Leaky Gut In Dogs, Causes, Symptoms and Cures

We talk about “leaky gut” otherwise known as intestinal impermeability. We explain the causes, how it develops and the impact on the health and well-being of your dog. Finally, we look at what you can do about it.

So lots of you been sending me questions about intestinal permeability德国赛车 or leaky gut what it means how it happens and how to heal it in their pets, why? Because it decreases food allergies, autoimmune disease and improves pet health and what you can be really really be reassured and excited about is we’re extremely passionate about helping you with this at Bella and Duke. All of the meals are designed to limit, mitigate, prevent and help doggies heal intestinal permeability.

If you would like further information please join our very active FaceBook community, see our welcome video.

You might also want to read our overview of dog nutrition by Rowan in Guide to Dog Health and Nutrition

What is Leaky Gut

德国赛车Intestinal permeability, often called leaky gut, has enjoyed a lot of press of late with articles linking it with both chronic conditions such as arthritis and also specific diseases or conditions like cancer.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a “tube” that runs from your dog’s mouth to its anus.

The Outside Inside

This “tube” is the first line of defence to the outside world. And, if you think about it, it’s actually the outside world, inside your dog. Can I say that again as its super helpful to be able to visualise this first concept? It’s actually the outside world inside your dog. Try imagining a very long Dachsund, let’s call her Luna with a perfectly straight digestive tube instead of one cleverly coiled up. If Luna opened her mouth you would, in theory, be able to see daylight out of the other end. This tube is how your dog’s body “interfaces” with the outside world. It’s through the GI that it gains all of its nutrition, hydration, ingests chemicals, comes into contact with bacteria, (friendly, not friendly and ambidextrous – to be explained later), as well as (being a dog) parts of tennis balls, underwear, socks, essential radiator keys and that receipt for the flat screen tv that no longer works.

Dog's gastro-intestinal tract
Your dog’s gastro-intestinal tract aka GI

德国赛车So, your dog’s digestive system, if it’s working well, will decide what it should allow in (to the bloodstream and to then circulate around the body) and what needs to be kept out.

What protects your dog from anything that gets into this tube is a thin line of cells (the mouth, the stomach lining, the gut wall et al) and a lot of very helpful bacteria. Think billions. Dogs tend to have much more effective and varied friendly bacteria than we do because they are constantly drinking out of dirty puddles, investigating other dogs and swapping bacteria that way, eating random smelly food found in the garden or just picking up a concussed pigeon and looking pleased with themselves. All of these actually serve a purpose that helps your dog’s immune system.

Leeky gut to intolerance

When intestinal permeability (IP) arises, that means that this tube has been “breached” and is no longer effective at keeping the items out that need to be and is more of an “open door” than a “selective door”. It’s as if the doorman at the club has gone for a cheeky fag break and the “no drunks, no drugs, no knives policy” has stopped being enforced. Anything and anyone can make its way in, friend or foe.

This is due to a process that makes the junctions between the cells “less tight”, much like a wall with loose mortar or a garden fence with a few planks missing.

Apart from the obvious unfriendly bacteria now able to enter the bloodstream, leaky gut also unwittingly turns some friends into foes; You remember those beautiful grass-fed raw beef bones you sourced but now Luna seems to have some intolerance to beef? Or those chicken livers that whenever Billy scoffs he starts licking his paw the next day? Intestinal permeability can cause food intolerances because it allows undigested whole protein molecules to go through the gut directly into its bloodstream. This event is the common precursor to intolerance: proteins that used to be transformed by GI bacteria are now passing through the cell walls straight into the bloodstream.

德国赛车In a healthy digestive system, these molecules are fully digested and enter circulation after being filtered by the liver. In a leaky gut, these undigested molecules go straight into the bloodstream where the immune system then says “whoa whoa wait a minute, this isn’t part of Luna” so mounts an “antigen defence”. And sends soldiers to escort these molecules off the premises. It then remembers these molecules “faces” and whenever Luna snarfs some beef, the immune system alarm bell rings and all the soldiers pile hastily out of the guardhouse. Spears clanking, helmet visors askew.

