Poop Eating Dogs (coprophagia)
Gut Brain Axis
One dog sent me searching in the direction of the gut brain connection.
The conversation that goes on between the two, brain to gut, gut to brain, they seem to go hand in glove.
There is a lot of research out there under the heading of the second brain
which could mean a whole lot of help for nervous or reactive dogs.
One dog sent me searching in the direction of the gut brain connection. The conversation that goes on between the two, brain to gut, gut to brain. They seem to go hand in glove.
There is a lot of research out there under the heading of the second brain, which could mean a whole lot of help for nervous or reactive dogs.
If the oesophagus, small and large intestines, are lined with tissue containing neurons soaked in the same neurotransmitters as the brain, and research has shown that 95% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine is to be found in these gut tissues, then to condition the gut could surely help, and may well have a knock on effect on the state of mind.
Some years back I drove friends nuts, looking into the gut brain link and repeatedly reporting on my findings.
This was for one dog in particular I was working with, that lacked confidence in many areas of his life, his first year was not as I’d planned it to be. That may have had some knock on effect, or it could just be who he was as an individual (we all like to have reasons we can put into words) I just could not find a way to help him.
In my search I came across different papers on the gut brain link, and how what happens in the gut can affect mood and emotion.
So the journey began, with working from the inside out, hoping that improving the gut bacteria, would help the messaging between gut and brain, and put his head in a better place.
Prebiotics are a a sort of dietary fiber, inulin, that is used as food for gut bacteria.
Probiotics contain live organisms usually specific strains of bacteria that add to the population of healthy microbes.
Synbiotics. When a food contains both pre and probiotics the combination is called synbiotic.
Worth giving synbiotics a go I thought.
I put him on a sensitive gut formula diet, he showed no signs of a sensitive gut, but if I was to see a difference, I decided I should go the whole hog.
I added pre/probiotics supplements, then started to culture goats milk kefir (probiotic) to add to the diet.Within a couple of months I could see a difference, a few months more and the difference in him was noticed, and remarked on by people that only saw him at venues we travelled to.
Being such a worried little man, there were life events in his first year, that would have had an impact on him, and needed addressing, but with his renewed confidence, we were armed to tackle these.
Over the coming months I had some emails and FB messages, from friends who had noticed the difference in him (so it wasn’t just me) wanting to know about the pre/probiotics I was adding to his food, the interest was because of dogs of their own they thought may benefit.
I‘m privileged to have witnessed this change with one of my own dogs, rather than to have read about somebody else’s dog. It’s not a magic cure for all dogs, but worth digging into, for any dog with emotional or behavioural issues.
He is who he is, and I recognise and respect his limits, as I keep telling him, he’d hate the crowd crush at Crufts.
Gut Brain Axis (simplified)
Gut bacteria make chemicals that communicate with the brain through nerves and hormones. The connection between the gut and brain is called the Gut-Brain Axis.
The gut is full of bacteria, working away like a little factory, making the chemicals that communicate with the brain, but it depends on what bacteria is in the gut, as to what chemicals are being made, and what messages are being sent, calm, happy and serene, stressed, anxious or depressed.
The brain in the head may do the thinking, being aware of the environment and possible threat, or fun to be had, but the gut brain can influence the emotions that arise in the head brain.
It was not until the 19th century, that the enteric nervous system (ENS) was discovered, it’s a widely distributed network of neurons spread throughout two layers of gut tissue. It is part of the autonomic nervous system.
Research with both animals and humans are finding important connections between gut bacteria and the brain that influence emotions, including psychological disorders and mental illness, there are studies that link the gut to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s too.
Dopamine is associated with pleasure and the reward system in the brain, it also acts as a signalling molecule in the gut, coordinating contractions of muscles in the colon. Serotonin is also sending signals via the ENS, known as the “feel good” molecule involved in preventing depression, regulating sleep, appetite and body temperature.
There’s more evidence of links between the two brains in our response to stress, “butterflies” in the stomach, is the result of the fight flight response, diverting blood away from the gut to the muscles in preparation for action. A good reason for losing appetite when you or your four footed friend are stressed.
Poo Eating Dogs Nature knows best
The dog that started me on this search was and still is a mega poo eater.
Looking into pre and probiotics, and the history of FMT transplants, and the way nature has of looking after nature, I think it’s safe to consider that dogs that are attracted to poo eating, are most probably just self medicating to balance their gut microbiome, especially when we look into the fecal microbiota transplantation treatments of today.
While I endeavor to “pick up” I don’t freak out at not beating him to the spoils, which I may add is never his own produce.
FECAL MICROBIOTA TRANSPLANTATION
All the rage now.
Plain poop to us, dogs have inside information, taught by nature.
Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is being developed as a technique to transfer slightly processed faeces from a healthy donor to a recipient. The aim of the procedure is to establish a healthy diverse microbiome within the gut.
An ancient Chinese researcher Ge Hong first used what he called Yellow soup, he used this to treat patients with severe diarrhea, administered orally, as one can imagine although effective, it wasn’t popular, and this method of treatment died out.
Camel faeces were used by German soldiers in world war II, to treat bacterial dysentery, so quite a history of recycling.
In 1958 a paper was published by Eiseman et al, reporting on his FMT treatment of patients with antibiotic associated diarrhea, treatment delivered by retention enemas. The patients recovered almost immediately
Despite the volume of evidence, it was only in 1978 that the value of FMT was widely recognised. In over 95% of cases treated the cure was quick and permanent.
Current modifications to the technique include the use of a stool banks, and the use of frozen feces rather than fresh (obviously not where the saying “fresh is best” came from)
Following the recognition of FMT, its applications are being currently explored in many fields of therapy, including both chronic intestinal and extra-intestinal conditions, which may be caused or contributed to by alterations in the gut microbiome, and may be restored by renewal of normal gut flora patterns.
An interesting read, nature knows best although I don’t intend joining in, I’ll stick with the kefir.