November 16

Leaky Gut in Dogs

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Updated: November 16, 2021

What is leaky gut syndrome in dogs


Leaky gut syndrome in dogs is a condition where the lining of the intestines becomes more porous and damaged, allowing partially digested food materials into the blood stream.

In a normal healthy dog, the the mucous membranes on the intestinal wall protect the body's tissues from contaminants, including bacteria, food allergens, toxins, etc.

When food is consumed, it goes through the stomach and intestines, and the food's nutrients gets absorbed into their bodies.

Only very particular chemicals are absorbed by the intestines and allowed to enter the bloodstream.


However, when leaky gut syndrome occurs, the digestive enzymes leak into the body rather than get absorbed by the intestines, resulting in poor digestion and malnutrition.


The leaky gut syndrome can cause chronic diarrhea, constipation, weight loss or obesity because undigested material will pass right through your dog's body without being used.


Leaky gut syndrome in dogs has also been linked to skin disorders such as excessive itching, ear infections and even hotspots. (source)

Leaky gut in dogs is especially dangerous to growing puppies who need nutrient absorption for healthy development, so it can cause developmental issues such as joint problems.

Even in adult dogs, if this condition has gone unnoticed for a long time, your dog will also slowly digest itself, which can lead to life-threatening complications.

Most cases of leaky gut syndrome in dogs are treatable with dietary changes and supplements that heal the lining of the intestines; however, irreversible damage can also occur if not controlled.



Causes of leaky gut syndrome in a dog


So what causes leaky gut syndrome in dogs?


There are several different reasons your dog could be suffering from leaky gut syndrome in dogs:


  • They may have an overgrowth of bad bacteria in their intestines, which causes inflammation and leaky gut.

This can happen after a round of antibiotics or if they eat something that feeds the bad bacteria (such as gluten or sugar).


  • Parasites like giardia and hookworms could be living in their intestines and irritating the mucous lining.

  • Food allergies to ingredients such as grains, chicken, beef, dairy products, soy and eggs (Yes, dogs can be allergic to foods too!)

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is also a common cause of leaky gut syndrome in dogs.

Long term IBD can also lead to Irritable Bowel Syndrome in dogs, which is chronic and will need long term management.


  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency – this is the inability to produce enzymes to help digest fats, carbohydrates and proteins.



Symptoms of leaky gut in dogs


This condition typically begins with food allergies to certain ingredients in commercial diets, but may progress to more serious medical conditions, including:

  • Diabetes mellitus

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Other autoimmune diseases throughout their lives. (source)


What are the leaky gut symptoms in dogs?


  • Chronic diarrhea, which could be greasy and foul smelling.

  • Vomiting undigested food or excessive water consumption.

  • Weight loss or a bloated belly from a swollen stomach due to excess gas in the intestines.

  • Poor muscle development.

  • Itchy skin rashes and hot spots caused by food sensitivities/allergies to certain ingredients found in dog food (these can include common additives like corn, soy, wheat gluten, etc.).


Special note:


Leaky gut syndrome is especially dangerous during puppyhood because it prevents proper nutrient absorption for healthy growth.

There is also some evidence that leaky gut may cause developmental issues such as joint problems and even skeletal issues as they grow older. (source)



How do I know if my dog has leaky gut


Simple. You'll know your dog has leaky gut if you see your dog having the symptoms above, seemingly at random without having any external factor.

For example, if you notice that your dog itches very often, it might be that they are allergic to a certain food.

However, ignore that and you'll see the signs get worse - bald patches of skin, diarrhea, and even severe weight loss in a very short amount of time (which can be lethal!)


There is no real easy way to detect it, so you'll just have to monitor your dog closely if you see them develop any of these symptoms that don't go away in a few days.

If in doubt, a veterinarian can diagnose leaky gut in dogs, or at least rule out the possibility at that time.


How to fix leaky gut syndrome in dogs


If you suspect your dog has a leaky gut, it's VERY important to see your veterinarian for diagnostic testing.

Many vets recommend checking your dog's feces for parasites (e.g., giardia, hookworms), which can be diagnosed with a simple fecal test.

Blood work is also often recommended - to check the health of your pet's immune system and rule out any other causes of leaky gut symptoms such as liver or pancreatic issues that could be causing malabsorption.


Remember that over time leaky gut in dogs may cause irreversible damage if not treated properly, so it's important to bring your dog to a vet as soon as possible if you do suspect your dog has leaky gut!


Treatment of leaky gut in dogs


Healing leaky gut syndrome in dogs typically involves dietary changes and supplements to heal the intestinal lining.

Your veterinarian can also prescribe probiotics, digestive enzymes and L-glutamine supplements to help.

However, healing leaky gut is a long process and may take several months before the symptoms subside.


Elimination of allergic foods


For a leaky gut diet for dogs, the first step is identifying what's causing leaky gut – doing an elimination diet to rule out food sensitivities/allergies.

This will take a while due to the trial and error, but once you eliminate what your dog is allergic to, recovery is much faster.


As a caveat, food poisoning can also lead to a dog developing a leaky gut - but only if they eat that same food often enough.



Bacterial growth in their gut


Some leaky gut symptoms may be from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), so a leaky gut diet might also recommend avoiding prebiotics, which encourage the growth of fungi and bad bacteria in the intestine.

If your dog has an overgrowth of bad bacteria, they will likely need antibiotics prescribed by their veterinarian (usually metronidazole or amoxicillin).

Your vet might also suggest an anti-fungal medication like ketoconazole along with probiotics and digestive enzymes.

Other treatments include: antifungals, antivirals and immunosuppression drugs, depending on your dog's immune health and other factors.


Leaky gut syndrome diet plan for dogs


There are also natural ways you can help to clear out leaky gut in dogs. Once such way is having a special diet plan.

For this, it would be great to first consult your vet - your vet will let you know what will work for your dog in particular, since your vet will be most familiar with your dog.

A leaky gut diet focuses on foods that are easily digestible and will not irritate your dog's digestive system.


Special mention: Bone broth for dogs


One of the best natural treatment of leaky gut in dogs is to feed your dog with immune boosting foods such as bone broth.

Bone broth for dogs has anti-inflammatory properties that can help clear out any infection or bacteria settling in your dog's gut.

Plus, bone broth contains a ton of nutrients, making it a great recovery food for your dog, as well as a very healthy meal.

Bone broth also has the capability to actually restore their gut bacteria to their normal state, as well as contain gelatin, which helps to close up large pores in the intestine.


Conclusion


To recap, leaky gut in dogs may be caused by food sensitivities, allergies or bacterial growth.

It's important to consult your vet to determine the cause of leaky gut and what best treatment for leaky gut syndrome in dogs is.

Once leaky gut has been identified, you can treat leaky gut with diet changes and supplements.


Just remember these key points, and your dog's life will be free of possible gut problems!





about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.


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