Probiotics For Dogs
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are microbes (bacteria and yeast) that naturally live inside the gut of most living creatures. If you’re unfamiliar with probiotics, then you might be surprised to find out that - believe it or not - some bacteria are beneficial for the body. There are actually billions of “friendly” microbes living inside your dog’s gut that provide a bunch of essential health benefits like:
- Boosting the immune system.
- Warding off potential illnesses.
- Helping digest food that passes through the gastrointestinal system.
- Creating important nutrients and vitamins, like vitamin B12.
Here are the top five “good” bacteria that probiotic supplements tend to carry:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Enterococcus faecium
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Bifidobacterium breve
When Are Probiotics Used?
Unfortunately, these health-promoting microbes sometimes get destroyed by illness or environmental stress, which can upset the stomach and even cause your dog to get sick. Primary signs and symptoms that indicate your dog could do with a solid dose of probiotics include diarrhea, bad breath, cramping, and excess gas. Several of the main causes of such digestive disorders include:
- Bacterial infections and parasites.
- Extended use of antibiotics, which kill both “good” and “bad” bacteria.
- Certain diets, such as spoiled food or sudden changes in diet.
- Weakened immune system frequently due to sickness.
- Stress from any number of emotional disturbances.
Luckily for dog lovers, a dog’s crucial microbes can easily be restored by providing wholesome probiotics. Ongoing research has shown the effectiveness of some probiotics in treating irritable bowels, inflammation in the intestines, and diarrhea. Some groups go so far as to suggest that probiotics may prevent urinary tract infections and reduce allergic reactions.
The tricky issue with probiotics stems from the fact that they are delicate living organisms. Mishandling probiotic products can be detrimental to their well-being, which in turn could reduce or nullify their ability to help your dog. Exposure to moisture and air particles is especially harmful, but even alterations in temperature can negatively affect probiotics. You definitely do not want to leave your probiotics for a few hours in a sweltering car!
A few things to look out for when purchasing probiotics for dogs:
- Probiotics in the product - More strains of microbes is not necessarily better. Each type has slightly different probiotic activity, be it reducing inflammation or fortifying the immune system.
- Shelf-life - Check the expiration date and, if possible, get a hold of goods that list roughly how many probiotics will remain until that point. Some products not only contain fewer microbes than reported, but also leave out the small detail that they may all die before they are used.
- Storage conditions - Some probiotics need to be kept refrigerated and others need to be used after opening, which is why they are most often individually sealed.
Probiotics for dogs are available in a variety of forms:
- Certain dog foods.
- Certain human foods. Fermented veggies like Korean kimchi, goat’s milk, and many yogurts.
- Kefir, which you can try making as a water or coconut-based drink in your own kitchen.
- Kvass, which is a Baltic beverage.
- Supplements in pill (hard or chewable tablets) or powdered form.
Note: Probiotic supplementation is a great way to boost your dog’s health, but may be unnecessary if they are already getting plenty in their everyday diet.