A lot! Dogs do not need to eat carbohydrates to live. I find myself feeding my dog, Cashew, foods that have some carbohydrate. Each time, I feel guilty because I know what potatoes, corn, wheat, rice, sweet potato, chickpea, and peas do to enrich certain undesirable microbes that I don’t want to grow in his mouth. What does the presence of these kinds of carbohydrates do to a dog?
First off, diet [and quality of] is the predominant driver of the oral + gut microbiome compositions. The more diverse a diet and complex the carbohydrates are, the more diverse the microbiome becomes. Decades of studies show that complex diets and complex microbiomes = healthier outcomes.
From a microbiologist’s perspective, simple sugars like lactose, glucose, sucrose, and galactose are *very* efficiently processed by the microbes that inhabit the mouth and gut. It can take as little as 30 seconds for a microbe to “eat” a sugar molecule and convert it into waste products…now, that is fast!
Aspergillus, Candida, Salmonella, E. coli, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus spp. grow very fast on sugars. They then secrete things like organic acids and other things that can inflame gums and gut, which can affect the dog.
Considering a dog can have hundreds of millions of sugar-loving bacteria and yeast in the mouth, and billions of sugar-loving bacteria and yeast in the gut – imagine what that could translate to our dogs as they age.
Dogs with a carbohydrate-rich diet, often have “blooms” (overgrowth) of these kinds of potentially-dangerous microbes. This can lead to chronic inflammation and can compromise the health of the dog – inflammation can lead to tooth loss, arthritis, cancers and other things that shorten lifespan.
In the mouth, it translates to gum disease. In the gut, it translates to leaky gut or loose stool. Neither are good for the dog.
The great thing is that there is a way through it. Feeding dogs a diverse diet is great. Switching up the kinds of carbohydrate every few weeks is the best way to decrease the risk. Some days, go carb-free. In microbiology, this is called “nutrient pressure”, and it slows down the growth of the harmful microbes. Furthermore, it significantly drops the harmful organic acids and other waste products that sugar-loving microbes make, which decreases inflammation in the dog.
This can help decrease the risk of gum disease or leaky gut/loose stool, for a healthier pup!
Dr. Stein holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of California at Berkeley where she studied signaling pathways involved in stress response and community development in bacteria and received her B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Iowa where she studied the interaction between M. tuberculosis and innate immune cells. She founded Primal Health, LLC to focus on improving the quality of life and longevity of both humans and animals by producing innovative, consumable and safe dental hygiene products. Their patented prebiotic technology centers on re-engineering disease-causing bacterial biofilms into those that are health-promoting.