Dog Digestion and Gut Health: An Interview with Dr. Greg Sunvold PhD | Pupford
November 14th, 2023
Filed under Podcasts
For many pup parents, the topic of their dog's gut health is well... bad news. So many pup parents struggle with dogs who constantly have gut issues leading to diarrhea, gas, and other gut-related issues.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. in Nutritional Sciences specializes in the microbiome. The microbiome refers generally to the inner and outer workings of our dog's bodies and surroundings.
Much of that is influenced by our dog's guts!
AUDIO PODCAST OF INTERVIEW ABOUT DOG GUT HEALTH
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RECAP OF DOG GUT HEALTH
Don't have time to read, watch, or listen to the entire interview? Here are some key points!
- A lot of our health and wellbeing for our dogs start with the gut.
- We're finding from research, many, many different pieces of research, both in the human literature, as well as some in the dog research, that other systems of the body, for example, joint mobility, can be affected by what's going on in the gut.
- Certainly, there's other evidence to suggest that the mood even of the pet can change if the inside of the intestine is doing well, is appropriate, and how it's balanced.
- Use your dog's daily poops to monitor their health. Come back to the basics, to know your own animal, and know how he or she is changing. And that's really good, an early warning sign, something persists, see your veterinarian, of course, and make him or her aware of what you're seeing with your pet as well.
- (Referencing Super Pup) We have prebiotics in this product. Again, helping those probiotics come to life if you will, inside the gut of the animal, and sustain them, and establish them, and make them active and so on. We've got digestive enzymes in this product, which really is kind of at the beginning of all this. If I want to create a certain environment in the intestine, then I want to decrease the risk of other unwanted dietary nutrients, undigested nutrients getting down to the gut and basically bungling things up, right? So digestive enzymes help get those other entities, the proteins, the carbohydrates, the fats, better digested, so the animal has better , basically making the existing diet they're consuming, whatever it might be, more effective, more valued to the animal, more valuable to the animal by providing that nutrition to the animal, unlocking that nutrition for the animal.
SUPER PUP – Formulated by Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D.
Dr. Greg Sunvold has used his decades of experience to formulate Super Pup!
Super Pup is a proprietary daily supplement that places an extra emphasis on your dog's gut health.
ADVANCED DOG NUTRITION: MICROBIOME COURSE w/ Dr. Greg Sunvold Ph.D.
Learn more about your dog's gut health with our advanced nutrition course in Pupford Academy. Greg covers topics like fiber for dogs, , and choosing. the right gut-friendly foods and supplements for your dog.
Devin Stagg (00:06):
Hello, pup parents, and welcome to today's episode of The Perfect Pup podcast. My name is Devin, I am very excited for today's episode. We have Greg Sunvold with us, and he is a PhD in nutritional science, and we are going to be talking today about gut health in dogs and the microbiome, and it's going to be a very, very interesting episode. So thank you so much for coming on Greg, we're very excited to have you.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (00:35):
Sure thing, happy to be with you.
Devin Stagg (00:37):
Awesome. So I'll give just a little brief intro of Greg, and I'm sure he'll fill in any blanks that I missed, but Greg grew up in a cattle/ranch farm in Western Minnesota, studied animal science and then nutrition during his university years, after which he received a PhD in nutritional science, and has been studying pet foods, animal nutrition, everything that goes along with that for over 20 years. And the past couple of years, past few years, correct me on that, Greg, but he's kind of focused in on life science research and specifically the interest in the microbiome, which I'll have him explain a little more, but basically everything that makes up the inside and outside of our dog's bodies, their gut, the bacteria, fungi, viruses, those types of things. So again, happy to have you on, Greg. Tell me what I missed on that intro, and did I explain microbiome in a somewhat correct way?
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (01:35):
Oh yeah. Yeah, you're hitting it fine. Yeah, so the microbiome is pretty interesting, it's not only inside the animal, in our intestines, whether it's us, or dogs, or cats, or whatever, but it's also on the outside of us, and it's in what we live in, it's all around, so it's basically that microenvironment if you will, the micro ecological environment that surrounds us, it's on us, it's in us. So yeah, happy to talk more about that with you and your listeners.
Devin Stagg (02:10):
I love it, I'm very excited. So going off of that, what kind of made you decide to kind of focus in a little bit more on the microbiome and how it relates to dogs? How did that kind of come to be for your career path I guess?
