The Impact of Gut Health on Pets

The Impact of Gut Health on Pets

Formulating pet food for better gut and overall health

You are what you eat, the saying goes, and it is as true for pets as it is for humans. Scientific research increasingly reveals the ways in which food nourishes the gut, and how that in turn effects not only gut health, but also immunity and overall well-being.


We recently joined two pet food experts from The F.L. Emmert Company to talk about gut health and the role nutrition plays. Dr. Tom Asquith, Director of Research & Development, is a biochemist with expertise in yeast chemistry and palatability. Dr. Mike Cecava, Vice President of Research & Development, has spent a career developing innovative ingredient solutions for pet and animal food. Together, they shed light on the complexities of gut health.

How much does gut health impact cat and dog health?

Dr. Cecava: Gut health forms the basis for overall pet health in so many ways. We all know what a healthy pet looks like. The pet is active, the appearance is bright-eyed, the animal has a healthy coat, its appetite is good and, of course, stools are regular and well formed. Gut health helps create those attributes we want to see in a healthy pet. So it’s absolutely essential we understand gut nutrition, gut physiology, and how the immune system interacts with the gut.


Dr. Asquith: Part of the reason gut health is so central is that gut cells divide very rapidly and are under a lot of stress. They’re also far downstream from the liver, so they need to grab their nutrients directly out of the intestine. Proper nutrition helps keep those cells actively dividing and healthy, while leaving enough for the rest of the body.


Dr. Cecava: Gut health is also very important to immunity. About 70 percent of an animal’s immune system is related to the gastrointestinal tract. So an animal’s immunity is highly impacted by the food it eats. The right diet helps maintain a healthy gut that delivers nutrients to the pet. Much of the gut’s immune effect is due to the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome sends messages to the animal’s immune system. When the immune system is working well, what the pet owner sees is a healthy animal.

How does brewers yeast improve a pet’s gut immune system?

Dr. Cecava: Brewers yeast contains essential nutrients that are helpful for keeping the gut barrier strong and protective against pathogens. What we have in Emmert’s brewers yeast products is a digestible, very well-balanced source of proteins and amino acids that are necessary for gut integrity. Brewers yeast is also cost effective, and its balanced amino acid profile enables petfood manufacturer’s to substitute more expensive proteins, such as egg and pea, and deliver superior nutrition to support pet health.


We also have nutrients that support the immune system by more complex mechanisms. These include beta glucans and mannan oligosaccharides, or MOS. The beta glucans work in concert with the immune system, helping to keep the immune system on guard but not overly active. You want it standing ready in case there’s some sort of challenge, but you don’t want it to be always on and creating issues for the animal. Beta glucans help accomplish that.


The mannan oligosaccharides bind pathogens, and they can also act as a source of nutrients for the good bugs that exist in the microbiome. You want to feed the good guys and bind up the bad guys to support the healthy gut microbiome. We see that brewers yeast helps dogs maintain consistent stool quality. That’s strong evidence for a healthy microbiome. To capture these benefits, we are seeing petfood manufactures expanding the use of Emmert’s yeast products to promote a brand’s digestive benefits and package claims.

How is brewers yeast different from other nutrient sources used in pet food?

Dr. Cecava: Palatability is key to the effectiveness of brewers yeast as a nutrient source. We can talk a lot about scientifically proving something works, but if it doesn’t actually get consumed in the form that’s still useful, it doesn’t really offer benefits. Our Emmert yeast products bundle the benefits of the brewing process delivering flavor, high quality protein and functional metabolites.


Dr. Asquith: Exactly. Desirable taste is key to the effectiveness of any health additive. Emmert sources ingredients based on strict flavor and aroma characteristics, and that carries through to the finished product. We recently ran a dog trial with palatability. It was very easy to tell which dogs had the Emmert product sprinkled on their dog food and which did not. The dogs fed Emmert products devoured the bowl of food. So we know that petfood manufacturers are using Emmert products to deliver great flavor and taste. Companion animals will run to eat the product, and consumers will say the product feeds well.


Petfood Industry, March 2021