World Microbiome Day on 27 June aims to raise awareness about the crucial role of microbiomes in our overall health and well-being and while we often associate the gut microbiome exclusively with human health, it's important to recognise our pets also harbour their own intricate microbial ecosystems. “Just like us, cats and dogs need a balanced gut microbiome and when this is out of sync it can lead to a troubled digestive system and a very unhappy pet,” explains Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.
The gut microbiome refers to the vast community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of both us and our pets. It’s a complex ecosystem consisting of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microbes that play a pivotal role in maintaining overall health. This diverse microbial population not only aids in digestion but also contributes to immune function, metabolism, and even mental well-being.
Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome in both ourselves and our pets is crucial for overall health and longevity. Dr Fyvie provides some key strategies to help preserve and support the gut microbiome:
Probiotics, Prebiotics and supplements – Although probiotics (like yoghurt) - live or not - may have a short term effect, providing some help to the gut , they are not as effective as feeding the desirable bacteria already in the gut. This is done with a specific fibre blend that helps to maintain a healthy biome by encouraging the right type and amount of gastrointestinal organisms.
Avoid overuse of antibiotics – Antibiotics can disrupt the gut microbiome by killing both harmful and beneficial bacteria. Use antibiotics judiciously and only, when necessary, under the guidance of a healthcare professional or veterinarian.
Balanced diet – Provide yourself and your pet with a well-balanced diet. For you, include plenty of fibre-rich fruits and vegetables that serve as prebiotics and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your diet. And for your pet, consider a food like Hill’s Prescription Diet GastroIntestinal Biome with ActivBiome+ Technology that goes beyond the traditional fibre and probiotic approach. It targets pets’ gut health specifically to promote healthy stools in pets in as little as 24 hours and will help restore your pet’s unique gut ecosystem with microbiome science.
Stress management – Chronic stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome. Take part in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, meditation, and spending quality time with your pets to promote a healthy gut environment.
Regular veterinary check-ups – Routine veterinary care ensures any emerging health issues are promptly addressed. An ‘upset tummy’, which may include vomiting, diarrhoea, flatulence, weight loss or constipation, are all common signs that your pet may not be feeling well. In fact, one of the most common reasons dog parents visit their vet is because of digestive disorders. A visit to your vet will help to diagnose what the issue may be and recommend steps to help your pet feel better.
*Hill’s Prescription Diet Gastrointestinal Biome food is available at veterinary practices
For more information visit www.HillsMicrobiome.co.za