoid vaccinating for Bordatella. Vaccines are meant to stimulate the immune system and create antibodies to life-threatening diseases. When given more often than necessary they can cause the immune system to go into overdrive, causing autoimmune disease, inflammation, and even cancer. Not to mention the fact that pet vaccine still contains heavy metals, toxins, and other chemicals which assault your pet’s system. Other everyday toxins include insecticide based flea and tick treatments, heartworm medications, and dewormers. Find natural alternatives or dose them as infrequently as possible if you live in a place where heartworm is prevalent.
Healing & Preventing Leaky Gut
There are two main ways to treat dysbiosis, through the diet and through restoring the bacteria balance of the GI tract. As Leaky gut is caused by many different things, treatment will always vary based on the individual animal. Many dogs with dysbiosis have very sensitive digestive systems, and so slow change is best. Adding healthy bacteria back into the pet’s diet via probiotics and foods rich in good bacteria is the best place to start. Heal the gut first and then for animals being fed an inappropriate diet, changing their food to a balanced raw food diet is the next step. Eliminating unnecessary vaccinations, chemical-based dewormers and flea and tick treatments, and providing clean filtered water are also important steps in bring the gut back into balance.
Other beneficial treatments include
- Gut soothing nutraceuticals
- Slippery Elm, Aloe Vera, Marshmellow Root, Calendula, Chamomile
- Phytoplankton is the best, clean source of anti-inflammatory DHA & EPA
- Thuja for vaccinosis
- Liver Cleansing
- With Milk Thistle
- Digestive Enzymes
Dysbiosis is a prevalent and underdiagnosed condition. If you think your pet is suffering, join forces with a holistic veterinarian in your area and work out a treatment plan.
Woofs & Wags,
The Holistic Pet Radio Pack