This is the second step: your dog mounts an immune response to these non-native protein molecules and remembers them for the future.

In short, the body starts to recognise certain foods as it would do an invading bacteria or virus. The good news is that in most cases this can be resolved. (see below) and the soldiers can be reprogrammed, or their memories wiped.

Mistaking Bacteria & LPS

The other friendly it can turn into foe is the friendly bacteria itself. Those friendly bacteria that makeup such a huge part of your dog’s immune system and keep him or her well are in fact only friendly when they are outside the fence not inside the fence. When those cell junctions become less tight the friendly bacteria can also slip directly into the bloodstream with the undigested molecules which are a double whammy because apart from them being foreign bacteria (to the inside of the dog) they are also coated in a shell of lipo-poly saccharides (LPS) which are HUGELY inflammatory.

德国赛车These LPS molecules then ride the rollercoaster of your dog’s circulation, around its body, creating inflammation wherever they bump into. And as the blood transports essential nutrients to EVERYWHERE in its body, this inflammation goes EVERYWHERE. In humans studies, research has linked Intestinal Permeability with EVERY single autoimmune disease so far researched.

To be clear. That’s doesn’t mean that research has definitively linked IP as the cause, but they have found a 100% correlation of autoimmune disease and Intestinal Permeability. That includes arthritis, MS, various skin disorders, the whole smorgasbord. Whilst that is could be seen as grim news, its actually excitingly great news because we know how to deal with IP.

Hopefully by now you have a good idea of what intestinal permeability is, what can happen and what to look out for…food intolerances, skin issues, arthritis , I deliberately haven’t mentioned cancer because there is much controversy afoot on this right now, but what we do know is that IP is certainly a piece of the jigsaw. It’s just a question of how big a piece.

So if you want to keep you dog as healthy as possible (and btw the way, happy, because an inflamed brain is never a happy one, think human hangovers on Sunday am), then preventing IP or dealing with IP is an essential cornerstone to the health pyramid. In fact, we can be as bold to say its critics. It’s also one of the biggest and simplest wins if you stick to the formula.

Reassuringly and what you can feel really good about is that feeding your dog an unprocessed, grain free, dairy free and lectin limited diet (which is what you are doing with Bella and Duke meals) is essential.

How to Deal with Leaky Gut

德国赛车Let’s dive straight in and cover the basics of what causes it and getting rid of this unwanted, unwelcome debilitating condition.

Understanding the role of stress

德国赛车Boiling all factors down to the very essence, the root cause, its “jam”, what causes it is stress….or rather, because not all types of stress are damaging, the wrong type of stress.

When we go to the gym and lift weights, the muscle fibres are stressed but grow back either bigger or more efficient, or both, depending on how we train them.

When we take our dogs for a walk, they stress their hearts and lungs running up the beach chasing a ball which maintains your dog’s “cardio vascular fitness” . Assuming that your dog isn’t allowed to go wild for hours in the sun and overheats, these are all “hormetic stressors” . This means the the stress induced gives rise to a bigger biological benefit. … We also get a workout,… especially if you recall the “Fenton” incident in Richmond park. This arguably was a positive stressor for the dog, much less so for the deer (albeit they look like they know how to handle themselves in a tight spot- those antlers aren’t for Christmas baubles) and definitely a “distress” (both mental emotional and physical) for the owner. Its the guy filming it starting to shake that gets me every time.

德国赛车Typically when we humans consider “negative” stress (distress) we instantly think of being overworked, a boss thats half goblin, half orc, wondering if we have enough money to pay a credit card bill or whether the person behind you in the airline queue can possibly ask ONE more time if you paid for speedy boarding. Bore off 🙂

But in reality.. stress is not simply “Mental or emotional”. Stressors can pretty much fall into one of the 4 following categories.

