Gut Instincts: How to Promote Healthy Dog Digestion

September 25, 2023

Written By: Earth Buddy Team

Tan coated Chow Chow breed of dog walking in grass. Read this article to learn the benefits of colostrum for a dog's digestive system.

Proper digestion is crucial to promoting your dog’s overall health and wellness. When your canine companion’s digestive system is functioning optimally, it assists in the digestion and absorption of essential nutrients. Unfortunately, dog digestion issues can be a common concern for many pet owners. Learning how to promote healthy dog digestion is key to supporting the physical and mental well-being of your dog.

A Dog’s Digestive Process

The digestive process in dogs is a multi-step journey that helps support energy production at a cellular level, ultimately helping your canine companion stay healthy and active. Unlike humans, dogs possess a relatively low level of salivary enzymes, resulting in less food being broken down during ingestion, where digestion begins.

The food then undergoes mechanical breakdown as the dog chews, with your dog’s teeth transforming it into smaller, more manageable pieces. These pieces are subsequently moved through the esophagus into the stomach via a coordinated series of muscle contractions scientifically known as peristalsis.

Once it reaches the stomach, the ingested food encounters an environment containing stomach acid with a pH range of 1-2. The stomach acid promotes the release of digestive enzymes, including pepsin. These components support normal digestive function and convert the food into a semi-fluid substance known as chyme. This chyme is incrementally released into the small intestine, the primary site for nutrient absorption in a dog’s digestive tract.

The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes to help digest food—protease, amylase, and lipase—into the small intestine to aid in the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, respectively. Bile is also released from the liver to break down fats, further supporting the digestive process.

The lining of the small intestine is full of minuscule, finger-like protrusions known as villi and microvilli. These structures fill the surface area to assist in the digestion and absorption of essential nutrients. Through these villi and microvilli, amino acids, fatty acids, and simple sugars are brought to the bloodstream.

Following this stage, the indigestible remnants of the dog food, accompanied by water, are transported to the large intestine. Here, water is reabsorbed, and the residual material is consolidated into feces.

The final phase of the digestive process culminates in the elimination of feces through the rectum and anus from the large intestine, completing the cycle of digestion in dogs. Understanding the basics of how a dog digests food can be helpful for pet owners, especially when making dietary choices or discussing digestive issues with a veterinarian.

How to Promote Healthy Dog Digestion

Now that you know what a dog’s digestive process looks like, you can take action to help support proper digestion and bowel health. Fortunately, there are several recommendations that may help keep animals in peak condition.

High-Quality Diet For Dog Digestive System Health

A high-quality diet can support normal GI health and function by supplying essential minerals and nutrients, which in turn helps maintain optimal health. Such a diet typically contains well-balanced proportions of high-quality proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. When a dog consumes a high-quality diet, their digestive system can support the breakdown and assimilation of nutrients.

High-quality proteins provide the essential amino acids that are pivotal for supporting normal cell function, enhancing the immune response, and providing nutrients for a healthy body. These proteins are easier to digest, supporting digestive tract health, as compared to low-quality protein sources that might come from by-products or fillers.

The fats in a high-quality diet are more bioavailable, meaning they promote the absorption of essential nutrients from the diet. This is crucial for supporting hormonal balance, skin and coat health, and healthy cellular activity. A premium diet often incorporates Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which can help maintain a normal inflammatory response and support a healthy gut.

High-quality carbohydrates added to your dog’s diet, typically derived from whole grains or legumes, support energy production and are rich in dietary fiber.

Fiber supports gut and colon health, as it adds bulk to stools and aids in moving food through the digestive tract. It also acts as a prebiotic, providing a source of beneficial intestinal bacteria to promote gut health and intestinal health. Fiber also aids in reducing occasional loose stools due to environmental stress or changes in diet.

Keep in mind that a high-quality diet is often free from artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors. These diets also tend to have more stringent quality control measures, ensuring that the food is free from contaminants. For this reason, dog owners sometimes choose to feed their dogs a natural diet.

The inclusion of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, C, and E, as well as zinc and selenium, further supports digestive health by supplying essential minerals and nutrients.

In other words, it’s important to look for a diet with a scientifically balanced formula rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and essential fatty acids.