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (02:27):
Sure. Well, my PhD, micro nutrition, it goes back to the formable fiber used in dogs and cats, so I've studied, I'm a bit unique in the world, and my doctorate is actually with research with dogs and cats, many people that are in my profession doing pet research, maybe have some swine nutrition background, might have a human nutrition background, may have a cattle background, but mine is actually with pets, so it goes all the way back then. As a number of my colleagues and I like to say, we were doing microbiome research before it was called the microbiomes, but I'm glad we have that term because it really encapsulates and encompasses really what we're talking about more holistically speaking, and that is that it's the bacteria, it's the fungi, it's the viruses, and all these other micro-living or semi-living entities that influence our health and our wellbeing.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (03:38):
So in the year 2017, I was kind of taking a look around the lay of the land in the field of nutrition, because again, I'm a nutritionist by training, and so I've studied a lot of things, and typically speaking nutrition is chemistry, it's chemicals, it's things we ingest that are nutrients, we like to call them, but most of these things are basically chemicals. And I was looking around the field of nutrition and thinking, "Wow, the field of microbiome is really coming into its own." We've had some significant government funding to study the microbiome inside of us as human beings, and we're seeing trickle over effects into the pet areas research, some very nice elegant research that's been done in the pet. And I said to myself, "You know before I get too old and too senile, I want to work much more diligently in the field of the microbiome, because I think it's perhaps the biggest thing that has fit, has hit, excuse me, the field of nutrition, is the microbiome."
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (04:55):
So if I look in my own research field of what can I do, what can I work on that's really going to be the most effective to improve health and wellbeing of our pets or dogs? Well, it's the microbiome. And I would be so bold as to say that in the field of nutrition for humans, it's again, going to be the biggest thing that has and will continue to hit the field of human nutrition, so it goes hand in hand, but again, my expertise is in the field of pets as I talked about, and so I want to continue helping people with these... Look, I'm a pet parent too, right? I mean, we have a lovely house dog, [Millie 00:05:41], and she's just a joy to have, so I get it, I relate too.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (05:49):
I take off my white coat at the end of the day, and I go about being just a dad, a husband, just an everyday person, and Millie is there, so I want to do what's best for her, I want to go beyond her, because I know my technical training is unique, and experiences and all of that. I want to push it out into the broader population of seeing how can we improve the health and wellbeing of these beloved creatures, right?
Devin Stagg (06:20):
I love that. That's super powerful. And I think, like you said, you kind of hit it there, is that most of us as pet parents, we just want what's best for our dogs. We love them, they bring a lot of joy to our lives, and so we want to do as much as we can to improve their life and their wellbeing, so I really love that, and it's got to be super meaningful to be doing that on a day-to-day basis. So my question, kind of based off of that, so you're talking about how researching the microbiome is going to help improve your dog's life, so as you've been doing your research, what parts of our dog's life is affected by the microbiome? I know you said it's pretty holistic, but if I'm listening to this and I'm thinking, "Okay, if I improve my dog's microbiome, gut health, what specifically is that going to do for my dog, for their health?"
