If your dog or cat has frequent diarrhea, bloating and gas, accompanied by uncontrollable weight loss, there are a number of possible causes. When health issues occur after your pet has been treated with antibiotics, there are chances that he has developed what is referred to as leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut, also known as dysbiosis is a serious condition that can result to such complications as nutritional deficiency, respiratory difficulty, hyperactivity, etc. A proper understanding of leaky gut can help you take steps needed to improve your pet’s health and quality of life.
Leaky gut syndrome (dysbiosis) is a bacteria imbalance that leads to inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, resulting in a number of other serious problems. The condition has a strong relationship with immune system inefficiency and the development of chronic diseases.
The problem with dysbiosis is not the inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, but what happens afterwards. As with humans, the gastrointestinal tracts of dogs and cats are protected by a mucosal barrier. The majority of food nutrient absorption takes place in the small intestine, and the mucosal barrier ensures that only the tiny nutrients in the forms they are required in the body makes it into the bloodstream for distribution while undigested particles and pathogenic substances are prevented from being absorbed.
This part of the digestive tract is made up of a complex community of microorganisms, including friendly bacteria, in certain amounts considered normal and needful for proper digestion and absorption of food substances. Leaky guts happen as a result of imbalances in the makeup of this part of the GI system. The imbalances can happen as a result of gastrointestinal tract injury, exposure to toxins, infections, or overuse of antibiotics. In most cases, the good bacteria population is diminished while that of some bad bacteria and yeast increases. The situation leads to a compromise of the mucosal barrier, leading to an increased permeability of the intestinal walls.
With a compromised mucosal barrier, undigested food substances, antigens and other potentially toxic materials can get into the bloodstream and will be distributed to other parts of the body. Ideally, the immune system will respond to take care of the problem, but with the continuous invasion of unwanted materials into the bloodstream, it is always impossible for the immune system to fight effectively, and so much can go wrong from this point.
What causes dysbiosis?
In dogs and cats, there are some known contributing factors to the development of leaky gut, but the most common cause is antibiotic overuse. While treating some common problems in pets, some veterinarians rely heavily on antibiotics. These drugs are efficient, but they kill both the beneficial and the bad bacteria. When they are overused, they upset the natural balance of the microorganism community in the gut, and the friendly bacteria may be severely affected, leading to the weakening of the mucosal membrane. There are other drugs that have the same negative effect on the GI system such as corticosteroids, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), and some vaccines.
Aside from the drugs, other factors that can lead to dysbiosis are biologically inappropriate food containing too much grain; highly processed diet; food additives like dyes, preservatives, surfactants, emulsifiers and flavor enhancers; stress; ingestion of toxic substances; and parasitic infection.
Why too many pets are developing dysbiosis today
From all indications, the overreliance on antibiotics for treatment of pet infections by some veterinarians is responsible for the widespread of leaky gut. It is unfortunate that even very young animals are being administered these drugs almost abusively. The problem becomes worse when other medications that have the same potential of causing problems, such as corticosteroids are administered with antibiotics.
The type of diets dogs and cats are being fed is also a point of concern. They are mostly highly processed substances with so many additives and preservatives. The combination of plant protein and grain also results to diets that are hard to digest and assimilate.
In addition to the factors above, the busy world of today has increased environmental stressors not just for humans, but pets too. There are also some pet owners who lack proper understanding of how to keep their animals healthy and happy. With all these factors, it is not surprising that many pets suffer from dysbiosis these days.
Symptoms of leaky gut syndrome
At the initial stage, the major symptoms of leaky gut are bloating, diarrhea, and gas. Unexplained weight loss often follows in most cases. Since it meddles with the immune system, other conditions that can result include allergies, bad breath, behavioral abnormalities, cystitis, gum diseases, heart infections, respiratory difficulties like asthma, liver, gallbladder and pancreatic disorders, and seizure conditions.
Treatment of leaky gut
There are a couple of treatment options used by veterinarians to manage leaky gut syndrome. The approach the vet will adopt will depend on the condition of the animal as each case of dysbiosis is unique and demands personalized care protocol. Treatment will normally proceed in the form of gut intervention or change of diet. As has been stated above, the condition of the pet will determine how the veterinarian will intervene. A sudden change of diet or GI detox may aggravate the condition due to fragility of a pet in that condition.
The veterinarian will have to decide whether to start with dietary modification and healing the gut later or taking the opposite approach. In summary, the treatment is aimed at addressing food allergies and intolerance, taking care of any nutritional issues that might have been caused by the inefficiency of the digestive system, reducing inflammation of the GI tract, and ultimately healing the weakened intestinal wall and reestablishing the mucosal barrier.
Probiotics are very essential in the treatment of leaky gut syndrome. They help restore the condition of the gastrointestinal tract by improving the population of the friendly bacteria and reducing that of the bad bacteria and yeast: this helps in restoring the mucosal lining to the right condition.
There is also a special supplement that can be very helpful in the management of leaky gut. LumaPet is a soil-derived, scientifically-backed mineral supplement that has been tested and proven to promote immune function, support healthy digestion, and strengthen the junctions of the gut wall. All these functions are essential in preventing leaky gut, as well as in the treatment process.