Yesterday I went for my daily constitutional. Joined a friend of mine walking her dog… and, as one does, met fellow dog owners and had a natter. This particular natter may be relevant to your dog, to your horse and even to you, hence this post.
The brown Labrador we met was a little overweight and her owner told us that she had been to the vets over the last few months but wasn’t getting anywhere. Her dog had started to suffer from a chronic ear infection and, as a side line, she also confided that doggins had smelly poo. The vet prescribed topical steroids for the ear and advised a change of feed. On the face of it this sounds like good clinical practice but is something being overlooked?
In the absence of persistent triggers, if an infection isn’t transient or isn’t helped by the sledge hammer that is steroids, then something is adrift. That something is of course the immune system and smelly poo provided both a clue and a cue in this case.
Healthy digestion is nearly odourless
Good poo isn’t malodourous just like a good fart isn’t (even a resounding success contains only N2, O2, CO2, H2 and Methane gas, all of which have no odour). This is true for dogs, horses, husbands and you. Smelly doodoos happen when what was eaten wasn’t cleaved and absorbed properly, resulting (in dogs and in humans) in Hydrogen Sulfide, pungent-smelling Mercaptans or even Scatoles and Indoles if there’s undigested protein decay. But this labrador retriever had been eating the same feed for seven years without becoming smelly or having infections… Why would its feed be the culprit now?
Boost gut flora
A likelier culprit was that her digestive capacity had gone down… gut flora all out of sorts. You see, proteins are broken down first by stomach pepsin, then by pancreatic trypsin and chymotrypsin, then (very important in this case) by membrane-bound enzymes made by the gut’s bacterial flora (these cleave small peptides into single amino acids so that the amino acids can be absorbed into the blood). If this last cleaving step doesn’t happen properly, then there’s opportunity for putrefraction (rotting) which makes the doodoo stink… Interestingly (again important here), good bacteria in the gut also are vital to build a robust immune system: gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) represents almost 70% of the entire immune system. If your gut doesn’t work right, if your dog’s gut doesn’t work right, if your horse’s gut doesn’t work right then there is no way on earth that the immune system will work to its best capacity.
My ambulatory advice for this Labrador was to improve its digestion by recolonizing good (digestive) bacteria and for decades I’ve advised patients to use milk Kefir for this, it works well for dogs, humans and horses. Just Google and buy starter cultures over the internet (milk kefir is your best option if you want to overcome a health issue) and increase the serving size steadily so that ultimately the serving is sensible for the body mass (the average adult -83,6kg UK male/70.2kg UK female- can ingest 2 Imperial pints/5 US cups a day, so work out the pro-rata serving for your dog or horse by its weight. Research has shown aloe vera to help good bacteria flourish in the gut, so using Kefir in tandem with ½ capsule content of Aloeride Extra Strong a day in some paté is a smart move. Kefir has a slightly acidic and tart flavour, mixing Kefir with dog food disguises it nicely but feel free to blend in a little Oxo to make your dog adore your cooking 😉