Pet ownership comes with responsibilities. From good food to warm baths and regular exercise, our cats and dogs depend on our support to stay happy and healthy. The symbiosis does not stop there. Our pets support our health, too. It will come as no surprise that they positively affect us mentally and emotionally. Many will attest that their furry friends help reduce stress levels and feelings of loneliness. What may not be as obvious is that they also support good gut health.

Good gut health starts with a diverse microbiome. Some things may come to mind when thinking of the microbiome: probiotics, fermented foods, or our beloved RESTORE. These can contribute to diversity in the gut, and so can your mutt. A 2013 study in which mice were exposed to house dust from a residence that possessed an indoor/outdoor dog discovered that “dog ownership is associated with a distinct milieu of house dust microbial exposures.”[1]  Found in this “milieu” are bacteria of the genus Lactobacillus. One species, Lactobacillus johnsonii, is known to play a role in airway protection. Exposure to dogs early in life leads to a restructuring of the gut’s microbiome so that it includes these beneficial bacteria. This is a boon to the immune system as it receives boosts in defense against allergens and viral infection.

Doggie dust is not the only way pets contribute to a diverse microbiome. They are the ones at the other end of the leash, leading us outdoors. The parks, beaches, and trails that are the venue for games of fetch and catch are teeming with different species of bacteria that may be new to your gut. Humans now spend almost 92% of their time indoors, so it is more important than ever to find reasons to get into natural environments where we can find the microbes critical to us mammals. Let your pup be your purpose, and get out there.

Take a big breath next time you see your loyal loved one, and know that they’ve got your back like you have theirs.

[1] Fujimura, Kei E. et al. “House Dust Exposure Mediates Gut Microbiome Lactobacillus Enrichment and Airway Immune Defense against Allergens and Virus Infection.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111.2 (2014): 805–810. PMC. Web. 8 Nov. 2017.

By Jacob Perkins, Team RESTORE