Adding Probiotics For Your Dog’s Digestive Health

Just like in humans, the gut flora plays a significant role in a dog’s digestion. Enzyme and probiotic supplementation is a great way to ensure good health. Probiotics supply a source of live, naturally occurring microorganisms. When introduced into the body through supplementation or a specialized diet, they help maintain gut flora in the digestive tract. Probiotics also:

  • Balance the animal’s intestinal microflora
  • Help maintain proper gut pH
  • Support bacteria in the intestinal tract
  • Support increased vigor and help assure your companion is getting the nutritional diversity needed to remain healthy
  • Promote the body’s innate resistance to pathogens
  • Supports normal bowel function

Digestive Enzymes To Support Nutrient Absorption

Digestive enzymes are naturally produced in various parts of the dog digestive system to help your dog digest food, including the mouth, the dog’s stomach, and pancreas. As a dog ages, the digestive enzymes in an adult dog’s body may be lower than they were as puppies. That’s why they are often recommended for dogs seven years of age or older to support and maintain proper body functions and an overall good quality of life.

These supplements commonly contain enzymes like protease for protein digestion, lipase for fat breakdown, and amylase to promote the consumption of sugars. The aim is to promote enzymes and factors necessary for proper digestion in your dog’s stomach and GI tract.

Hydration For Dog Digestive System

Adequate hydration is often overlooked when discussing dog digestion. Water is essential in the digestive process as it not only assists in the digestion and absorption of essential nutrients, but also in supporting healthy waste elimination. Always ensure that your dog has access to fresh, clean water, especially when they are eating high-protein or fiber-rich diets that require more water for digestion.

If you aren’t sure if you can rinse and refill their water dish to ensure they always have fresh water, you may want to consider investing in a fountain. A fountain keeps the water flowing consistently throughout the day to keep it from becoming stagnant. Wet food can also be considered for added hydration.

Exercise For Dog Digestive System Health

Physical activity is not only good for your dog’s waistline but also for their digestive system. Whether it’s a game of fetch or a long walk, keeping your dog active is essential for digestive health. Regular exercise helps the dog’s digestive system by:

  • Working as a digestive aid
  • Helping maintain normal body fluid levels
  • Supports healthy cellular activity
  • Helping maintain a normal concentration of minerals
  • Supporting normal bowel function

Products To Promote Healthy Digestion

Earth Buddy Gut Health supplement for dogs in white jar with a lid open showing powder. Colostrum benefits include improving the gut microbiome of dogs.

The well-being of your dog’s immune system is closely tied to the health of a dog’s digestive system. Earth Buddy offers a variety of products to support a healthy gut. A healthy gut supports and promotes long-term health, which is why Earth Buddy advocates for the use of natural supplements.

Adding Bovine Colostrum To Dog Food

Cows produce colostrum, also known as “first milk,” which is a nutrient-rich fluid shortly after giving birth. This special milk is packed with immunoglobulins, growth factors, and a variety of essential nutrients. When it comes to dogs and their digestive health, bovine colostrum supports normal digestive function, aids with occasional gastric distress, and helps maintain proper gut pH.

Full Spectrum CBD For Dog Digestion

Full-spectrum CBD for dogs interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a regulatory system that exists in all mammals, including dogs. This system plays a role in a wide range of physiological processes, including digestion. Since full spectrum hemp extract aids in bringing the body back to homeostasis, it may also support a normal inflammatory response in the gut, which helps support healthy GI function. Studies have shown that there is an abundance of endocannabinoid receptors in the gut that allude to the theory that our pet’s health is rooted in their digestive system.

Golden Retriever licking a bottle of Earth Buddy organic, full-spectrum CBD for dogs to promote balance in the digestive system of dogs.

Medicinal Mushrooms For Canine Digestive System

Antioxidant compounds in medicinal mushrooms can support normal digestive function by protecting against free radical damage, which helps support the protective layers of the bowel. They also support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. And, by helping maintain proper gut flora, they can promote a healthy digestive tract while supporting digestion and the absorption of nutrients.

Adding Them All Together

Promoting healthy digestion in your dog involves a multi-pronged approach that includes a balanced diet, adequate hydration, and regular exercise. Probiotics and prebiotics support a healthy gut by helping maintain proper gut flora. Ensuring a healthy digestive system is integral to providing nutrients for your dog’s body.

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