Leaky gut, also known as ‘increased intestinal permeability’, is a newer term in the medical and veterinary world, but it can be defined as cracks or holes in the epithelial lining of the GI tract which allow partially digested food, toxins, and bacteria to penetrate the tissues beneath it.
The epithelial lining of the intestinal wall is only one cell thick, but this extremely thin layer serves as a barrier between the gastrointestinal tract and the rest of the body. If this barrier becomes compromised in any way, changes occur within the gut bacteria, the immune system is activated and chronic inflammation is triggered throughout the body.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that leaky gut can lead to problems within the digestive tract and beyond, and unfortunately, it’s not just humans who are susceptible; leaky gut syndrome in dogs and horses is becoming more common too.
How Damage Occurs in the Gut
A healthy digestive tract has a protective mucous barrier, as well as a multitude of beneficial bacteria, both of which help to prevent toxins from leaking out of the gastrointestinal tract. However, with the use of antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as bute for horses or Rimadyl for dogs, healthy gut bacteria are depleted and this can lead to higher susceptibility for leaky gut syndrome.
Antacids and acid-blocking drugs also affect the pH of the intestinal tract, creating a hostile environment for healthy bacteria to flourish and a more conducive environment for the pathogenic (bad) bacteria to take up residence. Additionally, damage to the gut lining can occur from abdominal surgery, chronic infections, and malnutrition. To further complicate matters, researchers also believe that environmental toxins and stress may play a role in causing leaky gut in dogs and horses.
Prevention and Treatment of Leaky Gut Syndrome
As with many conditions affecting the gut, diet plays a crucial role in prevention and treatment for leaky gut syndrome in both horses and dogs. Feeding a species appropriate diet is extremely important. For horses, that means a forage-based diet that meets mineral and vitamin needs and avoiding overfeeding grain. For dogs, a meat-based diet is most appropriate. Always check ingredients on dog food to make sure fillers like corn or soy (known leaky gut perpetrators) aren’t high up on the list.
Limiting stress, such as over conditioning or unnatural living conditions (frequent stalling, living alone, etc.) for horses is also key. Both dogs and horses are social animals, and expecting them to be alone for long periods of time isn’t health promoting.
Best Probiotics for Leaky Gut Syndrome
Since gut flora play an important role in preventing and treating leaky gut syndrome, adding probiotics, aka beneficial bacteria, to your dog’s or horse’s diet may help to replenish these numbers and heal the gut. Beneficial bacteria can help with the following:
Increase nutrient absorption
Reduce harmful bacteria and viruses
Support immune function
The good news is that by supporting your dog or horse with the right diet and beneficial supplements, inflammation and leaky gut syndrome can often be reversed.Check out FullBucket’s comprehensive line of dog and horse probiotics today and protect your pets’ immune system, health and wellbeing.