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (07:14):
Yep. Yep. Got it. Good question. And yeah, I mean, again, based on my research background of so much focus on the gut, it really is true. A lot of our health and wellbeing, like our dog as well, I mean, starts with the gut. Okay? And furthermore, what can we really affect health and wellbeing wise? Well, it's our gut, gut health, and how do we do that? Well, there are many things and many of your listeners have heard of these things before. Certainly fiber is a very basic thing that we ingest that our pets should be ingesting, not all the time that happens with certain diets, but should be ingesting. And then there are things like prebiotics and probiotics, which there's a lot of chatter about. I think perhaps your listeners have heard of probiotics. These are basically live bacteria, or they should be anyway, there's some controversy in how things are marketed, but they should be live bacteria that are ingested.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (08:20):
And they are kind of analogous to seeds, if you're thinking of your lawn, it's like in the spring, early spring or late fall, you might seed in grass seeds to help a bare spot of the lawn, but I say that because prebiotics, those would be probiotics, live bacteria, the prebiotics are the feeds, or the fertilizers if you will, that you put on the lawn, the things that are preferred by those seeds, in the case of grass, grass growing, it grows better. In the case of probiotics, make those probiotics grow better, so those are the prebiotics. And so when talk about affecting gut health, if the gut isn't working well, if it's kind of disturbed or disrupted, well then the whole physical being, domain, and we all can relate to this, right? I mean our own experience, if your tummy is upset, you're upset, you're not feeling well, and the same with your dogs.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (09:22):
But it starts there, is what I said, it starts in the gut, because we're finding from research, many, many different pieces of research, both in the human literature, as well as some in the dog research, that other systems of the body, for example joint mobility, can be affected by what's going on in the gut. Our joints are inflamed. , it gets slow, or it stumbles when it gets up. Well, there's pain there, there's inflammation. And the gut houses the largest in the body, it's called the gut associated lymphoid tissue.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (10:12):
And if we have what's right within the inside of the gut, then the responds positively, and the external parts of the body, we call it the systemic parts of the body, respond positively. And in this case, I gave you an example the gut, but certainly there's other evidence to suggest that the mood even of the pet, of the human, can change if the inside of the intestine is doing well, is appropriate, and how it's balanced if you will. So that's why I say it starts with the gut, but it can affect many different systems around the body, whether it's the mood, the inflammation that goes into the joints, what have you, so hopefully that answers a bit of your question.
Devin Stagg (11:01):
Yeah, no, that's super fascinating. And I love the kind of the point you were making there at the end of our dogs moods, and just probably even how they're mentally reacting to things. And here at Pupford, we have a large emphasis on training and helping overcome problem behaviors, and I think there's a concept in dog training where basically you start with the least intrusive methods to fix a problem behavior, and oftentimes that first thing that you're looking at is, is your dog healthy? Are they feeling okay, because if they're in pain, just like you were saying with us humans, if our gut is hurting, we're not feeling good, we want to just lay down, we don't want people to bother us, and I think it's the same for our dog.
Devin Stagg (11:43):
So that's super fascinating, how much their gut and our guts can affect our daily lives. So off of that, how can an everyday pup parent, and this might be, I'm sure there's not one answer for this, but me as a pet parent, if I'm looking at my dog, how can I know if their gut health is okay? I mean, do I need to go get tests done for them? Is it just looking at their stool? How do you know if your dog's gut health is in a good place?
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (12:16):
Yeah, that's a good question. And certainly as a researcher I can name you many different techniques and whatnot that are used to study gut to health, but first thing I say to people is get in touch with your animal. And many pet parents are, I don't want to dismiss that, I mean, many are, but even something like, "Ooh, he's got to do his business or whatever." Well, actually if you can train yourself into thinking a little bit more about, "Okay, when did he do that and is there any changes in that?" And you take it a step further, most of us have to pick up stool anyway, so you're going to be looking at it. And look at it, is it changing? Is the color different? Is the texture of it different?
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (13:07):
Look, I mean many of us are parents of human infants and we'll change our child's diaper, we can look at the same thing with our pet, right? We can take the effort to understand and just take mental note of this, and if there are changes that are going on, well then can I correlate that back to something that's changed with him or her's diet, or habits, or whatever. And a lot of times a soft stool can be just simply the fact that this animal voided a bit prematurely, right? It just happened to be, in our case with Millie, she's stimulated by the and she voids just almost on demand with that. And you know your dog, you know what stimulates him or her, so take that into account.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (14:03):
Beyond that, you can get into different techniques, and I'm happy to say there are different companies out there that are now trying to promote what I would call a snapshot of the gut microflora, microbiota that are in the gut. I'm a bit cautious about promoting that stuff too much, because we are very, very early days in terms of that science, so you'll probably come across that if you research for it, but like a lot of things in science, it takes a tremendous amount of data to really get a good handle on what you can do with that data. So it's cool, you can take a genomic test and figure out what your ancestry is or whatever, at then end of the day, it doesn't really change anything about you. And same is true, you can take a snapshot of your gut and see all these different organisms that live in there, you can do it with your dog, but at the end of the day, there's only so much you're going to do with that perhaps.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (15:16):
So I would just be... For the citizen scientists, go for it, go look at it, figure out where you came from, figure out, what's happening with your microflora in your guy, or your dog's microflora, in your gut, in his gut, but I don't know what you're going to do with a lot of that data now, you'll certainly see some other opinions, especially when they're marketing things for that. So there are things you can do, but again, I'd say, come back to the basics, to know your own animal, and know how he or she is changing. And that's really good, an early warning sign, something persists, see your veterinarian, of course, and make him or her aware of what you're seeing with your pet as well. So take advantage of this free data, right? Free information, so be wise and take advantage of that information.
