Probiotics For Dogs

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are beneficial to your dog’s health, especially his digestive tract.  We most often think of bacteria as harmful, but probiotics are “good” or “healthy bacteria”.  In fact, dog cells only make up about 10% of the bodies total cells. The rest are bacteria and some yeasts.

Many foods like yogurt, cheese and keifer contain probiotics, but only in small amounts.  Probiotics also come in pill form to be given as a digestive supplement.

How Do They Work?

The exact mechanism of how probiotics work is not fully understood at this point, although new discoveries of the benefits of their use are continually being found.  But how exactly is ingesting a bacteria as a health supplement healthy for your dog?  Although it might seem obvious, your dog’s GI tract has a limited amount of resources.  Because of this, there is only a limited amount of bacteria, both good and bad that can reside in your pooch’s gut.  By giving your dog a probiotic supplement, it gives his beneficial bacteria an edge over pathogenic strains.

When your dog is given antibiotics, it kills all the bacteria in his digestive tract.  This can cause an overabundance of fungus (yeast) and pathogenic bacteria.  This is the reason a dog gets diarrhea from prolonged use of antibiotics.  In instances like this, supplementing probiotics can help stop the diarrhea and restore normal GI function by adding beneficial bacteria, thus bringing balance.

Probiotics help fight pathogens by producing short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which inhibit the growth and activity of harmful bacteria like  E. coli, Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens.

As stated earlier, your dog’s body is full of bacteria, both good and bad.  There is a delicate balance that must be maintained between good and bad, or the body will be overrun with pathogenic bacteria that will ultimately cause disease and harm.  Having your dog take a probiotic supplement helps to maintain a good level of “healthy” bacteria, thus keeping the “bad” bacteria in check.

Health Benefits of Probiotic Supplementation

All dogs can benefit from probiotic supplementation.  Unlike, “drugs” the only side effect of probiotic overdose is loose stool.  Probiotics taken in the correct dosage aid in digestion and help modulate the immune system.

Studies done in humans have shown the effectiveness of certain strains in treating diarrhea, IBS and intestinal inflammation.  Probiotics are also helpful in preventing urinary tract infections and allergic reactions by decreasing intestinal permeability controlling inflammation.

A friend of mine who breeds Golden Retrievers once had a stud dog with chronic “hot spots”.  The stud was a top of the line dog who had passed the necessary health screenings, held titles in conformation and produced healthy puppies.  His only issue was the persistent “hot spots”.  After doing some research my friend decided to supplement the dog’s diet with yogurt.  In a few weeks the hot spots had completely cleared up and never came back.  This is just one of many examples of the benefits of probiotic supplementation.

When using yogurt as a source probiotic one must always keep in mind that not all yogurts are created equal.  Sometimes a yogurt is marked as having a certain amount of bacteria, but that is not always the reality.  In some cases this “number” is deceiving.  The yogurt manufacturer is telling you how many live cultures existed in the yogurt BEFORE processing.  In most cases the act of processing kills most of the live culture, leaving the yogurt at best weak in probiotic content.

This brings us to an important point.

What to Look for in a Probiotic

How do I know what probiotic supplement to buy for my dog?  Here some rules to keep in mind when enhancing the microbiome of your furry friend.

  • Make sure you buy from a reputable seller.  If you don’t trust the seller, why would you trust his product?
  • What is the shelf life of the CFUs? (Colony Forming Units) It is good to know how long the CFUs will last.  It’s pointless to give your dog dead bacteria.
  • Make sure that it does not contain any bioengineered ingredients. (GMO)
  • How many different strains does it contain? The more strains of bacteria the better.

Strains of Bacteria That Enhance Your Dogs Health

Not only is it important to feed your dog, it is also important to feed your dog’s microbiome.  Here are 5 wonderful strains that will keep your dog looking and feeling great!

  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Bacillus coagulans
  • Bifidobacterium animalis AHC7
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • L. rhamnosus, L. fermentum, L. reuteri, L. salivarius

Recent studies have shown that it is better to give your dog varied strains of probiotic versus probiotic that contain only one.  When your dog’s microbiome is diverse, your dog is much less susceptible to a variety of health issues.

The saying “you are what you eat” applies just as much to your pup as it does to you.  As research continues it is becoming very clear that a healthy gut means health and wellness for the rest of the body.  In summary, supplementing your dog’s diet with probiotics not only increases energy, vitality and disease resistance, it’s also economical.  It may seem like just another expense, but the reality is it’s cheaper to have a healthy dog than to be up to your ears in vet bills.