  • Emotional – for example: whats going on in either you or your dogs head. As mentioned above.
  • Internal – food they eat (intolerances?), grains, lectins, toxins like chocolate, parasites, bacteria, yeast, fungus, medicines (antibiotics bring lots of benefits but also carry a health cost)
  • Environmental – this includes chemicals you or your dog get exposed to, the air we all breathe and water we drink. In humans one of the major pollutants is what we put on our skin, likewise with dogs, check the ingredients of those lotions, AND the water they swim in!
  • Physical – this one is mainly exercising or lack thereof related. Important to remember here that too much exercise can be at times more damaging than too little. That’s definitely the case for some of the athletes I look after as they will readily admit. Likewise, when an overactive puppy is encouraged to fetch a ball until it falls over, this is a physical stressor that leads to LESS benefit.

So I will run through examples of two of the above that need some further explanation and then we will get down to getting rid of them!

Mental & Emotional Stress

德国赛车In the dog world stress may be feeling insecure, threatened, being around angry people or simply not knowing its place in the pack. Dogs need a structure, to know where they are in the hierarchy. Dogs also have way better sensory super skills than we do so are often better on picking up on our mood than we are! The fact they can smell you 1 minute before you come in the front door should be a big clue that they can tell exactly where you are, geographically and emotionally.

Fortunately, if you are reading this its probably because you are full of love for your animal and considerate to its wellbeing. If you are feeding it a raw diet its because you are really interested in its health. However, its always worth considering the mental stressors, especially if your animal is in a “health deficit” at all and you want to pick up some easy marks.

This often translates to sitting back at the end of the day and ensuring YOU chill out, put on some jazz and enjoy an autumnal fire whilst stroking your dog. Dogs love picking up on our calm mental state. So this is a happy 2 for 1 deal.

德国赛车Yes, I told you to sit down, enjoy a fire and listen to some jazz. For your dog’s health. Great huh?

Internal stressors are manifold, but the main ones, as summarised above are diet and “pathogens”, that is, bacteria or parasites, yeast or fungi that inhabit your dog’s digestive tract. Now whilst some of these are of course essential for your dog’s health (good bacteria”) we are talking about here are the not so good kind. Assuming you currently regularly visit your vet and perform a treatment on your dog to address these (we can cover the treatment alternatives available at a later date as I appreciate this is a popular topic), the key take away from this segment is DIET.

德国赛车This is the part YOU control, can easily manage, and makes probably the biggest difference.

The food that goes into your dog’s mouth is CRITICAL to its “ internal stress”. Why ? if the body recognises this food as an invader, a virus or something akin, rather than food, the body believes that rather than being fed, it is under attack. What’s more stressful than that?? Trojan horse kibble sandwich anyone?

SO getting your dog on a hypoallergenic/ grain free, low lectin diet is probably the single biggest factor to healing intestinal permeability.

Separate and distinct to food allergies, and this is really super important to keep with you. Regardless of whether a dog is intolerant or allergic to a food or not, there are some foods that will ALWAYS cause inflammation.

Grain causes inflammation!

德国赛车Grain is one of these. (and yes its exactly the same for humans). Grain causes an inflammatory response in every dog. Dogs have not evolved to be able to digest it and lets face it, the grain doesnt want to be eaten by a dog, it wants to fall right next to where the other grains flourished and propagate there.

This is why the whole gluten discussion can be a little confusing and very misleading. It’s not just gluten that causes inflammation. It’s every other grain protein as well (in some cases white rice is an exception and can be tolerated). There are over 20 types of protein in grains and every single one of them will create inflammation and contribute to IP. Some of my patients go “gluten free” and resort to the smorgasbord of “gluten free” options at the supermarket which just use either other types of grain or lots of chemicals or both. Some of them are MUCH worse than the gluten itself. They then continue with the same symptoms and assume it can’t have been gluten that was the issue in the first place, as they don’t feel any better., when in fact they have just swapped one toxin out for another or several others. As soon as they go grain free most symptoms mysteriously….and happily..disappear

Grains contain 20 different proteins. Gluten is just one of them.

And same story with lectins. Lectins come in lots of forms but are mainly in the skin of certain fruits and vegetables. This is a whole article in itself but be happy and reassured that there are none in Bella & Duke meals.

Grains and lectins irritate the gut in several ways and one of the results is leakiness. In fact its fair to state that grain (especially processed grain with chemical additives – does this sound like kibble to anyone?) paves the way for food allergies, skin disorders, arthritis and all those other auto immune disorders.

