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Think about your diet for a moment. When you eat well – good, healthy food – how do you feel? Energized, happy, healthy, focused? Now, what happens when you eat a big meal filled with fried, sugary foods? Tired, drowsy, foggy, maybe even a little irritable? Your wellness, energy levels, and even mood are affected by what you eat and the health of your gut.
It’s the same for your children (recall sugar-filled tantrums and the subsequent foggy crash) and it’s the same for your dog.
How Gut Health is Connected to Behavior
There are a lot of research studies that show that the food that we feed ourselves and our children affect our mood and behavior.
Refined carbohydrates and sugars make for cranky, hyper children and drowsy, moody adults.
In fact, studies have shown that the microbes in our gut are directly connected to areas of the brain which control behavior and mood.
This area also likely controls our fear response.
Chronic inflammation that is caused by our immune system’s response to high-sugar, high-fat diets and obesity is linked to mood issues like anxiety and depression.
Foods that are processed or high in sugar can release a harmful bacterial toxin with the impressively long name of lipopolysaccharides.
These are a normal, harmless molecule in the gut but when released into the bloodstream with the help of processed foods) they become toxic.
The molecules destroy cells in the brain that are responsible for making serotonin and dopamine.
These are molecules that directly affect our mood and behavior and are sometimes called “happy hormones”.
They also affect our quality of sleep.
A healthy gut contains good bacteria that release healthy nutrients into our bloodstream while an unhealthy guy contains more bad bacteria and toxins that cause they harm we described.
The solution to gut-related behavior problems in humans has been to remove processed foods from our diets and replace the unhealthy foods with natural, healthier alternatives.
Out goes the strawberry jam, in comes fresh strawberries.
Out with the white bread and in with whole-grain, reduced sugar bread.
We know that this change in diet can make significant improvements in human behavior and health.
When we eat well, the changes can happen very quickly.
Yet when we talk about the behavior of our pets, we often overlook talking or even thinking about their gut health.
What are they eating that may cause imbalances, sugar spikes, drowsiness?
Supporting Good Gut Health
There are many ways you can help your dog to have good gut health and better behavior:
Deworming medications can disrupt your dog’s good gut bacteria balance.
Consider using natural remedies like diatomaceous earth or ground pumpkin seed.
If you purchase diatomaceous earth make sure that it is human grade to avoid contaminants.
Titer testing tests your dog’s blood for antibodies that are contained in vaccines.
Consider having this testing performed before vaccinating your dog or having the dog receive oosters’ as it may not be necessary.
If your dog’s antibody levels are already sufficient to protect them, they won’t need the vaccine.
Vaccines can also impact your dog’s gut balance so avoiding over vaccinating can avoid associated behavior problems.
Talk to Your Vet About Natural Remedies
Some vets will take a holistic approach to medicine while others do not.
Talk to your vet about avoiding harsh chemicals and drugs that can impact your dog’s natural immune system, changing vets if you need to.
For example, if your dog suffers from hip dysplasia, talk to your vet about joint supplements for dogs that do not contain harsh chemicals.
Flea and Tick Control
These are more chemicals that can negatively impact your dog’s gut health.
Try using natural remedies to control for fleas and ticks.
Apple cider vinegar and eucalyptus are both effective remedies.
Consider giving your dog filtered water rather than chlorinated water.
Chlorine can kill both good and bad gut bacteria, disrupting that optimal balance.
Raw Food Diet
Consider taking the processed foods, grains, sugars and preservatives out of your dog’s diet.
A simple change to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, raw food diet can have a fast and dramatic impact on your dog’s health and behavior.
Be sure you either prepare the food yourself or obtain the food from a reputable supplier to ensure your dog’s optimal health.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Adding fermented vegetables to your dog’s meals gives them probiotics and prebiotics which help maintain good gut bacteria.
Talk to your vet about other options for giving regular pro- and prebiotic support.
These include coconut oil, turmeric, and marshmallow root.
Bone broth is nutrient dense and great for your dog’s health.
It also contains collagen which helps line the gut and can help reduce inflammation.
To make bone broth, simply simmer raw bone and cartilage in a pot of
water for an extended period of time until the broth is richly colored and dense.
Pay attention to what causes your dog stress and try to ease or minimize any stressful situations, noises or places that your dog is exposed to.
Massage, training, and music can all help alleviate stress.
Also, plenty of time with their best friend can help de-stress your dog.
Stress hormones like cortisol can kill healthy gut bacteria, causing behavior and other health problems.
Good amounts of exercise support your dog’s general health, including their gut and immune system and also helps stave off obesity.
Make sure your dog gets enough exercise for their breed, age, and size.
An upset gut balance can cause significant behavior issues with your dog such as aggression, timidity, anxiety, hyperactivity, and obsessive behaviors.
Before considering harsher controls, consider whether or not your dog’s behavior could be caused by what they are eating.
Is it a healthy diet or is it largely processed and full of sugars and preservatives? Is it a natural diet that supports good bacteria? Has your dog been exposed to chemicals that can upset their immune system?
Try the tips above in combination with good, consistent training and a lot of encouragement and support and in no time, you are likely to have a well-behaved, confident, happy, energetic and healthy pet again.
If you have tried everything and there is no change, talk to your veterinarian about other, though much rarer, issues that may be causing the behavior.