Probiotics (or beneficial microorganisms), are found in many foods and supplements for dogs and humans. People used to wonder “What do probiotics actually do?” Now, they claim their products can improve digestion, reduce symptoms such as diarrhea, allergies, kidney disease, kidney disease, arthritis, anxiety, depression and inflammation.
There is at least some evidence to support this last claim (WDJ August 2020, “Behavioral Probiotics”). However, very few clinical trials support all of the claims made about canine probiotics. A meta-analysis of 17 probiotic studies involving cats and dogs was published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in March 2017. Only weak support was found for treating diagnosed conditions in the most encouraging studies, which all recommend further research.
However, probiotics are often prescribed or given to dogs by veterinarians and pet owners. They cite positive anecdotal evidence of beneficial bacteria helping their pets. Although their enthusiastic recommendations can be disproven, they are not supported by scientific evidence.
What are PROBIOTICS for DOGS and how do they work?
Probiotic is an umbrella term for all living bacteria and microorganisms that are beneficial or supportive to your health. These bacteria can be harmful to your health if they are present in large numbers. They will eat away at the microbiome (a microbiome) which is a collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Probiotics can also produce chemicals that kill pathogenic bacteria or viruses.
Probiotics are considered low-risk. Side effects other than those mentioned are very rare. Probiotic supplements are safe and do not cause antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Probiotics should only be administered to dogs with severe immunocompromised. However, most dogs are safe and can be safely given probiotics.
PROBIOTICS FOR DOGS
There are many microorganisms you could consider probiotics. However, only a few of these are commonly found in supplements for humans and dogs. These are the most popular:
Lactobacillus bacteria species convert sugar to lactic acid. This prevents harmful bacteria from growing inside the intestine. These bacteria are used to produce fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. Probiotic supplements for dogs often contain L. casei, L. casei, L. rhamnosus and Lactobacillus acidophilus. L. casei has been shown to increase anxiety in dogs but this association has not been proven in clinical trials. Soil-based organisms (SBOs), occur naturally in soil and in water. However, today’s SBO population is only a fraction of the size it was before the advent of pesticides and herbicides. SBOs can survive stomach acid, heat and antibiotics. They don’t require refrigeration and they are not made from dairy products. Bacillus coagulans,B. B. subtilis, Bacillus coagulans, and Bacillus coagulans are all considered safe for dogs. It is used to treat yeast infections and acute and chronic diarrhea in humans. Dogs may experience a similar effect. S. boulardi can be used in conjunction with antibiotics to protect beneficial gut bacteria against the effects of antibiotics.
CHOOSING THE PROBIOTIC FOR YOUR DOG
You can buy probiotic supplements in capsules, pills, powders or soft treats. Probiotics are generally accepted by dogs, especially when they are mixed with their favorite foods.
Because there are many beneficial microorganisms to choose from, the probiotic market can be confusing. Only a small number of them have been thoroughly studied. Dogs may not be affected by conclusions based on laboratory or human research.
Probiotics should be purchased from well-respected manufacturers. Products that clearly label with strain and species, such as Bifidobacterium animals (strain AHC7) and Enterococcus foecium (strains SF68) are recommended for dogs suffering from acute diarrhea.
Look for labels that indicate the strength of the product in colony-forming unit (CFUs). These units measure the number of viable microorganisms cells that can reproduce in a sample. The majority of veterinary sources recommend that dogs consume between 1 and 10 billion CFUs per day. Products with CFUs that are measured in millions or less are unlikely to be effective.
Prebiotics are a great way to feed the “Good Guys”
Prebiotics are food ingredients that indigest and nourish beneficial bacteria. They can also improve the health of host animals. Most prebiotics consists of soluble, fermentable fibers such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and bacteria-supporting fibers from inulin, larch trees, pectins, beet pulp, and gums such as guar gum.
Prebiotics and probiotics often combine prebiotics with each other because they are natural partners. Although the prebiotic fiber found in these products is not likely to cause any problems, it should be taken with care if used by itself. Too much soluble fibre can cause gas and loose stool. Dogs should drink plenty of water when taking fiber supplements. If your dog is not getting enough, you can add water to their food.
FOOD SOURCES FOR PROBIOTICS
Making your own yogurt and kefir is a great way to give your dog probiotics and save money if your dog loves dairy products (see “Dogs and Dairy Products,” May 20, 222). You can make either yogurt or kefir with commercial starter powders, or you can use a tablespoon of active-culture yogurt. While yogurt may only contain a handful of bacteria strains, kefir can have over 60. You can find video demonstrations online of the culturing process or contact starter manufacturers for more information.
Start slowly when introducing yogurt or kefir to dogs. For example, 1 teaspoon per 20 lb body weight. Watch for signs of diarrhea and wait 24 hours.
You can give your dog more if they like the taste and feel well. Experts recommend that dogs should consume 2 tablespoons yogurt/kefir for every 20 pounds of their body weight each day. However, many dogs in good health eat much more. For best results, monitor your dog’s reaction and consult your veterinarian.
DO YOU USE PROBIOTICS TO HELP YOUR DOG?
Follow the instructions to use probiotics.
Your veterinarian may recommend a particular strain of beneficial bacteria for your dog. Follow the label instructions or give the product according to your veterinarian’s recommendations. Your veterinarian might recommend one type of probiotic to treat a particular condition. However, experts suggest switching between multiple strains and cycling through products with different strains.
Probiotics have a temporary effect on the intestinal microbiome. This happens because it returns to its pre-supplementation state shortly after discontinuing probiotics. Probiotics are expensive, and they may not be effective or correctly labeled. You should monitor for changes within a few weeks to determine if the supplement is working.
You can improve your dog’s microbiome by using Probiotics for Dogs Whole Dog Journal.