德国赛车The plus side of all of this is : You now know what can cause it and cut it out. Its really that simple.

You cannot heal leaky gut IF the dog is still being exposed to grains, lectins or other inflammatory foods. As this will be constantly undoing all of your good work. Keep it simple, hypoallergenic food, hypoallergenic snacks and if you want to accelerate the process add in some bone broth.

Bone broth is rich in amino acids that can be directly absorbed and utilised by the gut to repair itself. The gut is very high in two aminos called glutamine and glycine, both of which are present in bone broth. We are rapidly working behind the scenes at Bella & Duke, think ducks paddling a millpond when seen from above AND below the water….to get you a bone broth that WE believe in to help you with this. Watch the facebook page for updates.

How to heal leaky gut.

Cut out the bad stuff

  • Over-exercise
  • Any mental stress
  • Any crazy chemicals that are present in shampoos, lotions or other. I will state the obvious here again as well, letting your dog swim in heavily polluted water is not a great idea as that water is being absorbed both through the skin and being swallowed.
  • Any inflammatory foods or foods your dog is intolerant to, in either snacks or main meals. If it goes in its mouth it counts.

Add in the good stuff

  • Feed your dog hypoallergenic meals and snacks.
  • Accelerate the healing process with some bone broth
  • Appropriate levels of exercise
  • Plenty of love, structure and downtime, for us all

And hey presto, watch the magic happen. You can sit back, relax, put on your playlist of choice and know that you are doing great things.

As ever please message me with any questions. We really want to help you help your dog so its a pleasure to field your queries and we are CONSTANTLY looking to improve, evolve and bring you the best service and information we can.

Wishing you and your dogs well!

Rowan Sanderson


  • Hi, my dog (shihtzu) only 9yrs (in a few days) suffers with kidney disease, yeast infections, food intolerance/allergies and possible leaky gut, I am currently feeding him a homemade diet of organic beef/pork (from supermarket), butternut squash and kale, zucchini, green beans, supplemented with adored beast phytoplankton, Ipakitine (phosphorus binder), adored beast healthy gut(pre & probiotics with digestive enzymes) also Dr mercola glandular support,
    He has lost so much weight and muscle mass for which vet (pdsa) can’t find out why (it’s not kidney disease, ibd or sibo as cobalamin and folate are normal.
    Was wondering if it’s safe to give beef bone broth, or is it dangerous to give too many amino acids as phytoplankton has a lot of amino acids aswell.
    Thanking you for any help/advice

    • Hi there – poor boy, it sounds like he has a lot going on. We would recommend discussing the addition of bone broth with your vet due to his medical conditions. On a side note, we would also suggest that you consider removing the butternut squash from his diet – it is quite high in lectins, which can contribute to leaky gut x

  • Ben is my 6.5 year old poodle/bichon mix – fed for the past 5 years on a good, raw complete diet 80/10/10 .Together we have had a bad two months – Ben suddenly starting weeing overnight indoors, drinking heavily, and losing weight. My late husband had diabetes and kidney disease – so well aware of symptoms Ben was displaying could be related . Then on Easter Sunday he started a pattern of drink/vomit/more water/weeing/vomiting very restless and whimpering. Admitted as an emergency that evening he was diagnosed with diabetes and Pancreatitis

