The Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs
Probiotics refer to the so-called “friendly bacteria” that naturally reside in your dog’s gut. While some people think of bacteria as a bad thing, there are beneficial strains in addition to those more familiar types that cause infection and illness. Good bacteria are your dog’s primary line of defense against bad bacteria, preventing them from colonizing, or reproducing to the point of triggering health problems.
Probiotics are critical to maintaining digestive health and immune function. The microflora in your dog’s digestive tract should be balanced to ensure the various types of naturally occurring good bacteria thrive while the bad bacteria are kept in check.
Beneficial Probiotics Strains: What to look for
The effects and uses of probiotics in humans have been well documented, but clinical studies in dogs have lagged behind. However, strains of the following types of friendly bacteria have been shown to provide benefits to dogs:
- Bacillus coagulans
- Bifidobacterium animalis
- Enterococcus faecium
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
When supplementing your dog with probiotics, look for products that contain as many of these probiotic strains as possible. Many products only include one or two strains, and are therefore not as beneficial as they could be. Again, the different strains should all be present in balanced proportions for optimal health.
In addition, the manufacture of veterinary probiotic supplements isn’t as well regulated as the manufacture of other veterinary products, so many products contain far fewer colonizing units than labeled. Because bacteria don’t always survive storage and the journey through a dog’s stomach acid, some probiotic supplements fail to provide the benefits promised. Opt for microencapsulated probiotics supplements from reputable manufacturers.
Boosting Digestive Health
One of the primary benefits of probiotics in dogs is promoting digestive health. Good bacteria are crucial to digestive function, particularly in assisting with the absorption of essential nutrients. They help prevent gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort and treat symptoms associated with digestive disorders, remedying bloating, gas, pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting and other GI problems.
Enhancing Immune Function
Probiotics can also help dogs fight off and recover from illnesses more efficiently. In addition to preventing overgrowth of bad bacteria, probiotics help combat infections when overgrowth has already occurred. These friendly bacteria also help normalize immune function and suppress the inflammatory response, which can be of benefit to dogs with allergic or autoimmune conditions.
Can Your Dog Benefit from a Probiotics Supplement?
Dogs experiencing digestive difficulties – the second most common health problem in dogs, as reported in Scientific American – are leading candidates for a probiotic supplement. Many factors can contribute to diarrhea and other stomach upset, including a number of health conditions, poor diet, dietary changes, stress, parasite infections, vaccinations, surgery, and more.
Medications also often cause GI side effects. In particular, antibiotics and steroids can wipe out good bacteria while treating illness. Probiotic supplements help restore the population of beneficial microflora in the gut during and after treatment, reducing adverse effects and speeding recovery.
If your dog suffers from allergic skin conditions or autoimmune/inflammatory conditions, probiotics may be useful for controlling symptoms.
As with any supplement, consult your veterinarian before putting your dog on a probiotics regimen. Probiotics are generally considered safe, and many holistic vets – and increasing numbers of traditional vets – believe that any dog can benefit from daily probiotic supplementation.
Scientific American: Veterinarians Unleash Probiotics to Ease Doggie Discomfort
Healthy Pets: Probiotics – The Single Greatest Thing You Can Do to Enhance Your Pet’s Health
The Whole Dog Journal: The Benefits of Probiotics for Your Dog