How much impact does the food you feed your pet have on their health?
A common question we get asked is “How much of an impact does the food you feed your dog really have when it comes to things like their skin & coat, energy level, long term health, etc.?”
Us westernised humans eat for pleasure and comfort. We have even built an industry around the practice; from fine dining restaurants, to purified ingredients, to junk food. And along the way most marketers try to appease our better judgement by having us believe their food products are truly healthy. But with obesity rates of 36.2% of the US population and 29% of the Australian population you would have to question that assertion. Even worse, the US is only the 16th most obese country in the world and Australia lags as the 42nd most obese country. Even our Kiwi friends are fatter than us!
But what has human obesity got to do with pet food? Quite simply, obesity is just one of the physiological disorders that afflict both humans and our beloved canine companions. The relevance of this analogy is that obesity is an indication of a compromised microbial population in the gut microbiome. But obesity is not the only ill-effect of reduced or altered microbial diversity in the gut. Degenerative diseases such as senile decay, heart disease, diabetes, Crohns disease or irritable bowel syndrome and more, are all directly linked to changes in the composition of the gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome in a monogastric animal (both human and dog) is the interface between food and the body. From a design perspective, the system is finely tuned and provides benefits for all parties; each microbial species specifically contributes to the digestive system in return for a home and the opportunity to thrive, whilst the animal benefits from a regulated supply of nutrients to meet daily requirements for growth, activity and health as a result of that microbial action. The unfortunate reality is the balance and structure of this system is directly dependant on the food ingredients that slide down the animal’s throat as a result of eating food. In simple terms, wrong ingredients equals poor microbial outcomes, whilst good ingredients equals good microbial outcomes.
Good microbial outcomes result in good health, whilst bad microbial outcomes result in ill health. So, it becomes impossible for a dog (or you for that matter) to be truly healthy if the gut microbial population is compromised. Ask any vet in small animal practice and they will tell you their bread and butter business is skin and gut issues in dogs, and now with gut health research overwhelmingly identifying a lack of microbial diversity in the gut microbiome as being the underlying cause of these sensitivity issues, it shines a light on the need for improved diet design if our canine friends are to enjoy good health and wellbeing.
Of course, this is just a simple overview of the general question posed above, with advances in research shedding new light on the subject almost daily. But it remains an indisputable fact that if you don’t have the correct ingredients in the food at appropriate levels to one another, your dog’s intestinal health will falter, and as a result so too will his skin and coat health, energy level and long-term health suffer.
About the author… Bill Wiadrowski is a consulting nutritionist who has worked in the field of performance animal nutrition for over 50 years. His latest development is the LifeWise range of next generation foods that are rapidly gaining acclaim for their ability to repair common gut and skin sensitivities issues in domestic canines.