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What is the link between Leaky Gut in Dogs & Arthritis?

It seems an odd connection; Gut Health, & Arthritis, but the two are connected in multiple ways. You may be surprised to learn that Allergies, Food Intolerances & Yeast overgrowth are also symptoms. So what is Leaky Gut and how can we fix it?

What is Leaky Gut in Dogs?

The condition is growing more and more common in both us humans, and our canine counterparts, and can lead to some pretty serious health issues, long term. The name ‘Leaky Gut’ does somewhat give the game away, but let’s look deeper into what actually happens in the gut of a normal dog, compared to one with Leaky Gut.

In healthy individuals, after eating, the food passes through the gut. The gut consists of the stomach followed by the small intestine, followed by the large intestine (known as the ‘colon’), through which nutrients from the digested food are absorbed, before the waste is pushed out through the rectum, then anus. To enable a large surface area, for optimum nutrient absorption, the small intestine is lined with small finger-like structures called villi, which themselves are covered in even smaller finger-like structures, known as microvilli.

The gut also houses lots of good bacteria to aid digestion – the colonies of good bacteria, along with yeast cells, any viral particles, or parasitic burdens, are collectively known as the ‘microbiome’. The gut wall is extremely thin, to allow efficient nutrient absorption. The cells lining the gut stay close together, & are supported by the interactions of immune cells, & good bacteria in the gut.

I like to call these bacteria the dog's gut 'internal Armour'.

In those suffering with Leaky Gut, inflammation occurs in the gut for various reasons, which causes the tight intestine wall to permeate, creating microscopic channels between the cells. Proteins/partially undigested foods then leak out through these channels and are detected by the immune system as a threat, causing a histamine response to occur, which is why one of the most common symptoms of Leaky Gut is food intolerances.

Other symptoms of Leaky Gut include:

  • Autoimmune Diseases

  • Issues with stools or sickness

  • Joint issues

  • Yeast

  • Problems concerning other major organs in the body

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Changes in behaviour; often anxious behaviour, and short tempered behaviour

Possible Causes of Leaky Gut in dogs include:

Over-use of vaccines; the adjuvants may damage the gut flora

Use of certain pharmaceuticals

  • Flea, tick, and worm medications; they disrupt the gut microbiome by not only eradicating the visiting parasites (or often lack thereof), but the good bacteria too.

  • Antibiotics; these wipe out the good and bad bacteria

  • Antihistamines; these can interfere with the production of mucus in the gut, and can also interfere with the proper functioning of Diamine Oxidase (DAO), which is the enzyme responsible for breaking down, and removing histamine from within the gut.

  • NSAIDs and Steroids; these can cause ulcerations in the gut and interfere with mucosal production. (common names for these medications are Cytopoint or Apoquel)

SIBO & Yeast overgrowth

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth & Yeast damage the gut lining


feeding a dry food diet may put stress on the gut. Kibble can sometimes contain Glyphosate, which is an antibiotic herbicide and is toxic, as well as very damaging to the gut. Diets inclusive of legumes and other high-lectin content pulses, nightshades and vegetables may contribute to Leaky Gut as lectin causes poor gut integrity. Microscopic moulds often found on kibbles, known as mycotoxins can also be detrimental to gut health, contributing to Leaky Gut.


can have a huge effect on the gut integrity, as stress leads to inflammation


as our dogs age, the microbiome becomes less diverse which leads to gut damage.

What is Arthritis, and How is it Connected to Leaky Gut in Dogs?

Arthritis is a disease caused by chronic inflammation of the joints. There are numerous types of arthritis, from Osteoarthritis to Rheumatoid Arthritis to Septic Arthritis. Let’s take a look at these types, and their connection with Leaky Gut.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis seen in our pets, and it is especially common in the later years, or following trauma. Osteoarthritis affects the body’s synovial joints (these are the joints where a smooth layer of cartilage covers the end of each bone associated with the joint) as well as the tissues around them. It can be a crippling disease, but there are some supplements which have been proven to benefit those suffering from it, including Bone Broth

The gut isn’t the first thing most people think of when looking at internal associations with osteoarthritis, but the gut-joint axis is very much affected! Like all types of arthritis, inflammation is a huge part, which is where Leaky Gut comes into play. When ‘foreign’ particles are leaked through the gut wall, the body’s natural response is highly inflammatory. The pressure on the body from this inflammation causes an increase in risk of Osteoarthritis. Equally, the gut-brain axis may be affected by the pain and stress caused by the Osteoarthritis, causing poor gut motility, and increased permeability causing systemic inflammation.

Studies show that building intestinal mucosal immunity, and repopulating the gut, has positive affects on those suffering with Osteoarthritis, as well as helping to prevent it.

Rheumatoid Arthritis in Dogs

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory joint disease. Multiple joints are often affected at the same time, and symptoms not only include swollen, warm joints and joint stiffness, but also fatigue and loss of appetite. The animal model of Rheumatoid Arthritis is called Collagen Induced Arthritis.

