Dysbiosis: Does Your Dog Have Leaky Gut?

The new buzz phrase in your dog is leaky gut syndrome. Sound scary? It is!

I’ll tell you why and what you can do about it to regain your dog’s health and happiness. Spreading the word about leaky gut through my own experience is very important to me.

I often seem to find myself speaking from what I like to call “a place in the trenches” or “empirical proof“ – but then I’m quickly reminded by my long term animal health team that it more often came from a place of “you just had to figure it out.”

Early Experience With Leaky Gut Syndrome

I’ve been recommending raw dog food since 1994 and have seen unimaginable health improvements in dogs switched from kibble to a real whole food, species-specific diet.

As my practice evolved and years went by, I began to see more and more patients who’d already transitioned to raw food. In the last few years I’ve also started to see more and more dogs suffering from allergies, auto-immune diseases and, of course, cancer.

There were many times when I sat at my veterinary clinic long after my clients had gone home, scratching my head about why we were seeing an influx of these diseases when many dogs were on a beautiful raw food diet.

Why did some dogs do so well for so long, then all of a sudden start to react with an inflammatory response?

Why were some of them okay on a novel protein diet but then had sudden reactions to all proteins, including the ones that had tested negative on allergy tests six months prior?

Then there were the ones who were allergic to trees, grass, mites and other environmental factors.

One day I was geeking out on the physiology of a cat patient that had interstitial cystitis (when the lining of the bladder starts to leak).

I realized that if the mucosal lining of the bladder can leak, then so can the mucosal lining of the gut.

This could explain why all these dogs were over-reacting to so many foods and environmental allergens.

We had amazing results treating interstitial cystitis in cats, so I started working on dogs with skin conditions using a similar protocol to the one I came up with for the cats.

And it worked!

What Is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut syndrome is an increasingly widespread condition in both animals and humans, yet it’s still not well known in the medical community. Leaky gut in dogs is exactly what it sounds like.

The delicate intestinal mucosa that lines the gut and allows tiny digested nutrients to pass through to the blood stream can be likened to cheesecloth or a tea strainer.

This is how nutrition is assimilated into the body – but this lining also acts as an incredibly important barrier to keep out toxins, pathogens and undigested food particles.

The mucosa becomes traumatized and inflamed, causing the junctions (the spaces in the cheesecloth) to become stretched or damaged to the point where they’re no longer able to filter out larger food particles, bacteria and toxins.

These substances can now pass through the intestinal wall and make their way into the blood stream and lymphatics.

This sets off a series of events in the body, which begins with the liver working over-time to screen out the particles; it has no chance of keeping up with the onslaught, and the pathogens begin to accumulate.

The immune system is then triggered to fight the intruders, but it too becomes overwhelmed, leading to particles being absorbed into body tissues.

This causes inflammation; but even worse, the immune system can attack these intruders, which can lead to autoimmune disease.

The body starts to perceive food as its enemy – the reason we see so many dogs who are allergic or reactive to almost every protein and many vegetables and grains.

This leaves little to choose from when it comes to feeding, in addition to the challenges of allergies to grass, pollen and more; but more importantly, and sadly, the result is an animal who’s in a chronic and constant state of inflammation and distress.

Causes Of Leaky Gut In Dogs

3 Primary Causes Of Leaky Gut
1. Poor Diet

Specifically highly processed, grain based foods containing wheat, rice, spelt and soy, food additives and preservatives; the lectin found in unsprouted grains; sugar; genetically modified foods (GMOs); pasteurized dairy; and meat from stressed factory-farmed animals.

2. Drugs And Other Toxins

This category includes the unnecessary use of steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), deworming drugs, flea and tick treatments (many contain pesticides) and antibiotics (leading to an imbalance of healthy gut flora, also known as dysbiosis).

3. Over-vaccination

When the body is forced to respond to a vaccine to which it has already established antibodies, this wreaks havoc on the immune system and can cause a number of chronic diseases.

Chronic stress or boredom can also influence gut health.

Not getting enough exercise or mental stimulation, or being left home alone for long periods, can be a major cause of stress for a pack animal. Stress negatively affects the immune and digestive systems.