Pet Improvement: The inner universe

Randall Thomason, biochemist, is pictured with his ranch dog, Puddy. (Courtesy photo)

Ranch dog is an Old West term for herding dogs that work the cattle and other livestock and are a cowboy’s constant companion. The dogs are tough and intelligent and able to work long hours. But this term also has a different meaning in New Age pets. It’s used to describe dogs that simply never get sick. They are tough, intelligent, hardy, sound and simply never sick. They can sleep on the porch with one-eye open and get up and go all day. They have the constitution of a tank.

I wanted to explore how this could be, so I asked my partner, Randall Thomason, what he thought. Randall is a nutritional biochemist and has been fascinated with the immune system since college. We had a ranch dog and got to witness the incredible hardiness. This dog was not sick a day in his life until he turned 13. He could eat anything. Loved to store and snack on dead things. Couldn’t get him too hopped up on high-octane food. He would get real rowdy. He was just a survivor, clear and simple.

Randall believes genetics first. This dog was a mix, most likely Queensland Heeler and Border Collie. Two great breeds themselves. The mix helps the gene pool by not diluting it as is often the case with purebreds. The mix also helps support a hardier portion of the genetically inherited microbiome. The microbiome is the term used to describe the genetic profile of microbes that are unique to each host.

Microbes or microbiota are the living organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts, protozoa and other single celled creatures that flourish symbiotically inside of us. The microbiome is the term for the genetic material of these organisms. It’s estimated that the microbiota number is 10 times the number of cells in the body at a count of roughly 10 to 100 trillion organisms. Yet they only weigh a small percentage of body weight — two to three percent.

Scientists have estimated there could be thousands of different species living within us. Some are still being discovered and many cannot be cultured outside the body. A large portion live within the gut, providing intricate work in life processes such as nutrient absorption, toxin breakdown and immune defense. This inner universe consists of good and bad organisms that exist peacefully in good health.

The National Institutes of Health launched The Common Fund’s Human Microbiome Project (HMP) and by 2017 researchers had published over 650 papers. What’s more is that we are all still learning more about our flora each day. Although the canine microbiome is being studied it has not been studied at the level of humans, but the same principles apply.

What has been found though is that diet, toxins and other factors can influence the canine microflora and lead to conditions of dysbiosis, which is the unhealthy imbalance that leads to ill health.

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Jane Laulis is an avid pet lover. She hosts a pet talk radio show and is involved with pets from research to retail, nutrition to pet food manufacturing. She lives on the coast with her scientist husband, ocean faring dogs, indoor cats, exotic snakes and a charm of hummingbirds. She may be reached at [email protected]


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