Is Dysbiosis the Root Cause of Your Dog's Health Problems?

Updated on September 10, 2019
DonnaCosmato profile image

Donna partners with Dr. Cathy Alinovi, a retired veterinarian, to create informative pet health articles.

This is a photo of Dr. Cathy and her fur babies. As a pet parent, Dr. Cathy understands the importance of proper nutrition and preventive health routines.
This is a photo of Dr. Cathy and her fur babies. As a pet parent, Dr. Cathy understands the importance of proper nutrition and preventive health routines.

What in the world is dysbiosis and how did your dog get it? Dysbiosis, often called leaky gut, is an imbalance of the gut flora in your dog's intestines.

Left undiagnosed and untreated, dysbiosis can cause your pet serious health problems. Learn why Dr. Cathy Alinovi of Healthy PAWsibilities believes probiotics and proper nutrition are your dog's best defense against diseases like dysbiosis.

Q1: What is dysbiosis?

Dr. Cathy: Dys means ill or bad, biosis refers to form of life, in this case bacteria and fungi (flora and fauna, AKA microbials); therefore, it is bacterial and/or yeast overgrowth.

Q2: Are dysbiosis and leaky gut the same thing?

Dr. Cathy: One leads to the other. Bacterial and yeast overgrowth leads to inflammation. Inflammation interferes with intestinal cell function. Normal, healthy intestinal cells interlock with each other like a jigsaw puzzle to keep things in the intestines.

With inflammation due to dysbiosis, the intestinal cells do not grip each other, and things from the gut leak into the bloodstream unwanted - thus, leaky gut. Because leaky gut lets in unwanted intestinal products, there is more inflammation. It becomes a vicious cycle. While they are not the same thing, the terms dysbiosis and leaky gut are used interchangeably as one will lead to the other.

Q3: What is the root cause of dysbiosis?

Dr. Cathy: Anything that disrupts the normal fungal (yeast is a form of fungus) or bacterial levels in the intestines, but also the skin and anywhere else in the body where yeast and bacteria live. Most common causes of dysbiosis are high carbohydrate foods and antibiotic use.

Most people understand that taking antibiotics can lead to diarrhea. The diarrhea is due to the antibacterial action of the medications because all bacteria are killed, not just the ones at the site of the infection (like bladder or anal glands), but also the normal, helpful bacteria in the intestines and on the skin.

A less understood issue is that consumption of carbohydrates and indigestible fiber (fillers essentially) can lead to dysbiosis as well. Carbs ferment in the intestines into sugars, changing the body pH (acid balance), feeding harmful bacteria, and interfering with digestion and nutrient absorption.

Regular observations of your dog's coat, teeth and gums, and overall appearance can alert you to signs of illness.
Regular observations of your dog's coat, teeth and gums, and overall appearance can alert you to signs of illness.

Q4: What typical symptoms would pet parents observe?

Dr. Cathy: There is a long list of potential symptoms, which vary from patient to patient. See below for a short list of symptoms.Fundamentally, dysbiosis is the root of 80% of the illnesses that present to the veterinary clinic.

Common Dysbiosis Symptoms

Sensitive stomach
Diarrhea alternating with constipation
Greasy skin
Smelly, recurrent anal gland infections
Dental disease

Q5: How is dysbiosis diagnosed?

Dr. Cathy: Dysbiosis is formally diagnosed by a fecal culture; however, the data from the culture may be incomplete. Dysbiosis is often diagnosed based on clinical signs such as those mentioned in the list above.

Q6: What types of treatments are available?

Dr. Cathy: Treatments are aimed at rebalancing the bacteria and fungi living in the body so the right ones are there at the right levels. For some patients, it is as simple as giving a probiotic. For some patients, it means a total overhaul of diet, pH, and a barrage of supplements targeting the out of balance bacteria and yeast.

Q7: What risks are associated with giving these treatments?

Dr. Cathy: The biggest risk comes with die off from whatever over grew. When bacteria die, they release toxins. If the bacteria die all at once, the toxins released can cause a temporary worsening of signs.

