Leaky Gut Syndrome: Effects, and Causes (Part 1)

 In this article, we will look at what Leaky gut syndrome is, how it affects the dog and what causes it. In Leaky Gut Syndrome Part 2: Healing Your Dog’s Gut, we will look at how to help your dog’s gut heal by natural methods.


Just the Right Perspective

Veterinary Technician Julie Ann Lee has seen many dogs make the switch to a raw food diet since her first recommendations in 1994. She noticed that even the dogs on what’s considered the most natural, biologically correct, diet would seemingly develop new allergies. One day she had a eureka moment:

One day I was geeking out on the physiology of a cat patient that had interstitial cystitis (when the lining of the bladder starts to leak). I realized that if the mu-cosal lining of the bladder can leak, then so can the mucosal lining of the gut.” C

Julie Ann Lee had just the right perspective for understanding leaky gut syndrome. She found the definition of leaky gut syndrome. It is precisely as it sounds. The gut leaking food particles into the bloodstream and lymphatic system.


What is It?

There is a delicate mucosal lining inside the gut. This lining can be likened to a filter, letting certain parts through and blocking others.

Intestinal mucosa blocks bacteria, toxins, pathogens and undigested food particles. It allows tiny, digested food particles to filter through. This system keeps the whole body safe.

One of the first parts of your dog’s protection against leaky gut is called the microbiome. The microbiome is made up of bacteria that live throughout the dog’s body. Most importantly they live in the intestines.

The microbiome plays a considerable role in your dog’s immune system.

The key functions of the microbiome are:
  1. Aiding in manufacturing nutrients.
  2. Aiding absorption of those nutrients.
  3. Regulating the immune system, to avoid overreactions.
  4. And strengthening the mucosal lining. D

Unfortunately, many things damage the microbiome. Antibiotics, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well as steroids, vaccines, poor quality diet and stress from boredom, separation anxiety, and lack of mental and physical exercise.

In a dog with leaky gut, his microbiome is damaged, and his mucosa has become inflamed. Inflammation enlarges the straining holes to allow larger particles of undigested food and toxins to filter through.

With the bloodstream and lymphatic system infiltrated with food particles, the liver must work overtime to clean out the particles of food.

If this continues, the liver soon becomes overwhelmed, and the immune system must bring in the backup. The body sees those sizeable undigested food particles as the enemy and attacks them.


Allergies Or Leaky Gut?

When the immune system overreacts to the chronic distress of leaky gut syndrome, it causes the same symptoms as canine allergies and food intolerances. The dog’s “allergies” seem to apply to more and more substances. Grass, pollens, trees, proteins, and grains to name a few.

When the immune system begins attacking the proteins from undigested food particles allowed into the bloodstream, those proteins can look like the protein structure of the dog’s body tissues. Thus, the immune system, defectively, will attack the dog’s own proteins. This overreaction is the cause of autoimmune diseases.


Is Leaky Gut Common?

It is possible that many dogs who appear to have allergies, actually have a leaky gut.

Because a leaky gut isn’t in plain view, it’s often not diagnosed. Instead, it progresses until it causes autoimmunity which contributes to conditions like:

  • joint pain
  • thyroid disease
  • heart disease
  • nervous system and eye disorders
  • (IBD) Irritable Bowel Disease
  • liver, gallbladder and pancreatic disorders
  • behavior issues (the gut links to the brain)
  • And cancer. D

These conditions are increasing in our dogs, which means that leaky gut could be more prominent in our dogs than we realize.


What Causes Leaky Gut?

We know what leaky gut is, so let’s look at some of its causes so we can learn to prevent it.

Poor Quality Diet

Since we know that the microbiome is so vital to the function of your dog’s digestive tract and immune system, it’s evident that the diet will influence your dog’s condition.

Your dog’s diet must avoid foods that damage his microbiome and instead include foods that strengthen it.

Two things upset the balance of your dog’s microbiome colony: Overpopulation of bacteria or yeast, and inflammation.

We know that carbohydrates, sugars, feed yeast and cause inflammation. So, it’s out the window with carbohydrates if your dog has leaky gut. This includes kibble diets which can only be manufactured with a minimum of 40% carbohydrates.

