Probiotics are bacteria found in the intestine that can promote intestinal functions. Probiotic supplements can facilitate digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Go through this article to find out why pets need such supplements, and how these supplements can boost their health and vitality.
Did You Know?
A large number of bacteria found in probiotic supplements die in stomach acid before reaching the intestine. Therefore, these supplements are usually taken on an empty stomach or between meals, along with plenty of water.
The word ‘probiotic’ comes from two Greek words, ‘pro’, which means for and ‘biotic’, which means life. So, the literal meaning of probiotic is ‘for life’. Probiotics generally refer to dietary supplements that contain live microorganisms, which can help maintain the health of the intestine. The most commonly found microbes in probiotic supplements are, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacteria.
Almost all animals, including humans contain some useful bacteria in the intestine. However, the intestine also contains a large number of harmful microorganisms, and so, a balance is essential between these two types of microorganisms for optimal health. Probiotics or probiotic supplements are specifically formulated to replenish the microflora of the gut, in order to maintain the intestinal microbial balance. Nowadays, these supplements are widely used for both humans and pets.
Why Do Dogs Need Probiotics?
» Dogs also need probiotics, as these supplements help promote the intestinal functions and check the growth of harmful bacteria. The digestive tract of dogs generally contains good microorganisms, like Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Enterococcus faecium, which are required for maintaining the delicate balance between the good and bad bacteria.
» But the population of these useful microorganisms may reduce at times. The long-tern use of antibiotics can destroy all kinds of bacteria, including the useful ones. The proportion of beneficial bacteria in the intestine can also get reduced due to a poor diet that fails to provide the essential nutrients.
» Sometimes, an overgrowth of the harmful pathogens like virus or fungus can also be responsible for destroying the beneficial bacteria of the intestine. Rarely, a dog can be born with a low count of useful bacteria in his gut, or he may fail to develop a healthy population of beneficial bacteria at birth.
Apart from these, the following conditions or factors can reduce the population of useful bacteria in your pet’s digestive tract, and may necessitate the use of probiotics:
✧ Gastrointestinal diseases
✧ A sudden change in diet
✧ Chronic diarrhea
✧ Use of steroids
✧ Ingestion of unusual things like feces and grass
✧ Fungal overgrowth
✧ Consumption of contaminated water
✧ Food allergies
Benefits of Probiotics
» The beneficial microorganisms can play an important role in body’s defense mechanism. They can strengthen the immune system, and enhance its ability to fight harmful bacteria and other microorganisms.
» Studies have revealed that probiotics can promote the production of antibody-producing plasma cells and lymphocytes, and thus enable the immune system to provide better protection against pathogens.
» They can produce natural antibiotics. In fact, they have been found to be effective in preventing the growth of some harmful bacteria and pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella.
» Probiotics can also facilitate the intestinal functions. They can promote digestion of food and ensure proper absorption of nutrients. They can help prevent any kind of disorders associated with the intestine.
» Probiotic supplements can be effective in treating diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems like bloating, indigestion, gas, etc. They can alleviate these common gastrointestinal problems by promoting the functions of the intestine.
» These supplements can prove immensely beneficial in preventing fungal growths as well. Dogs are especially susceptible to develop a fungal overgrowth after an illness, and when the population of friendly bacteria in their intestine are depleted.
» Probiotic supplements have also been found to exhibit antioxidant properties, and reduce the level of cholesterol in the body. They can facilitate the absorption of some minerals, crucial for carrying out the vital biochemical processes.
» A healthy population of friendly bacteria in the gut is essential for the synthesis of B vitamins and folic acid. They are also effective in reducing the inflammation of the intestine.
Foods Containing Probiotics
Yogurt, fermented milk, miso and cheese, kefir, and tempeh are some foods that contain probiotics. Yogurt can be mixed with dog food, or it can be given as a probiotic supplement. Nowadays, many probiotic supplements are available in the market that can be added to your pet’s food as well.
Things to be Considered
» Before buying a probiotic supplement for your dog, make sure that it contains the stabilized form of the bacteria. If the supplement requires refrigeration, then it probably does not contain stabilized bacteria.
» Many commercially available supplements contain only 1 or 2 strains of the beneficial bacteria. There is nothing wrong with this type of probiotics, but many people are of the opinion that supplements containing 10 or more strains are better than those containing 1 or 2 strains. Before buying a product, be sure to check the label to find out the various species and strains of bacteria included in it.
» The strains found in many supplements are not properly evaluated to find out their viability, purity, and potency. So, it is better to buy a product that has been manufactured in a facility that has International certification for meeting GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) requirements.
» To find out the supplements having GMP compliance certification, you have to do some research on the various products available in the market. The label of the product usually does not provide any information regarding its GMP certification.
» As a pet owner, you should be aware of how many bacteria per gram or per serving are provided by a particular supplement. Many commercially available products contain somewhere between 1 to 4 millions beneficial bacteria per serving, while a few products can provide about 20 to 40 millions bacteria per serving. So, before buying any supplement, be sure to talk to your veterinarian to know how may bacteria your dog should get in each serving.
» Some probiotic supplements can be contaminated or adulterated with things like mold. So, be sure to purchase supplements only from a reputed manufacturer.
Probiotic Supplements for Dogs
Probiotic supplements for dogs are available as capsules, granules, liquid, and also as a paste. Some of the most popular supplements are:
✧ NaturVet Digestive Enzymes & Probiotics
✧ Nusentia’s Probiotic Miracle
Probiotics have been a part of health-promoting food for a long time. But adequate care should be taken while using these supplements. If given in the required amount, these supplements can improve the health and vigor of your dog by promoting digestion and the absorption of essential nutrients. But if your dog has a weakened immune system, and is also suffering from gastroenteritis, then do not give him probiotics without consulting a veterinarian. Even if your dog does not have any such health issues, it is better to talk to a veterinarian to find out if he really needs any kind of supplementation.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.