    " >pancreatitis – although the pancreatitis was changed to DKA the next morning . He was very very poorly, so poorly we were allowed into the vet hospital to see if after a week we could coax him to eat – did not work, so we were facing the inevitable. we asked if he could come home for a few hours each day – becaue we also thought being in a cage, in a strange place was also having a bad effect. This happened – we gave Ben the pain meds he needed and coaxed – and coaxed him to eat. He would eat – 50g chicken/white fish go back to the vets and vomit during the night . Eventually that stopped and after ten days ben was eating sufficiently to come home ( together with £4.500 BILL) . Since then he has been on 2.0 Vetsulin twice daily. The long 12 hour gaps in food consumption is tough – I think he need some small snacks mid way, but am complying with vet instruction – who also told us no raw diet. So he has had a diet of white poached chicken/ white fish. broccoli/ green beans and brown rice – equally roughly 490 Kc a day. He is starving and scavenging is an issue – but his ketone value is little better and the last fructosamine test delighted the vet even though it was a reading of 19 ( it was 24 when he was first admitted) His insulin has been upped to 2.5 daily – I think it needs to be a little more but we are doing a curve next week. The biggest issue is the pancreatitis – a low fat level at DB over no more than 11-12% is achievable – we are doing it with the chicken and fish – but I do not think that is a balanced or sufficiently varied diet .We have variously been advised no probiotics, no raw meat, no omega 3 oils – which really bothered me because I had been adding 1/4tspn of Aniforte omega salmon oil to Ben’s meals to get him to initially eat sufficient to warrant his insulin dose after the meal. I am diet aware – Glycemic Index
" >Glycemic index德国赛车 – carbohydrates (Ben has never had kibble anyway) – calcium – no bones if food has to be cooked .There must be better than this – is there? Sorry this is so long – I did contact Charlotte . She was a great help and gave me the above links .

  • Hi there – We are so saddened to hear about the traumas upset and illness
    We believe there is a much better solution as outlined in our guides and blogs
    We are not placed to advise medically or to counter your vets instructions
    However we do suggest you contact the RFVS immediately and find a local Raw Feeding Holistic Vet who will be able to support you both with an alternative approach
    Please keep us posted

  • Hi. I have a 6 year old Lab with itchy skin and mild hair loss around the ankles. I think he has leaky gut and may be allergic to chicken. Can you please recommend an appropriate dry dog food and what products do I need to help cure the leaky gut? He weighs 90 pounds. Thank you.

    • Hi Rita – thanks for reaching out. As a raw dog food company, we’re unable to advise on dry dog food. Our bone broth is great for speeding the healing of leaky gut, and we would also recommend a raw food diet as the best food for leaky gut. Very often leaky gut will have been caused, or worsened, by the inappropriate ingredients (such as grains, or legumes) in dry dog food. Moving to raw food cuts those out and allows the lining of the intestine to heal.

  • 德国赛车My puppy is regurgitating clear liquid about 15 times aday has had several tests done but still dont know whats wrong im thinking it maybe acid reflux hes 8weeks old and is a American bully cross staffie, would this product be ok to use

    • Hi there – it will depend on some extent on the cause, but most people find that there’s a dramatic improvement in stomach issues when switching to raw food as it’s easier for dogs to digest, and doesn’t contain inappropriate ingredients that may irritate the stomach x

  • Hello, my Lilu is a 10yr old chihuahua mix. 3 years ago she had a lot of fluid in her abdomen and legs. She was very sick. Vet drained her belly and said it looked like she had IBD. She was put on a novel diet of rabbit and potatoes. This worked until recently. Now she is filling up with fluid regularly. We’ve changed food to prescription diets 4 times. None seem to work anymore. Her protein levels are very low. The fluid build up in belly is water. She is very thin. They have her on prednisone every 12 hours. Each time we go to the emergency vet to have her stomach drained or even just the regular vet, it’s a different vet. So none of them are able to fully know what’s going on since it’s always someone different.
    The vet today told me I may want to consider putting her down. She is still happy and eating and drinking. I’m having a hard time thinking I’d have to put her down because no one can figure out how to get the fluid to stop leaking into her abdomen.
    德国赛车 Is this food worth a shot or is IBD different?

    • 德国赛车I’m so sorry to read this – what a dreadful situation for you. While most dogs with IBD do very well with raw, it would be well worth finding either a holistic vet or an experienced raw feeding vet at this stage. Check out the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society website – if there isn’t one close to you, many will do phone or video call consultations x

  • My dog has been diagnosed with leaky gut. He is on hypoallergenic food and treats. He is also on a medication prescribed by the vet but his abdomen keeps filling up with fluid. How do we get the fluid to drain without having to have the vet do it? Is there anything that will help?

    • 德国赛车We would suggest seeking an experienced holistic vet to advise and support you on this. The attached link should help – if there isn’t one close to you many will do phone or video call consultations x

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