Just like with humans, there are many reasons why your dog can benefit from the gut friendly bacteria and yeast known as “probiotics.”
Probiotics are a combination of live beneficial microorganisms that naturally live in and on your dog’s body. These healthy microorganisms promote good health and wellbeing. They are part of a complex system of microbes that keep bad bacteria in check and protect your dog from an overgrowth of bad bacteria, viruses, and yeast.
Probiotics are made up of a combination of good bacteria, yeast, viruses, and protozoa. They create a healthy microbiome in your dog’s gut. This microbiome contains millions of these friendly microbes that help keep your dog’s immune system in balance. They also live on the skin.
However, the gut contains more microbes than any other place on the body. A healthy gut helps protect your dog from diseases and health problems that are thought to originate in the stomach due to an overgrowth of bad microorganisms. These conditions include:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Skin and allergies
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Digestive problems
Probiotics also promote overall wellbeing. They are part of an awesome system of microbes that helps to protect all aspects of your dog’s health. Interestingly, your dog’s microbiome is an individual as they are. No two dogs have the same microbes, which are made up by:
- Exposure at birth
- Side effects of medication
A healthy microbiome protects your dog from disease by:
- Protecting the immune system
- Helping with the absorption of vitamins and nutrients
- Breaking down carbohydrates
- Fighting off bad organisms and infections
Your dog’s microbiome is delicate and the balance between can be disturbed by:
- Diet, processed food
- Low fiber, lack of prebiotics
- Medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and antacids
You can see how easy it is for your dog’s system to become unbalanced and that is why supplementing probiotics is a good idea for most pets. When supplementing probiotics, you’re providing your pet with the live microbiota which can help limit harmful bacteria, yeast, and viruses from multiplying to help balance the gut.
In this way, probiotics help build a strong immune system, reduce allergic inflammation, aid with digestion and elimination, help them absorb the nutrients of a healthy diet, all the while helping to protect them from disease.
Many dog foods contain prebiotics and probiotics. This is important because prebiotics help probiotics do their job. However, some dog foods only contains prebiotics or neither so you should check your packaging to be sure your dog is getting both. The pet food regulatory body, AAFCO, also refers to probiotics as “direct-fed microbials” so you may see that on the label.
There are several ways to supplement your dog’s diet with probiotics, including:
- Dog food containing probiotics
- Supplements in the form of pills, capsules or powders
- Unsweetened yogurt or kefir containing live probiotics
When purchasing probiotics, keep in mind that they contain live microorganisms. This is why some probiotics come in small packages or individual servings so ensure they stay fresh. Always watch the expiration date on your probiotics and never store them in the heat or leave in a hot car, which can destroy their effectiveness.
Also, not all strains of probiotics do the same thing. For example, some are more anti-inflammatory while others offer more immune system support. For this reason, you’ll want to look for a probiotic that contains a guaranteed analysis that includes several strains, such as:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Enterococcus faecium
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactobacillus casei
- Bifidobacterium breve
You should always talk to your vet but most healthy dogs can take probiotics as a proactive health measure but dogs that are suffering from certain health problems can usually greatly benefit. Consider supplementing probiotics:
- During times of stress
- When ill
- For digestive imbalances
- While taking antibiotics and other medications such as steroids
- For diarrhea and gas
- Diet changes or indiscretions
- For allergy flare ups
- When boarding or traveling
Probiotics are never a replacement for veterinary care so if your dog is sick, they’ll need to see a vet. But probiotics are shown to help keep dogs healthy and support their systems during times of illness.
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