The question of how best to feed dogs stimulates great debate and evokes strong emotions among dog folks. (Yes, this an intended understatement.) One of the most contentiously defended viewpoints in recent years is that dogs should not be fed diets that contain digestible carbohydrate (starch). Two primary arguments are used to defend this position.
A healthy microbiome destroys harmful pathogens, including disease-causing viruses, fungi, bacteria, and parasites. As a result, the microbiome is the immune system's first line of defense. Differences in microbiomes help explain why some dogs exposed to diseases like parvovirus, distemper, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, canine flu, heartworm, or kennel cough get sick while others remain symptom-free.
What is digestibility and why does it matter? Digestibility reflects a food's ability to deliver essential nutrients to the dog who eats it. This ultimately affects not only defecation quantity and quality (how much your dog poops and how the poop looks and smells), and a dog's propensity for flatulence (no explanation needed), but more importantly, a dog's long-term health and wellness. The graphic on this page summarizes how digestibility is measured using feeding trials with dogs.
When dogs feel nauseated and are about to throw up, they often drool, lick their lips, swallow excessively, and stand head down looking worried. Many dogs look for or turn to their owners when they're about to vomit, which can signal alert caregivers to move their pets to a better location! In time you might be able to train your dog to throw up where it does the least damage.
I was at the gym recently, swimming laps. After my workout, I was sitting by the side of the pool and a fellow swimmer and friend stopped to chat about dogs. He has never owned a dog, but his daughter has been pressuring him and he thinks she is finally old enough to take on the responsibility of caring for a dog (good dad!). So, I was anticipating a discussion about breeds, where to look, training, feeding, etc. But that is not where this was going at all. Instead, he wanted to talk about poop.
Study finds genetic differences between dogs and wolves, with dietary implications. Domestication appears to have led to genetic changes in dogs that make them able to digest starches better than wolves can, according to a paper published in Nature in January.
All dogs need digestive enzymes in order to break down their food, making the nutrients available for absorption. In most cases, the pancreas produces ample enzymes and no supplementation is required. Older dogs and dogs with digestive disorders may benefit from enzyme supplementation. Dogs with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), where the pancreas is no longer able to produce enzymes, require prescription-strength enzymes in order to survive. Digestive enzymes might also help dogs with food allergies and intolerances.
Prebiotics (no, it's not a typo) nourish probiotics, the beneficial bacteria discussed last month that support your dog's digestive health, the immune system, and more. A prebiotic is de?ned as a nondigestible food ingredient that bene?cially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon and thus improves host health.""
All dogs can benefit from probiotics, which aid digestion and modulate the immune system. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive tract. There are a variety of different species belonging to genera that include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, and Enterococcus (often abbreviated by first initial only in names). Some species, such as Lactobacillus, live primarily in the small intestine, while others, such as Bifidobactera, reside in the large intestine (colon).
Curly, a five-year-old Standard Poodle, eats the best food his human can afford. Raw chicken, rabbit, and venison are his favorites. Tina, his two-legged companion, switches the meats every few days, mixing the protein with some sweet potato, carrots, an occasional stalk of broccoli, and always a good fish oil supplement. Plus, to be sure that Curly is getting full nutritional benefit from every delicious bite, Tina always adds a sprinkling of a probiotic and digestive enzyme supplement as a final touch. Everything Curly eats is the best of the best: human-grade ingredients, no preservatives, no by-products. But somehow, despite all of the good lovin' and great food, Curly is a bit thin, won't put on weight, and his stool is sometimes dry making it hard for the poor guy to poop during his daily walks. Tina knows that something is amiss and she is worried. She was told that maybe the probiotics weren't active, so she tried several different brands. But nothing has improved. So what gives; is it that the probiotics don't work? Adding supplemental Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, or other probiotic organisms to your dog's diet is almost always a good idea. This will support the resident microflora that are always present in Curly's gut, enhancing digestion and absorption of nutrients, supporting detoxification and elimination processes, and helping to boost his immune system.
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