Q8: What kinds of supplements might be helpful?

Dr. Cathy: Probiotics, herbs and nutraceuticals work together to repopulate the body with balanced levels of the right bacteria and fungi/yeast. The type of supplement(s) used will depend on the patient's individual issues and how the veterinarian develops the case.

Q9: What kinds of dietary modifications are necessary?

Dr. Cathy: Diet is actually the very first place to start when treating dysbiosis. One of my favorite sayings is "fixing the food fixes 80% of what walks in my door." Diet changes start with removing the corn, grain, dyes and by-products from the food. All of these ingredients feed dysbiosis.

This can be as simple as discontinuing the use of dry food, feeding balanced people food, feeding raw, or scouring the pet food shelves until you find a brand that meets all the above guidelines. Until the food changes are made, there is little point in trying to address the dysbiosis as little headway will be gained.

Q10: What type of follow-up care is required?

Dr. Cathy: Stick with the program recommended by your veterinarian. Watch how your dog sheds. If the shedding stops (except for the normal spring and fall shedding) then things are going well. If the shedding resumes, a new problem exists.

If the shedding does not stop, there is a deep-rooted dysbiosis that just takes time to treat. Most young dogs respond quickly to treatment. Older dogs take longer; in some cases, maintenance is needed for the rest of their lives. Even if that is the case, your dog will have major improvements in quality of life.

Is your best friend feeling sick because of dysbiosis?
Is your best friend feeling sick because of dysbiosis? | Source

Q11: How can pet parents prevent a recurrence of dysbiosis?

Dr. Cathy: Avoid starchy, carbohydrate-laden foods, minimize uses of medications, and once your dog has received his/her initial vaccines, do only what is required by law.

Q12: What other pet health problems might be exacerbated by dysbiosis?

Dr. Cathy: All health issues will be worsened by dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is believed to be at the root of autoimmune disease and cancer (both of which are becoming more and more common).

Q13: Are there dog populations at higher risk for dysbiosis?

Dr. Cathy: The population is best described by environmental characteristics as opposed to genetics. Dogs that eat corn based kibble and receive many treatments, which only address symptoms, rather than underlying causes, will have dysbiosis.

For example, either recurrent ear infections can be treated with antibiotics and steroids with each occurrence, or, the underlying food allergy can be determined. In addition, dogs born to dogs like those described above will be predisposed to dysbiosis because their mother can exchange the same imbalanced bacteria and yeast. Sadly, most of our dogs fall into these categories simply due to the convenience of dry food, which makes it is very difficult to choose in relation to high quality versus low quality ingredients.

Q14: Do dogs with dysbiosis ever require surgery?

Dr. Cathy: Only rarely in the most severe cases where there might be an intestinal blockage. In general, surgery can worsen dysbiosis rather than make it better.

Q15: What else do pet parents need to know about dysbiosis?

Dr. Cathy: Sadly, dysbiosis in pets is only slowly being recognized on mainstream veterinary medicine, yet it is incredibly common.

The devoted dog owner understands dysbiosis is at the root of most ill health and will work diligently with his/her holistic veterinarian to get to the underlying issue.


This veterinary medical information is based on information provided during a telephone interview with a professional, qualified, retired veterinarian. However, it is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. Always seek your veterinarian’s advice about your pet’s health.

While this information is periodically researched and updated (under the guidance of veterinary input) in the attempt to be timely and factual, no guarantee is given the information is correct, complete, and/or up-to-date.

Recommendations as to therapeutics, diagnostics and best standards of practice in the veterinary industry and/or opinions between professionals may differ or change as technologies and information changes. You should not use this article as your sole source of information on any matter of veterinary health or attempt to self-diagnose or treat your pets as the information herein may not be appropriate for your pet. The safest option for you and your pet is to rely on the advice of your veterinarian to diagnose and recommend the best treatment options.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2014 Donna Cosmato

What kinds of health problems have you experienced with your dog?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)