What makes your dog's digestive system healthy?

A healthy digestive system affects your dog's behaviour, appearance and much more. So what does healthy digestion mean for your dog, and how can you tell if their system isn't functioning properly?
Adult Poodle lying down on a sofa licking its lips.

Helping your dog maintain a healthy digestive system can help improve many aspects of their overall wellbeing, from their stool quality to their appearance.

How a dog’s digestive system works

Like other mammals, your dog's digestive system works to break down and digest the food passing through it, absorbing nutrients it needs as the food moves through the organs.

Their small intestine is the main organ in the digestive system where vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbohydrates are absorbed. This organ has a large surface area covered in different types of cell which aid digestion and absorption, along with microflora – ‘beneficial’ bacteria – which contribute to gut health. Their digestive system is also home to the largest number of immune cells in their body, helping protect your dog.

A healthy canine digestive system has the right balance of ‘beneficial’ bacteria, correctly-functioning immune cells, and its health is maintained by a diet which is appropriate for the individual.

Adult Chihuahua standing on a garden decking eating from a yellow bowl.

The effects of an unhealthy digestive system

If your dog is suffering from digestive sensitivities due to an acute episode (usually caused by the dog eating something they shouldn't have), parasites or a chronic condition, they are likely to exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Potential changes to eating habits
  • Dry, dull or brittle hair 

How a dog’s diet affects their digestive system

What a dog eats has an impact on their entire body, including their digestive system. A specific diet, targeted to your dog's needs, can go a long way to managing your dog’s digestive sensitivities and encouraging a healthy digestive environment.

Food which contains prebiotics can be effective in helping rebalance your dog’s microflora and contribute to a healthier gut. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that encourage growth of the healthy bacteria and therefore can be an influence on the composition of bacteria in the gut.

Highly-digestible and high-quality proteins are essential in providing your dog with the building blocks for cell growth in their body. Food which uses proteins from high quality sources can help maintain a healthy digestive system and help avoid making their digestive sensitivities worse.

Dogs also need the right balance of fibre in their diet. A high quality food should have just the right balance of fibre to make sure your dog can absorb nutrients easily without causing unnecessary strain on their gut.

Your dog’s age, breed, size and lifestyle are all important when selecting a diet that supports good digestive health. Visit your vet for more information and advice on the right choice of food for your pet.

Jack Russel Terrier adult standing in black and white on a white background

Find a vet

If you have any concerns about your dog’s health, consult a vet for professional advice.

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