Just like us, cats and dogs have trillions of tiny organisms (microbes like bacteria, fungi, and viruses) living in their gastrointestinal tracts. Collectively called the gut microbiome, those little organisms do all sorts of amazing, important things for your pet, like helping digest their food, protecting against disease, and maintaining a beautiful coat, just to name a few.
What Is the Gut Microbiome?
Could My Pet’s Symptoms Be Related to the Gut Microbiome?
In a healthy gut, the thousands of different kinds of microbes make up a diverse, balanced community. But when there aren’t enough beneficial microbes or there are too many harmful ones, some of that community’s important functions stop working, and your pet may develop uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea or itchy skin. This kind of disruption in the gut microbiome can be caused by a variety of factors, including disease, age, diet, and medications—especially antibiotics.
Imbalanced Gut Microbiome
Balanced Gut Microbiome
An imbalanced gut microbiome may contain only a handful of different bacterial groups. When important kinds of bacteria are missing, the gut can’t function properly, and your pet may develop uncomfortable symptoms.
A diverse, balanced gut microbiome includes thousands of different kinds of bacteria and other microbes. This dynamic community is crucial for the proper functioning of your pet’s body.
Do Antibiotics Harm the Microbiome?
In some situations, these powerful medications are a necessary and even life-saving treatment, but antibiotics (like metronidazole) can make radical, long-term changes to your pet’s gut microbiome. That’s because antibiotics kill a lot of beneficial bacteria along with the harmful ones they’re meant to target. But if your pet needs a course of antibiotics, there’s still a lot you can do to support their gut health during and after treatment.
How Can I Know What’s Going On in My Pet’s Gut Microbiome?
Microbiome testing is a great way to learn the status of your pet’s digestive health and whether their diet is promoting the right microbes. With our easy, non-invasive, at-home test, you can find out what’s really going on with the bacteria living in your pet’s digestive system. And if an imbalanced community of bacteria in the gut microbiome is causing symptoms like diarrhea or itchy skin, we can help you restore harmony among the gut microbes. By rebalancing the gut microbiome, you can help your pet feel better.
How Is Diet Involved in My Pet’s Gut Health?
Diet is the best and most important way to manage your pet’s gut microbiome. What you feed your cat or dog helps determine which kinds of microbes thrive and multiply in their gut. By feeding a diet that supports the beneficial kinds of microbes and discourages the harmful kinds, you can help your pet live a longer, happier life.
What Can Probiotics Do for My Pet’s Gut Health?
Probiotic supplements do contain beneficial bacteria, but even the probiotics that are marketed specifically for pets contain only a few bacterial strains, and they’re typically not the right ones for cats and dogs. These products may temporarily improve some digestive symptoms, but the microorganisms they contain won’t become permanent residents of your pet’s gut, so they can’t fix an imbalance. In fact, new research suggests that probiotics can actually interfere with the recovery of the gut microbiome after antibiotic use.