Devin Stagg (16:16):
Free information that you usually can get a couple of times a day, so might as well be, like you said, might as well be taken advantage of it. One question that we did have come in, and I pose the question in a private Facebook community, and one question that I did have come in and I've personally wondered this myself, because most times when you switch dog foods, or you're adding on a supplement, or whatever it might be, they talk about transitioning slowly over time. Can you help me understand a little bit more the importance of that? From a microbiome perspective, from a gut perspective, why do we need to slowly transition our dogs to new food, treats, supplements, et cetera?
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (16:58):
Sure. Well, if you think about it, like I've been starting to talk about previously, there are things that we have in our diets, or dogs have in their diets, that change the microflora, and very well substantiated research, and certain fibers do this, certain prebiotics and so forth. And what happens there, more specifically is, not only do the bacteria levels or composition change, but also things like gut mucins change. What is that? Well, kind of we can probably best relate to it through our nasal cavity, and certainly there are different triggers that make us have more mucus or whatever, same is true in our gut, in our dog's gut. So when you introduce a new food, new dietary substance, not only will that gut microflora change, but also the mucins lining the gut will change. And that could be due to changes in the microflora, it could be due to, frankly, an allergic response.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (18:14):
And it doesn't have to be a strong, bad, powerful, negative response, but just a change, the lining of the intestine isn't used to seeing those different proteins, whatever it is that's coming in with the new dietary nutrients, dietary things that are being adjusted. And so as that shift occurs and the mucin production occurs, the shifts in the microflora change, and they themselves can disrupt the gut. And there's something called osmotic diarrhea that occurs, and that is basically too much water coming into the colon and resulting in loose or diarrhea like stools. That's the extreme.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (19:00):
And so if you have that change too quickly, you have the microflora changing too quickly for the animal to be accustomed to and for the lining of the intestine to be accustomed too, and that's the risk your animal faces with too quick of a dietary disruption. So that's really the long and short of it when it comes to why you want to take a diet transition slowly, it's because of just that, you don't want to have that disruption too quickly. It isn't to say that the new thing that's being consumed is bad, it's just saying that the new thing is different and now that animals inside has to get used to that new thing.
Devin Stagg (19:45):
That makes a lot of sense, that's a really clear explanation. One kind of maybe last question that I have to wrap things up a little bit, and we're pretty upfront with our listeners, they know that this podcast is sponsored by Pupford and we sell products of course, and I don't want to be too promotional, but we have been working with you on the new Super Pup supplement that we're coming out with. Can you give us just a brief overview of why you chose some of this specific ingredients for gut health in particular. And we'll probably try to put some links, and I'll talk to you afterwards about specific research that is available, that people can look at around these specific ingredients, but what were some of the ingredients you included for gut health in particular and why you chose that?
