At one time or another, have you ever said to yourself, “I should have gone with my gut…”? When it comes to probiotics for dogs, you are doing precisely that- going with the gut.
Because good bacteria (probiotics) naturally occur in our small and large intestines. When functioning correctly and maintaining a healthy microbial balance, they help boost immune response, aid in digestion and produce potent vitamins.
Probiotic dog supplements have been increasing in popularity too. They come in capsules, chews, dog foods, and yogurt or kefir (with live cultures), prescribed to maintain an appropriate intestinal balance (this will happen naturally in a healthy dog).
However, with malnutrition, illness, or times of severe stress, things in this complex ecosystem known as the Gut Microbiome can go off-balance.
The word probiotic and how it is used today, more or less translates into “diet for life,” as it originates from the Latin word “for” (pro) and the Greek “life” (bio).
Supplements of valuable microbes will get the digestive microflora (community of bacteria that includes viruses, fungi, and protozoa) back into action and doing their vital job.
Probiotics also occur in fermented foods, and certain yeast can be considered probiotic.
Imagine a city with trillions of microorganisms (or microbiota), functioning in balanced harmony like an organ to its host. These microorganisms are also in the lungs, urinary tract, skin exterior, mouth, and nasal cavity.
There are billions of these tiny bacteria (and certain yeast) living in the gastrointestinal system of humans and animals. When a proper balance is maintained, they help to fight off disease and promote overall good health:
- Building vitamins and nutrients (plus vitamin K and B)
- Kicking the butt of possible pathogens
- Helping to strengthen the immune system
- Aid in the treatment of intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome
- Influence mood by producing the stabilizing hormone serotonin
- Create enzymes, breakdown foods
- Lower stomach acid
- Move out the harmful bacteria and produce fatty acids that hobble its growth
Prebiotics are a kind of fiber that nurtures and boosts the creation of good bacteria that resides in the colon, i.e., prebiotics is probiotic food (they ferment them rather than eat); two (pro and pre) go together like the moon and the tides.
You will find prebiotics in most high-fiber dog-friendly foods; a few healthy choices that are common and okay to take with prebiotic supplements:
- Steamed asparagus
- Apple wedges (not too much)
- Flaxseed (meal or the seeds themselves mixed in with some food
- Canned pumpkin (mixing in with food can relieve some stomach issues)
Immune System Support
When the microorganisms get the fermentation party popping or pooping, if you will, they pump out what are called “short-chain fatty acids.”
Now, whether these little probiotic poops of fatty acid chains take a journey through your dog’s body or chill in their colon is all the same. They are there to do good and play a critical role in promoting better health and immunity.
- Help build that important mucus layer in the stomach
- Help with those impossible-to-diagnose food allergens
- Aid in lowering glucose levels; obesity prevention
- Strengthening the all-important cells lining the stomach
- Serve in the absorption of nutrients such as iron, calcium, and magnesium.
- Fight chronic inflammation by building T-cells
For a canine, 80 percent of their immune system resides in the ol gut!
Moreover, keeping a well-balanced population of bacteria is vital to your loved one’s continued health.
When to Use Probiotics?
So much of the human and dog immune responses link to the stomach; it is essentially the main branch office. The idea behind the probiotic supplements or diet is to help keep those necessary evils at bay inside your gut, balanced with the good bacteria, and reach optimal health.
Although bacterial changes happen all the time, some causes might be already known or expected, such as a dog taking antibiotics or drugs, exposed to toxins, elderly, or on a high starch/fat diet.
This main gut office is your dog’s immune system support center. When the gut balance is out of whack, some symptoms/signs will begin to show:
- Gut problems with regularity, diarrhea, or loose stool.
- Foul breath and rotten smelling poop
- Constant ear problems, infections
- Food allergies, sensitivity to certain foods, environmental allergies
- Regular vomiting and picky about eating
- Skin allergies, dry skin, issues with heavy shedding, nonstop licking
- Parasites in the intestine (tapeworms, ringworms, roundworms, hookworms)
Best Probiotics for Your Dog?
