By now most of us know that the food we eat directly affects our mind. Studies have proven that kids who consume a lot of “convenience foods” as opposed to fresh, whole foods, have greater difficulty concentrating, learning and managing conflict. It’s down to the second brain - you know, those neurons in the small intestine that send messages to the main brain. This gut-brain is responsible for a large portion of our emotional state. It’s true. Think about how diet affects people with Autism. The first part of treatment is to remove all food colouring, chemicals, preservatives, etc from the diet. In every case the result is a decrease in symptoms. What does this have to do with dogs? Everything. They have the same neurons in their guts, and I’ve personally witnessed positive behaviour changes that have coincided with a change in diet. Possibly, so have you.
I often use Boxers a prime example since so many on them seem to have “sensitive stomachs.” They also happen to be a relatively high-strung breed who often end up on veterinary “prescription” diets to curb diarrhea. The diarrhea might go away, but the anxious state remains. I believe this is down to their body’s need for, and drastic lack of bioavailable nutrients in the kibble (such as B vitamins) which are crucial in times of stress and anxious episodes.
Consider also, the fact that 50 to 90 percent of people with IBS suffer from a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression, even when the disease is not active. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada is funding an investigation to examine the link between depression and changes in the bacterial composition of the gut. This will determine what, if any, are the physiological responses to a person’s emotional state. I’m not betting on the “if any.”
If you have a dog who suffers from anxiety or exhibits behavioral problems that you can’t seem to correct, it might be worth considering that it might be due to digestive issues - chronic loose stool or mucousy stool can be a sign. A diet change might be the answer. After all, if your dog doesn’t maintain a healthy-gut-brain connection, all the training and behaviour modification in the world will be in vain – kind of like teaching a dog with a broken leg how to fetch. If you would like to provide a fresh home-cooked diet for your dog, I would be happy to help. Your holistic veterinarian can also offer guidance on home cooking, raw feeding, and supplementation. If you don’t have holistic vet, here’s how to find one.