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​Your dog's diet and their digestive health

Adult Golden Retriever standing outdoors eating from a red bowl.
Each component of your dog's food has a role to play in helping support their digestive health. Learn more about the role of diet in managing digestive sensitivities in your dog.

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from digestive problems which cause discomfort, unpleasant symptoms and sometimes wider-reaching health issues. Their diet is a key way to help manage digestive sensitivities and maintain a healthy digestive system.

How a dog's digestion works

Along each stage of the digestive system, your dog is digesting and absorbing nutrients from its food. One of the main organs which does this is the small intestine, which has a very large surface area with different types of cells to make nutrient absorption as effective as possible. Here, your dog absorbs fats, vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals, and completes the absorption of protein which begins in the stomach.

Across these organs, microflora—also known as "beneficial" bacteria—contribute to a healthy and functioning digestive system. Microflora is regulated by a number of different bodily fluids, as well as being affected by what your dog eats. In the small intestine, these beneficial bacteria are accompanied by cells which act as a protective immune response against foreign bodies or "bad" bacteria.

Your dog is naturally tolerant of their own microflora, but if they develop an intolerance this can lead to chronic issues such as IBD. Similarly, if the immune response cells begin to malfunction, your dog's digestive system may begin to develop an intolerance to harmless elements, such as food.

Puppy Beagle standing indoors eating from a red bowl.

Your dog's diet and their digestion

The food you give to your dog can affect their digestion and the microflora in their gut. A dog's digestive system is naturally less robust than a human being's; a varied diet can, therefore, cause unnecessary strain on your dog's digestion and cause problems.

Their food needs to be highly digestible to avoid putting pressure on their system, and contain easily absorbed essential nutrients. The most common dietary component is protein, which is commonly provided by beef, chicken and lamb meats; high-quality manufactured foods will use proteins which are more easily digested and less likely to trigger digestive problems. For example, wheat gluten is highly digestible, contains glutamine (which helps maintain digestive integrity) and is a highly concentrated protein source which also reduces the flow of indigestible proteins into the latter stages of your dog's digestion.

Fiber is an important part of your dog's diet but needs to regulated carefully as digesting certain types of fiber can be strenuous. Fiber can be used as part of their diet to help regulate movement in their large intestine and improve stool quality, which is particularly helpful if your dog has symptoms like diarrhea.

Carbohydrates are an important component of your dog's food, as they provide a great source of energy and support bodily functions. For example, fibers can support healthy gastrointestinal function and help increase satiety. Prebiotics are a useful carbohydrate-based element in your dog's food. These are substrates—almost a "platform"—on which beneficial bacteria can grow and thrive in your dog's system, helping shift the composition of microflora so it is healthier and more effective.

Fat can be a useful element in managing your dog's digestive sensitivities. High fat diets can be effective in giving your dog the energy it needs without it having to consume large quantities of food, which may be difficult if it is struggling with swallowing. However, lower fat diets can help in instances of stomach sensitivity where it's important for the contents to be emptied regularly and avoid causing stomach upset.

If you've recognized that your dog is suffering from a digestive issue, make sure to visit your vet; they will be able to advise you on the best food for your dog which helps maintain a healthy system and manages their sensitivities.

  • Digestive health

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