A protein called Zonulin plays a part in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). When Zonulin is overrepresented, the gut permeability cannot be controlled, and allows useful and harmful substances to enter the blood stream, which are then detected as threats by the immune system. The up regulation of Zonulin, paired with the down regulation of Tight Junction barrier cells (the cells in the gut wall which help form a tight barrier, and therefore a strong gut integrity), causes more leakage of particles into the body, which in turn causes major inflammation throughout the joints in the body, causing RA. As with other autoimmune conditions, specific strains of good bacteria in the microbiome being leaked and attacked, cause the onset of RA.

Dog Supplements

Gut Healing

Gut healing supplements are essential to help increase gut wall stability and reduce permeability, to in turn, reduce leakage from the gut and reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases developing, and to also relieve symptoms of those already diagnoses with one of the aforementioned autoimmune diseases. Slippery Elm, Marshmallow Root and Deglycyrrhizinated Liquorice (DGL) are great for gut healing.

Gut Colonising

To recolonise the gut with good bacteria, probiotics would be a great addition to the regime. Using a good, clean probiotic, for example a soil based probiotic (SBO) is a great place to start. Many studies mentioned throughout this blog state a positive affiliation between introducing probiotics into the diet, and reducing symptoms of various autoimmune diseases.

Omega 3

Sources of omega 3 include raw eggs, raw oily fish, tinned sardines, krill oil, sardine oil and algae oil. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory, so is essential to supplement in the diet, to help bring down the inflammatory effect of the omega 6 found in our farmed meats.

Joint Support

When looking at joint support, quality is important. Try to stay away from supplements with anti-caking and bulking ingredients like Maltodextrin. The joint support market is a real minefield, with so many options promising so much!

Green Lipped Mussel

Green Lipped Mussels (if you can get them fresh, great! However, they originate from New Zealand, so maybe hard to find. A good Fish Monger should stock them frozen) They are proven in studies, to reduce pain and inflammation of joints. GLM is lipid-rich, and the most prominent source of anti-inflammatory properties within the mussels, is in the high Polyunsaturated Free Fatty Acid (PUFA) content.

If you can not find fresh mussels I love a product that we are in no way affiliated with, but I have seen fabulous results in both my own senior dogs and many others as well. it's called 4Cyte and is available at all good vets or pet supply stores:

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Two compounds that often go hand in hand, Glucosamine and Chondroitin are naturally found in the cartilage of mammals. Feeding fresh, raw cartilage is a great source of both, however it can also be found in a powdered form in numerous joint-targeted supplements. Glucosamine and Chondroitin have been found to have positive effects on pain levels for those suffering with Osteo- or Rheumatoid Arthritis.


Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory plant, as it neutralises free radicals, which reduces damage to cells of varying types, including skin and connective tissue. It’s also a great source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are fantastic for reducing the effects of chronic disease and cell proliferation.

Curcumin (the active nutrient in Turmeric) is the most bioavailable form, and paired with Black Pepper, Hemp and Flax Seeds makes a powerful supplement to every meal. Have a look here for a ready-made easy and convenient sprinkle you can add to your dog's bowl everyday

Exercise your Dog!

It may seem strange that exercise helps those suffering with painful joint conditions, but exercise is incredibly important when diagnosed with Arthritis. When joints degrade, they require extra support by the muscles surrounding them.

Of course, when exercising your arthritic pet, its essential to tailor the exercise to ensure muscles are used correctly, but the dog is not over-worked so as not to further damage the joints. Keep exercise calm, and steady.

Exercise is also crucial for keeping your pet from being overweight. Overweight dogs will suffer more with chronic inflammation and pain conditions than those carrying less weight. Ensure you keep your dog at the lower end of the ‘ideal’ body condition.

Alternative Therapies for Dogs

Red Light Therapy (or Laser Therapy) for Dogs

Red Light Therapy is offered at many canine physiotherapy centres, and can also be performed at home using the veterinary approved Photizo device. Laser Therapy targets the cells mitochondria (the powerhouse of our cells), which enables a reduction in inflammation, and also helping to repair damaged cells and tissues in the targeted area.

In no way are we affilliated, but our vet here in Brisbane, Australia offers this service:

Hydrotherapy for Dogs

Hydrotherapy is increasingly popular, and for good reason! As it is a non-weight bearing activity, it is particularly good for muscle strengthening in those who are unable to walk long distances due to pain, age, or weight. The ability to completely control movements in the water is also useful to ensure the current muscles are being worked in order to help keep the degraded joint in place.

Acupuncture for dogs

Another increasingly popular alternative therapy, acupuncture is fantastic for relieving the body of pain, and also helps stimulate the targeted muscle. During the treatment, specific nerves are targeted, which releases pain-relieving endorphins.

In summary, the guts role in overall health and wellbeing can not be overstated, and as we always say YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!

Relief of painful joints starts in the dogs gut

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