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (20:35):
Sure. Well, let me back up, when I had my vision or my mission clarification in 2017, about studying the microbiome, you and your listeners have to realize that at the core of me is an industrial scientist, not an academic scientist, but an industrial scientist. Put simply, when I left my academic program, which I loved and I thought it was excellent training, I really respect all those folks. I was at a turning point in my career, it's like do I want to, or a fork in the road if you will, do I want to lean more towards the academic side or do I want to move into an industry sort of setting? And I chose that for my career, I wanted to focus on filling store shelves, not bookshelves. And it isn't to say that academic research is bad, I mean, it's foundational to a lot of things that occur in our society and our scientific understanding that then leads to other things in society.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (21:45):
But at the core of me is someone that wants to make a difference in the world by impacting, bringing the science forward, bringing it, making it real, making it applicable. So when I had that epiphany in 2017, I basically said, "Okay, what can I do here?" Well, I've had this vision for a while that I would create healthy nutritional treats, functional treats if you will. And then when I said, "I'm going to focus on microbiome." Well, then it became much more obvious, "Okay, these functional treats are not just going to be any old kind of treats, they're going to be things that really bring to life the microbiome science." So I'm a bit altruistic there. And certainly we're going too, and you guys are going to help me make sure this happens, but we're going to do it in a way that's appealing to consumers of whatever.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (22:36):
But nevertheless, it's going to be something that is rooted in science, that it's going to make a difference in the life of an animal. It's just not a marketing slogan to me, that doesn't float the boat, it's not about the cash, it's not about getting rich. Look, there's a lot of the things I could have done in my life that I'd be much more wealthy than I am now, so it's not going to be in this thing, but it is going to be something that as a fellow pet parent, I'm going to be very at ease of saying, "Look, this will be something that your pet probably won't get any other place." In fact, I know the research enough, I know enough about the science of these products. This is different, this stuff is different. So to answer your question very specifically, we have things like selected probiotics, not just any old probiotics, but they're probiotics that we think are going to be important for the conditions we're dealing with in this product.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (23:35):
We have prebiotics in this product. Again, helping those probiotics come to life if you will, inside the gut of the animal, and sustain them, and establish them, and make them active and so on. We've got digestive enzymes in this product, which really is kind of at the beginning of all this. If I want to create a certain environment in the intestine, then I want to decrease the risk of other unwanted dietary nutrients, undigested nutrients getting down to the gut and basically bungling things up, right? So digestive enzymes help get those other entities, the proteins, the carbohydrates, the fats, better digested, so the animal has better nutrient absorption, basically making the existing diet they're consuming, whatever it might be, more effective, more valued to the animal, more valuable to the animal by providing that nutrition to the animal, unlocking that nutrition for the animal. And at the same time, not messing up the microbiome and the probiotics that are in that product to help it be most effective.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (24:45):
So those are the basic components. Now, there's a ton of other things, which I'm sure we'll talk about later on, on other things, I'll be happy to talk at length. Probably for your listeners, maybe some of it will be a bit boring, it's bordering on nerdy, but look, it's about the science, it's the technical nature of this thing. It's not about just a slick marketing slogan and trying to do something that's right for our pets. Because again, the mission is how can we really provide a functional benefit for these pets, these beloved creatures, that I don't have to explain to any single pet parents, they all know what I'm talking about, because they have theirs and they have their stories, and God bless them, I want them to be happy and fulfilled with their pets.
Devin Stagg (25:34):
I love that, I really do. And, man, that kind of hit home for me. I just love what you stand for and I love the mission behind what you're doing, and honestly, the moment that we kind of came in contact with you and started learning more about what you were trying to accomplish, it just made us to excited at Pupford, because we feel the same way. We love the relationship that people have with their dogs, and doing whatever we can to strengthen that is super fulfilling, and I know you can relate to that. And we're very excited for this Super Pup supplement. And like you said, we're going to have more conversations that are going to probably go into other parts, specifically more about joint health and those types of things. And for all you listeners, be prepared for those, because we'll be coming out with a lot more information, like Greg was saying, we want people to understand how this is going to help your dog and why this is going to make their life better.
Devin Stagg (26:34):
It's not just some product we wanted to sell. We want your dogs to have better health and to in turn live longer, have happier life, because when we can see that our pets are in distress, it's tough. It's tough for us as pet parents. And so we're trying to do as much as we can to help make that happen. So we're super excited to be working with Greg and coming out with Super Pup to help people improve their dog's gut health. I just want to say again, another personal thank you to Greg for coming on this episode. I learned a lot, I mean, I was zoned in, intent, loving every second of this. I hope our listeners feel the same. And I'll be putting some information in the show notes for this episode, a link to Greg's website about the microbiome to read more of his articles and learn more about what he's doing. So I just want to say, thank you, Greg, for coming on this episode. I have learned so much, so thank you so much for coming on.
Dr. Greg Sunvold P.h.D. (27:32):
Thank you. Thanks for the invite. Yeah, and to all of you listeners, just enjoy your pet. We don't know what tomorrow brings, and just like with your family members, enjoy your pet, they're wonderful creatures.
Devin Stagg (27:46):
Awesome. Thank you, Greg. And again, for any listeners, please leave a review. If you like this episode, let us know what your thoughts were, you can always contact us at Pupford, send us a DM, whatever it might be, leave us a review and we will catch you guys on the next episode. Thank you again.