Why is digestive health so important for dogs and cats?

With an increasing focus on human wellness and inner health, we understand the importance of things like eating lots of fresh vegetables and taking probiotics to help ensure your gut is mostly populated by the good types of microbes.

We now know that the microbes living on and in the body are not just a random cluster of germs that can make an individual sick. The gut microbiome is a mini-ecosystem consisting of billions of living microorganisms that occupy the digestive tract and play an important role in balancing not only digestive health, but overall health and well-being.

Did you know? Just like a fingerprint, the microbiome is unique to each individual dog and cat.

Why is a healthy microbiome so important for dogs and cats?

A healthy microbiome is vital for digestive health and helps to keep our pet’s toileting habits regular as well as promoting healthy stools. A healthy gut microbiome also has other important benefits including supporting a pet’s immune system and even helping prevent disease. The microbes can also unlock and synthesise nutrients that benefit the pet directly. In fact, the cells lining the large intestine get most of their energy from nutrients synthesised this way.

Did you know? The symbiotic relationship between a host and its gut microbes is mutually beneficial. The microbes benefit from having food and a place to live. In turn, the microbes help to defend the mammalian host against harmful pathogens and support a healthy immune system.

How can we support and promote healthy gut flora?

There are different approaches to influence digestive health, including probiotics (live microbes) and prebiotics (food for bacteria).

Let’s start with probiotic supplementation, an approach you are likely more familiar with. While this is a more common approach, it has some downfalls. Results can vary from pet to pet, mostly as a result of adding foreign bacteria into the gut. This means that these supplements, or food additives, may not be derived from bacteria naturally found in a cat or dog's microbiome.

An alternative approach is to feed prebiotic fibres. These fibres feed and nourish the microbes within the individual pet’s own microbiome to support digestive wellness. Hill’s ActivBiome+ ingredient technology is a proprietary blend of prebiotics including ground pecan shells, citrus pulp, flaxseed, beet pulp and pressed cranberries. Because dogs and cats have to eat every day, feeding a complete and balanced food specifically designed to nourish and support their unique gut microbiome is a practical and long-lasting strategy to support digestive health.

Science Diet Perfect Digestion is Hill’s first wellness food to contain ActivBiome+ ingredient technology, shown to rapidly activate the gut microbiome. Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Digestion also contains whole grain oats and pumpkin providing additional fibre for digestive health.

This is a great nutrition option for pet parents looking to support a healthy microbiome, regularity, stool quality, and overall digestive wellbeing in their pets. It is available in a kibble for both dogs and cats, and is available for adult and mature adult (age 7+) pets. Click on the links for more information.

Images supplied by Hill’s Pet Nutrition

By Dr Annabel Robertson BVSc (Hons) MANZCVSc MBA, Hills Pet Nutrition Veterinarian

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