The stomach’s acidity level directly relates to the gut health of your pet.
Dogs & cats are carnivores & designed to eat a prey based diet of muscle meat, bones & organs.
To be able to digest this type of diet the stomach acidity needs to be a low pH (1-2) or in other words high stomach acidity.
Meat proteins stimulate stomach acidity by triggering the production of hydrochloric acid within the stomach.
This low stomach pH is important for a couple of reasons:
When a dog or cat eats foods that contain carbohydrates, plant proteins or a low meat protein diet, which is common in commercially made diets, the hydrochloric acid is not produced well. This causes the pH levels in the stomach to rise, making the stomach less acidic.
This change in stomach acidity leads to the food being digested much more slowly & sits in the digestive tract for much longer.
Usually, when the chyme (food mixed with the stomach’s gastric juices) leaves the stomach it triggers the next stage of the digestive process in the small intestine by encouraging the flow of bile & pancreatic enzymes.
When the pH is higher, this process is limited & therefore digestion throughout the rest of the digestive tract is not as effective as it should be.
This higher gastric pH means that the digestive tract is impaired and the gut health is compromised.
This compromised gut health can lead to many other health conditions for your pet.
Because dogs & cats are carnivores, their stomachs are not designed to digest carbohydrates & plant proteins. Therefore their digestive system has to work harder to try to break down & eliminate these foods.
So if we feed a combination of a raw diet with processed foods the stomach acidity is lowered due to the carbohydrates & plant proteins. The digestive system then struggles to digest the raw diet.
This can lead to problems such as:
Due to these problems, it is advised not to mix feed raw with processed foods.
So why are some processed pet foods made with carbohydrates, plant proteins & low meat proteins?
Meat protein is the most expensive part of making pet food. One way to keep the cost of production down is to minimise the amount of meat protein used.
In place of the meat proteins, carbohydrates such as corn, wheat, potato & rice can be used.
To boost the protein levels they add in cheaper plant-based proteins such as soy & pea protein.
Grain-free processed diets still usually have a reduced amount of meat proteins & increased use of plant proteins.
Dogs and cats struggle to digest these cheaper food groups because they need, as carnivores, a highly acidic stomach, and these foods make the stomach less acidic leading to poor gut health.
However, there are some companies that have manufactured their products with little damage to the meat proteins, kept the carbohydrates & plant proteins low or non-existent and the meat proteins high – such as K9 Natural & Feline Natural products.
Over 70% of the immune system is in the gut - the gut is the best place to start to heal an allergic animal.
A raw diet can help rebalance the immune system. Providing and supporting the immune system in the gut with specific probiotics and animal-derived essential fatty acids are simple things that can make an enormous difference. The rebalancing of the immune system by feeding raw, biologically-appropriate food can take a lot of pressure off an overloaded immune system. Commonly it is allergies to corn, soy & wheat that show up on allergy panels so it is best to remove these starches & grains from their diets - these are the things they are not designed to eat anyway. If we then feed a source of protein that your cat or dog has not eaten before (novel protein) for at least 6-8 weeks, this allows the gut a chance to readjust, calm down & start to heal. Not all allergies are food allergies but a well balanced & thought out raw diet can help reduce the body’s allergic tendencies.
Anxiety & stress can have a significant impact on digestion & likewise poor gut health can impact behaviour. If we can optimise nutrition and gut health, we can aspire to consider and support any other contributing factors. Signs of anxiety or stress in our pets can be very subtle. Some common signs of anxiety or stress include yawning, blinking, nose licking, aloofness, hiding, pawing, ears laid back, tail tucked in, trembling, lying down & lifting a leg, stiffening up, barking, growling, aggression, separation anxiety, spraying, over-grooming & gut upsets.
A microbiome is the community of microorganisms that can usually be found living together in any given habitat.
The microorganisms in a particular environment (including the body or a part of the body).
"We depend on a vast army of microbes to stay alive: a microbiome that protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins”
A narrowing or loss in microbiome diversity is a common finding in many disease states. Maintaining a healthy microbiome, in turn, ensures a healthy pet.
Our first line of defence against the outside world is our gut. Most of our immune system lives there. A healthy gut is required for good health.
Two conditions that are affecting the gut health of people as well as our pets in a negative way are:
These two conditions are inter-connected.
Leaky gut allows the passage of inappropriate and detrimental factors (such as partially digested food particles, and toxic organisms) across the gut wall. These factors enter the circulation and move throughout the body. The immune system recognises these factors as 'foreign invaders' and reacts against them. A leaky gut is associated with a vast number of disease states.
Dysbiosis occurs when our gut is inhabited by the wrong type, or the wrong numbers of certain microbes - an imbalance of gut bacteria. The inadequate supply of good bacteria, plus an overgrowth of bad bacteria, and sometimes yeast is more commonly the problem.
This bacterial imbalance leads to inflammation of the membranes of the intestine, which results in a leaky gut hence the inter-connection.
Antibiotics, though sometimes life-saving, kill both good and bad bacteria, which upsets the natural balance of bugs and depletes the supply of friendly bacteria that keep the gastrointestinal immune defences strong and resilient. Other drugs also known to have the same effect are corticosteroids and the NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Other factors include: