Whether you’re a cat person or a dog person—or a reptile person, for that matter—we’ve got good news for you…did you know that having a pet can do more than just make your Instagram feed adorable? It turns out that pets have a secret superpower—they can work wonders for your gut microbiome! Yes, it’s true. Your four-legged, feathered, or scales-skinned companion can help improve the diversity and health of your gut bacteria. Don't believe us? Read on to find out how pets can do wonders for your gut.
The microbiome marvel
Your gut microbiome, a diverse ecosystem of trillions of microbes living inside your digestive tract, plays a crucial role in your overall health. From aiding digestion and nutrient absorption to supporting your immune system, a balanced gut microbiome is key to your overall health.
Pawsitively perfect probiotics
Ask any dog owner and they’ll tell you–dogs bring an abundance of bacteria into your life, but this can be a good thing for your gut! Bacteria gets a bad rap, but it can actually be quite beneficial. Yes, your dog probably sniffs at stuff you don’t even want to look at and eats things you don’t even want to know about, but this just means your dog is a furry probiotic factory for your entire household. In fact, studies have shown that pet owners tend to have a more diverse gut microbiome, and children who grow up with a dog have a lower risk for developing autoimmune illnesses such as asthma and allergies. Having a dog in your home is almost like having your own personal probiotic dispenser…shall we say, a wagging, barking, cuddly petbiotic?
More of a cat person?
We all know that cats are more fastidious by nature. While dog ownership raises the levels of 56 different bacterial species in your home, cats only boost 24 species of bacteria. Of course, that’s if the cat is an indoors-only cat. There is no definitive research on the difference between indoor and outdoor cats in regards to the microbial diversity they introduce to your home, but we can hypothesize that outdoor cats bring more bacterial diversity.
Dander does a body good
Contrary to popular belief, pet dander—those tiny flakes of skin shed by your dog, cat, bunny or whatever furry friend—isn't all bad news. Sure, it may trigger allergies in some people, but for others, exposure to pet dander can actually boost your immune system and enhance your gut health. So, the next time your black sweater is covered in hair and such, take a deep breath and get out your lint roller. It looks worse than it is.
Your furry fitness coach
Ok, this one might be more for the dogs than the cats (or birds or bunnies)...but who better to motivate you to get off the couch and move than your energetic pet? Exercise is not only great for your physical health but also for your gut health. From walks in the park to games of fetch, engaging in physical activity with your pet can help promote a thriving gut ecosystem. It's a win-win-win situation for you, your microbiome, and your pet!
A tail-wagging tummy tonic
This might be our favorite reason yet. If you have a pet, you probably already know that your fur baby has an uncanny ability to provide you with comfort, companionship, and unconditional love. But did you know that their presence also helps regulate your stress levels? Studies have shown that interacting with pets decreases the levels of cortisol—your stress hormone—and increases your levels of oxytocin, also known as the feel good hormone. In doing so, your pet also lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. Of course, reduced stress translates to a healthier gut, as stress has been linked to imbalances in the microbiome. So, yes, even without the increase in bacterial diversity, your pet benefits your gut microbiome just by loving you.
In a world full of prescriptions, the secret to a healthy gut might just be right under your nose (or paws)! Your furry friend has a unique way of bringing joy, laughter, and microbial diversity into your life, resulting in a happier and healthier gut microbiome. So, go ahead and cherish those slobbery kisses, snuggles, and playtime sessions—they’re doing wonders for your well-being!