The goal is to achieve a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in your dog’s gut. An unbalanced gut will see the negative symptoms and more mentioned above.
A stomach full of healthy microorganisms promotes everything from enhanced energy to healthier skin. Canine probiotics come in various forms for overall health, allergies, joint pains, etc.
Lactic Acid Probiotics
Most of the probiotic supplements on the market today are lactic acid bacteria, often made from fermented milk (sounds like an alien space cocktail). The supplement label will have strain and the species name: Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species (B. Or L., e.g., B. Longum or L. acidophilus.
L. species stops the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine, while B. reside in the colon and are friendly with immune cells and help push out harmful bacteria.
For instance, Lactobacillus casei takes its home in the mucus membrane. It’s linked to moods and emotions via the gut-brain connection.
Or Bifidobacterium animals, a probiotic that is known for aiding in regular diarrhea in dogs.
Spore Forming Bacteria
Unlike Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the Bacilli strains of probiotics are spore-forming. The bacteria can form a rigid layer that guards against heat, stomach acids, and almost all antibiotics (many antibiotics come from soil-based probiotics for this reason).
Bacilli are soil-based probiotics (found in soil and water). The most common strains used include bacteria, like Bacillus coagulans (B. coagulans), which is a lactic acid-making bacteria that crowd out harmful bacteria.
It is known to work as an anti-inflammatory and also helps with related digestive diseases. It is even said to have helped to improve rheumatoid arthritis.
Natural Dog Probiotics
Fermentation of sugars and fibers is what bacteria do, thus natural probiotics occur in healthy foods:
- You can give your dog things that are good for their diet, like Chaga, kimchi, and kefir, which all have large amounts of prebiotics (practice caution with dogs who have a history of yeast infections or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
- Probiotic yogurt is fermented milk and bacteria. Dairy products themselves can cause immune issues and inflammation in dogs. Plus, yogurts can be high in sugar.
- As mentioned above, prebiotic foods that are high in fiber and okay for your dog are garlic, bananas, mushrooms, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, and more.
How Much Should I Give My Dog?
It all depends on the probiotic you go with for your dog.
The abovementioned lactic acid bacteria work best with multiple strains, according to most studies. Yet because it dissipates quickly in the stomach, a product rich in CFU or colony-forming units are best.
Ten billion CFU minimum for a healthy animal has a better chance of surviving in your dog’s belly, while a dog with digestive issues might fair better from 25-50 billion CFU for a medium to large dog.
Note that non-dairy-based probiotics like Saccharomyces boulardii can be given at a half-billion to five billion CFU, as it is much more resilient.
Spore forming also survives the gut acidity longer, so about 1 billion CFU will suffice.
Are Probiotics Safe?
As with any new potentially life-altering thing you introduce to your four-legged friend, it is always wise to consult a professional first.
Based on proper research, yes, most probiotics are safe supplements that boast numerous safety studies.
Other than possible upset stomach, gas, or maybe bloating, there seems to be more concern with probiotics not working on specific ailments and conditions over safety issues.
Suppose your dog is, or you’re planning to start them on probiotics as a preventative health goal for a healthy dog. In that case, you can give it most days of the week (soil-based is okay every day as they are less likely to induce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
For diarrhea, a few days of lactic acid probiotic will help, but keeping it going for a few weeks might help to resolve what is causing it.
For more chronic diarrhea or digestive disorders, a robust multi-strain probiotic with stomach-soothing herbs is excellent for a long-term regimen or until the problem subsides.
The digestive system and the environment that keeps it balanced are crucial to a healthy life. These live microorganisms can provide health benefits by restoring and boosting the gut microbiome, the bacteria, fungi, and archaea that reside in the digestive tracts of even insects – and the gut is the central hub for them. Thus, when fed well and treated right, these live bacteria can have an almost magical effect on the immune system, as nitrous oxide has on an engine.
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