Any health magazine or website you subscribe to these days touts the benefits of probiotics for people.
But what about our cats and dogs? If probiotics are beneficial to human health, should we be including them in our pet’s diet?
The answer is yes, in most cases.
Probiotics are living bacteria similar to the bacteria that are found in the digestive tract. Probiotics are good bacteria that stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms. This beneficial gut flora, as it’s called, helps maintain good digestive health. It also prevents an overgrowth of bad bacteria that can affect the immune system.
Why would your dog or cat need a probiotic?
You may be aware that antibiotics and steroids can cause an imbalance in the gut flora, but you may not know that other factors can upset this balance too. A sudden change in diet, strange eating habits (stool, rocks, sticks), boarding, emotional stress, travel, age and disease can all cause bacterial imbalances.
Since these things can occur at any time, giving your pet a probiotic supplement on a regular basis will maintain the bacterial balance needed to keep stools firm and minimize stomach upset, as well as keeping other bad bacteria down.
If you’re considering a probiotic supplement for your dog, talk to your vet. There is a lot of variation from one probiotic to the next. The strain of bacteria can vary. Some only contain one strain. Some contain several strains.
Enterococcus faecium, Bacillus coagulans, Bifidobacterium animalis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus are strains that have been shown to have value for pets. Your vet can discuss the benefits of each and help you decide what’s right for your dog or cat.
Also be aware that shelf life and proper storage can affect viability of the bacteria. These are living organisms that some times require refrigeration. And like other supplements, not all probiotics are tested for potency or purity.
Some dry premium dog foods contain probiotics, which can be an easy way to incorporate probiotics into your pets diet.
What are prebiotics and does my pet need those too?
Prebiotics are non-living food ingredients that feed the good bacteria in your pets digestive tract helping the good stuff grow and flourish. Prebiotics are specialized types of fiber that are not digested by your dog or cat. They arrive undigested in the intestines enabling them to influence the bacteria population in the gut.
Prebiotics such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) are naturally found in many foods that we eat such as asparagus, chicory, artichokes, garlic, onion, bananas, honey, rye, wheat, oats and soybean. But to have any prebiotic effect, your pet would have to consume large quantities of these foods, some of which could be harmful to them.
Researchers have found ways to isolate the prebiotics in food, making it possible for pet food manufacturers to include prebiotics in their recipes. Some manufacturers include both prebiotics and probiotics. Some include one or the other.
Ideally, you’d want your pet to have both a prebiotic and a probiotic because prebiotics are a food source for the good bacteria found in probiotics. This further enhances the population of good bacteria in your pet’s gut.
Prebiotics are not a food source for the bad bacteria that exists in the digestive tract. So using both prebiotics and probiotics improves the overall intestinal bacteria balance.
Be aware that prebiotics are not recommended for all pets, particularly pets with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and some other gastrointestinal conditions.
Talk with your vet before adding any supplements to your pets diet.
If you are considering a dog food that contains prebiotics, try one of the following Husse recipes: Valp, Valp Mini, Valp Maxi, Lax & Ris, Light Optimal, Optimal, Optimal Giant, Prima Plus, Senior, Senior Mini.
Do you give your pet a prebiotic or a probiotic? What has your experience been? Share your experience with us in the Comment section above.