According to a 2019 study, 67% of US households own at least one pet . Among these pets, cats and dogs were second and third in rank behind freshwater fish as the most owned pet at 94.2 million and 89.7 million, respectively. Our furbabies are important to us, and that’s why we think it’s essential to discuss pet gut health.
Why Pet Gut Health Matters
Pets aren’t just creatures that we feed a few times a day. These animals’ roles include keeping us company and serving as therapy animals for our health and mental or behavioral state.
With that said, it’s essential to keep these pets healthy, not just for their sake, but for our own health as well. In fact, their intestinal flora improves the biodiversity of stomach bacteria in our gut health.
Children in the study fell into one of three categories:
- Never Exposed to Pets
- Exposed to Pets from Second Trimester until Birth
- Exposed to Pets After Birth
“Over half of studied infants were exposed to at least one furry pet in the prenatal and/or postnatal periods, of which 8% were exposed in pregnancy alone and 46.8% had exposure during both time periods. As a common effect in all birth scenarios, pre- and postnatal pet exposure enriched the abundance of Oscillospira and/or Ruminococcus (P < 0.05) with more than a twofold greater likelihood of high abundance.”– Microbiome Journal
Furthermore, pets also seemed to have lowered levels of pathogenic stomach bacteria, such as Streptococcaceae. Granted, adults have a less influential immune system than infants.
However, exposure to microbes on animals that aren’t part of our system can help our biodiversity on a molecular level. All of this further drills home the importance of pet gut health.
How to Improve Pet Gut Health
Now that you see how pet gut health may affect your own gut health, let’s take a look at some ways to improve their stomach bacteria.
Serve Nutritious Food
Naturally, serving nutritious food should be your number one priority in keeping your pet gut health up to snuff. However, there are significant considerations when it comes to feeding your animals. We’re not just talking about animal-specific food options or choosing between commercial or home-cooked meals. You need to take into consideration other aspects, such as their age, activity levels, and medical history.
As a general rule, it is always recommended to spend extra on quality pet food. Be sure to buy organic whenever possible. You don’t want your animal to consume pesticides that can hurt their pet gut health.
Also, give them a varied diet rich in protein. However, make sure there are quality grains in there such as wild rice, and complex carbs like sweet potatoes.
Serving nutritious food also goes for snacks, such as dog treats and supplements. Every purchase you make for your loved one serves as an investment in their pet gut health. By improving your pet gut health, you will avoid costly health issues in the future, while prolonging their quality of life.
A healthy pet means less worry for you. As you know, stress and anxiety can affect human health, especially in kids and teens.
Schedule Regular Vet Checkups
Many are guilty of procrastinating in almost every aspect of their lives. So, it’s not surprising to see this extending to how they take care of their wellness. However, it’s unforgivable when it involves your pet gut health.
What most people don’t know is that your pets don’t have to exhibit signs of illness for you to take them to the veterinarian. Cats, specifically, are not ones to show their feelings and pain.
Therefore, it is essential to schedule routine checkups with the vet . By keeping your pets away from sickness, you are protected by not being exposed to diseases that these animals can transfer to humans.
There are a lot of owners that neglect their pets’ regular grooming. Many believe this sort of maintenance isn’t as important as feeding them or taking them to the vet. Little do they know, grooming your companion at an early age could bring out so many benefits for pet gut health.
Aside from the general purpose of keeping pets clean and smelling pleasant, there’s the health aspect. A simple brushing of your pets’ hair regularly can result in the production of natural oil from their skin. This natural process keeps their coat healthy and shiny.
In addition, brushing removes loose hair, dandruff, and dirt. That’s a win-win for pets and for people who have sensitive allergies. With regular grooming, you can also prevent matting, especially for dogs and cats with longer hair or coats. Plus, it may prevent your cats from producing hairballs that disrupt pet gut health.
By doing grooming regularly, there’s also a good chance you can spot abnormalities in your pet. There might be some dry patches, bumps, and growth that are not visible unless you touch their skin.
Vaccinating and Deworming
Having your pets vaccinated doesn’t only serve to protect them from various diseases that could endanger their lives.
Some of the diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations and deworming include the following:
Keeping up with vaccinations can also protect the people in the household from animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
Spay and Neuter
Spaying and neutering your pets are not only done to curb their possible incessant reproduction.
More importantly, health and behavioral benefits have to be taken into consideration, especially when performed during the pet’s optimal age .
Spaying and neutering is a preventative measure on multiple fronts.
Some of the benefits of pet sterilization include the following:
- Prevents uterine and ovarian cancers in female pets, and testicular and prostate cancers in males.
- Prevents breast tumors that turn out to be 90% cancerous once developed.
- Pets are less likely to go out of the house to roam around, looking for adventures.
- Prevents territorial marking and litter box avoidance.
Of course, you could also benefit from this due to the reduction of incessant meowing, for instance, which could come at random times. Sterilizing your pet means better sleep at night for you!
Takeaways on Pet Gut Health
Owning a pet is a lifelong commitment—at least as far as your pet’s lifespan is concerned. The responsibility of caring for animals doesn’t have to be restricted to the owners only.
If you are not living alone, each member of the household should all agree to own a pet. Most people are not aware that animals can feel if they are not welcome at home, and they can even experience fear and stress.
In addition, you should anticipate expenses as pet care is very costly, whether in terms of upkeep or healthcare. If you don’t have much budget for these requirements, consider choosing a low-maintenance breed and secure a health certificate from the breeder to ensure less costly health issues in the near future. That’s the least you could do to the smallest member of your family.
Lastly, take care of yourself. Your pet depends on you being your best, so can you care for them. The best way to do this is to get your own gut health tested. By knowing which stomach bacteria might be causing you ailments, you can create a probiotics plan to help fight off the growth of pathogenic intestinal flora. That way, you can be the superhero your pet thinks you are!
 “Household Penetration Rates for Pet-Ownership in the U.S. 2019.” Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/198086/us-household-penetration-rates-for-pet-owning-since-2007/.
 Tun1, Hein M., et al. “Exposure to Household Furry Pets Influences the Gut Microbiota of Infants at 3–4 Months Following Various Birth Scenarios.” Microbiome, BioMed Central, 6 Apr. 2017, microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-017-0254-x.
 “Importance of Wellness Exams.” Avma.org, www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/wellness-exams.aspx.
 Howe L. M. (2015). Current perspectives on the optimal age to spay/castrate dogs and cats. Veterinary medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 6, 171–180. doi:10.2147/VMRR.S53264