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We’ve heard of probiotics for humans – every yogurt brand seems to want them in their product now! – and gut health is more widely talked about, but what about probiotics for dogs? What can a probiotic do for your dog? And, are they worth the hype in canines too…?
We all have bacteria in our gut, and most of it is essential, good bacteria that keep our gut ticking over and working at optimal levels. Probiotics refer to the microbes (the bacteria/yeast) that dwell in the gut. There are literally billions of microbes living in all animal’s guts (including humans!), and they work to sustain the immune system, aid in healthy digestion, and make vital vitamins and nutrients for the body to use. The good bacteria that live in your pup’s tummy are called commensal bacteria and these are necessary for the healthy functioning of their digestive system.
Probiotics may be labeled on products as:
If your dog’s gut health is poor, they may be displaying physical signs such as diarrhea, abnormal bowel movements including fecal consistency or difficulty defecating, or they may seem frequently under the weather and have a generally low mood. It could be that their gut’s health needs some additional support!
Here are 6 amazing reasons why you should be considering introducing probiotics to your dog…
Probiotics have been touted as a potential way of combatting dental plaque and can improve bad dog breath! By restoring healthy levels of good bacteria in their gut, it can then prevent sulfur-producing anaerobic bacteria from breeding in your pup’s mouth (this bacteria can also grow in your dog’s ears and respiratory system). Doggy dental hygiene is essential for their overall health, so supporting their teeth via probiotics (along with all the other following benefits) is a great reason to start using them!
When a dog suffers from an allergy, a trigger causes their immune system to go into overdrive and begins attacking itself because it perceives a certain food, fleas/ticks/other organisms, or air particulate as a threat to the body. This may manifest as symptoms of skin itchiness, inflammation or infection because the dog’s skin health is compromised due to the underlying allergy.
Having a healthy gut is essential for dogs who experience allergic reactions (sneezing, rashes, hair loss, itching) because here in the GI tract, the body can help prevent bad bacteria from proliferating and restore a good bacteria balance. This in turn supports their immune system and helps stabilise symptoms associated with the response to perceived stressors!
As with humans, when dogs get older, their bodies and their functionings become slower and they are more susceptible to developing a weaker immune system. When around 70% of immunity cells are located in the gut, it’s important to stay on top of the good bacteria located there to help a maturing Fido stay happy and healthy in their older years!
If your dog experiences gastrointestinal distress (caused by emotional stress, allergies or other illnesses) they may be displaying some physical signs. These can include frequent diarrhea, constipation, excess gas, bloating, vomiting, lack of appetite, a reaction to a change of food, or sometimes seem to be quite lethargic*.
Together with good levels of water, regular exercise and the introduction of probiotics can improve their belly activity and digestive health. These signs of an unhappy gut and GI tract need addressing, as they’re as upsetting for your dog as for you, so introducing probiotics to their daily diet can help foster an improvement in their bowel activity and ease their tummy troubles!
*If your dog is displaying symptoms like this, always get them checked over by a vet first.
If your dog’s gut is grumpy, more often or not they’ll be grumpy too! Did you know that a change in mood is one of the first signs your pet is feeling under the weather? They might excessively lick their tummy or withdraw from socializing/playing etc. In the process of improving their gut health with probiotics, this will have a knock-on effect on their mood too! A healthy dog is a happy dog!
Antibiotics are sometimes an essential part of fighting off an infection or bug your dog has contracted. If you know that your dog has to take a necessary course of antibiotics, making sure their gut health is flourishing can help reduce any side effects of the tablets. Antibiotics can cause yeast infections and gastrointestinal upset, which can make them as miserable as the reason they had to take the antibiotics in the first place. So, making sure their GI tract is fighting fit via probiotics, can help prevent this from happening.
"As mentioned above, the microbiome consists of commensal bacteria (i.e. they are always present!) and they have a symbiotic relationship with dogs, meaning they feed on the same food and don’t cause any problems. The small intestine in adult dogs can contain as many as 700 different strains of bacteria, while the canine large intestine may have as many as 5000 different strains! And, each dog has its own unique microbiome.
"Probiotics are great for preventing a dysbiosis (a shift/imbalance in bacterial populations) after a course of antibiotics, chronic stress, toxin ingestion, certain medications or for recovery from health challenges. These may wipe out the normal bacterial flora and shift the microbiome causing diarrhea, bloating, and in some cases metabolic toxicity. This is why probiotics are an important part of your treatment plan as they will help fight pathogens and help diversify the essential bacterial flora in your pup's gut."