Call it a "Gut Instinct" to Feed Fresh

20th October 2023 10 min read

Guest Blog: Renee Rhoades, MSc

It is increasingly evident that the gut, often referred to as the "second brain," plays a significant role in influencing not only your dog's physical well-being but also their behaviour and emotions.

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Gut Instinct

There is a fascinating connection between gut health and your dog’s behaviour that you may not immediately recognise. It is increasingly evident that the gut, often referred to as the "second brain," plays a significant role in influencing not only your dog's physical well-being but also their behaviour and emotions. A corrupt gut-brain network can lead to various consequences, including disorders of the digestive system, altered responses to stress, and changes in behavioural states.

As humans and dogs have co-evolved, we share many similarities in our anatomy, including our digestive system. The gut-brain axis is being explored as a potential target for developing therapeutics for mental health disorders, cognitive function, obesity, and gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in humans. So, let’s delve into the intricate relationship between the gut axis and your dog's behaviour, shedding light on how maintaining a healthy gut can positively impact your dog’s life!

What is the Gut Axis?

The gut axis, also known as the gut-brain axis, encompasses the bidirectional communication between the gastrointestinal system and the central nervous system. This intricate network involves several key components, including the gut microbiota, the enteric nervous system, and the vagus nerve, all of which contribute to regulating various physiological and behavioural functions. The enteric nervous system (ENS) is a net of sensory neurons, motor neurons, and interneurons embedded in the wall of the gastrointestinal system. It is an information superhighway!

The Gut Microbiota

The gut is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria, collectively known as the gut microbiota. These play a key role in maintaining digestive health and modulating the immune system. Recent research has revealed that the gut microbiota also has a profound influence on behaviour, mood, and cognition. Imbalances in the gut microbial composition, commonly called dysbiosis, can contribute to behavioural issues in dogs.

Impact on Neurotransmitters and Mood

The gut microbiota influences the production and regulation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is crucial for maintaining emotional balance and overall well-being. Serotonin, in particular, is often called the "feel-good" neurotransmitter and is heavily involved in regulating mood. Approximately 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, highlighting the significance of a healthy gut in promoting positive behaviour.

Inflammation and behaviour

Inflammation in the gut can lead to increased permeability of the intestinal lining, commonly known as leaky gut syndrome. This condition allows harmful substances, such as bacterial toxins, to enter the bloodstream and trigger an inflammatory response. Studies have shown that systemic inflammation resulting from gut issues can have a direct impact on the brain and behaviour, potentially leading to anxiety, aggression, and cognitive dysfunction in dogs.

Stress and the Gut

Stress is a significant factor that can disrupt the delicate balance of the gut axis. Dogs experiencing chronic stress may exhibit gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, or a loss of appetite. Conversely, alterations in the gut microbiota can also influence the dog's response to stress and anxiety. By maintaining a healthy gut, you can help reduce the negative impact of stress on your dog.

To promote a healthy gut and optimise your dog's behaviour, a holistic approach that encompasses both nutrition and lifestyle factors is essential. Here are some tips:

  • Balanced Nutrition: Provide a high-quality diet like Paleo Ridge, including prebiotics and probiotics to support diverse gut microbiota. If you are switching to a fresh diet, start by feeding Classic Bone Broth; it is the best way to strengthen the immune system, relieve inflammation, and repair a leaky gut.
  • Minimise Stress: Create a calm environment for your dog, ensuring they have a safe space to retreat to during stress or anxiety. Outside noises can trigger many dogs, so using a sound barrier like a Sound Machine can help.
  • Mental and Physical Exercise: Regular activity helps maintain a healthy gut and can reduce behavioural concerns caused by unmet needs. Try popping some Ox Liver Treats in an Activity Mat to help engage your dog’s brain and body.

Seek Professional Guidance: Regular check-ups with a veterinarian can help you keep on top of your dog’s overall physical health, but if you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour, reaching out to a qualified dog behaviourist like myself will help you understand what is happening - and how to help your dog. Your dog behaviourist should work in conjunction with your vet to make sure your dog has a healthy mind and body!

The gut axis represents the intricate connection between gastroenterology and behaviour. By recognising the significance of this relationship, you can take proactive steps to ensure your dog maintains a nourished gut, leading to improved mood and overall well-being. Remember, a happy gut often translates to a content dog. Feeding your dog Paleo Ridge is an excellent way to ensure that your dog has a solid foundation for their health.

Renee Rhoades, MSc, is a distinguished authority in canine behaviour and welfare, recognised for her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of both dogs and humans. As the visionary founder of R+Dogs, a virtual dog behaviour consultancy, Renee offers cutting-edge private coaching and online courses to dog guardians worldwide. Renee specialises in transforming fearful and high-energy dogs, addressing aggression, reactivity, generalised anxiety and hyperactivity.

Beyond client-focused coaching, Renee is also the co-host of DogLogical, a podcast dedicated to unravelling the mysteries of our dogs.

Struggling with your dog’s behaviour? Discover how Renee can elevate your wisdom and transform your relationship by visiting <a href="


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