Avoid low quality meat sources like by-products and farmed raised fish. These contain unnecessary antibiotics and hormones. This puts extra stress on your dog to digest these additions to meats.

Avoid GMO foods, preservatives, coloring and chlorinated water.

Instead, be strict about quality, add prebiotics and probiotics to populate your dog’s gut with friendly bacteria, and add digestive enzymes to support your dog’s nutrition.



Over-Vaccination is a massive contributor to the damage in our dog’s guts. It stresses the immune system till it is dysfunctional and your dog develops autoimmunity, where the body begins attacking itself. Chronic inflammation occurs, which damages that mucosal lining of the gut.

Through research, we now know that a single vaccine can effectively protect our dog for at least seven years!

Further evidence is piling up that annual vaccines are causing many diseases. It is necessary for us to learn how to safely use vaccines to continue to protect our dogs from disease, both by vaccinating and by not over-vaccinating. Do your research before having your dog vaccinated.

Need to learn more about over-vaccination? Read our new article “Are Annual Booster Vaccinations Necessary?”



Conventional veterinary medicine uses NSAIDs, steroids, and antibiotics heavily. Unfortunately, these medications wipe out the friendly bacteria your dog needs and suppress his immune system to prevent it from its typical defensive reactions. These are not conditions in which your dog’s body can heal.

Flea, tick and worm medications can contribute monthly to stressing your dog’s gut, microbiome, and immune function.

Whether trying to prevent or heal leaky gut, it is best to avoid as many medications as possible. There are natural alternatives for these that can be effective; it is a matter of finding which one works for your dog’s situation.


Chronic Stress

Separation anxiety and boredom are challenging problems for many dog owners who work regular hours during the day. The dog’s stress level increases when he is at home alone.

This kind of chronic stress is detrimental to his health when the immune system is already compromised. The brain and the gut are linked together and send each other messages of health or dysfunction.

Exercise is the best stress reliever, causing a release of the hormone oxytocin, the bonding, and stress-relief hormone. Activity promotes proper digestion and gives your dog some mental stability. Try to incorporate 10-20 minutes of exercise for your dog each day.

Teach your dog to use interactive toys and puzzles, avoid feeding him during high-stress times, and try to have company for your dog (another dog, a family member or roommate, or yourself on lunch break).



We have defined leaky gut as a condition where the mucosal lining of your dog’s gut is damaged, allowing the microscopic portals in his gut wall to enlarge and let food and toxins into his bloodstream.

We know that stress and inflammation damage the mucosal wall, and the microbiome.

How do you know that your dog has a leaky gut and not true allergies? Or maybe Leaky Gut was the cause of his allergies or irritable bowel disease?

There are three tests you can get to check for leaky gut. A

  1. Serum Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) test
  2. IgE blood test
  3. Nutriscan by Dr. Jean Dodds

If these tests indicate that your dog does have leaky gut, it’s time to find healing for his gut!


– Cassy Kay


Check out Healing Leaky Gut, for natural ways to close those gaps!

dog, food, leaky gut, dysbiosis, healing, natural, microbiome, healing foods





AHabib, Rodney. “Is Your Pet Allergic to Everything?” Planet Paws. Web. Aug. 8, 2017. < https://www.planetpaws.ca/2016/03/01/pet-allergic-everything/>

BKidd, Randy DVM Ph.D. “No Guts, No Glory! Why A Healthy Gut Matters To Your Dog.” Dogs Naturally Magazine. Web. Aug. 8, 2017. http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/healthy-gut-dog/

CLee, Julie Anne. “Dysbiosis: Does Your Dog Have Leaky Gut?” Dogs Naturally Magazine. Web. Aug. 8, 2017. < http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/leaky-gut-syndrome-in-dogs/>

DScott, Dana. “The Leaky Gut Epidemic: Why Your Dog’s Allergy Treatment Doesn’t Work.” Dogs Naturally Magazine. Web. Aug. 8, 2017. http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/why-your-dogs-allergy-treatment-doesnt-work/


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