Probiotics and Prebiotics – Should You Supplement Your Dog's Diet with Them?
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Probiotics and Prebiotics – Should You Supplement Your Dog's Diet with Them?

Dogs
Health & Safety

There's been a huge trend for people to include probiotics in their diets and the same can be said of giving these to pets. Lots of foods contain these live micro-organisms which are friendly bacteria but one that most people know about is yoghurt. The health benefits of supplementing a diet with probiotics are great and this is especially true where gastrointestinal health problems are an issue.

Probiotics: The Benefits

A good example is when a dog suffers a bout of diarrhoea which could have been triggered by stress, something they ingested, an infection or as a result of having been given antibiotics to treat another condition. Often the diarrhoea can last a long time even when the root cause has been eliminated. This is due to an imbalance in micro-organisms in the dog's gut. These "friendly" bacteria promote a healthy gut function and also play an important role when in comes to secreting nasty toxins that may be present.

The result of the imbalance is a bad case of diarrhoea which is caused by the larger number of micro-organisms so by offering your dog a supplement or food that contains probiotics, you effectively boost the "friendly" micro-organisms which then combat the "bad" ones in order to restore the balance and therefore promote a healthier gut.

Other Benefits of Probiotics

Research has also shown that probiotics are known to work in many other ways too and it appears they are even able to positively impact the immune system. These studies indicate that supplementing your pet's diet with probiotics can help manage and treat certain infections other than gastrointestinal tract disorders as well as help control certain forms of inflammatory or allergic health issues dogs often suffer from.

This all makes sense because a large part of a body whether animal or human, is the immune system and it's closely associated to the gut. Anything that positively impacts an immune system would therefore benefit other parts of the body as well.

Is There a Downside to Probiotics?

Where chronic gastrointestinal disorders are an issue, a probiotic supplement would need to be given long-term in order for a pet to really benefit but this is where prebiotics come into their own and help create a healthier gut and maintaining the correct balance.

Prebiotics: The Benefits

Prebiotics can bridge the gap because they help support probiotic micro-organism growth in the gut whether it is naturally occurring or when they are added to a pet's diet in the form of a supplement. In short, prebiotics could be seen as feeding the "friendly" bacteria found in the gut which then gives them the chance to work their magic in combating the "bad" bacteria that causes gastrointestinal health issues and other complaints to do with an immune system.

Sugar beet is a natural source of prebiotic and which can often be found in small amounts in good quality dog foods. It's a carbohydrate of sorts and when digested it partially ferments in the gut which then provides lots of food for the "friendly" bacteria to thrive on. Supplementing a dog's diet with beet pulp is a cost-effective way of ensuring good gut function, it adds valuable fibre to their diet and basically promotes overall good health and well-being to your pet.

However, you need to make sure the dog food you buy only contains a small amount of sugar beet and that it hasn't been used simply as a "filler" which might mean that protein levels might be too low in that particular brand.

Gastrointestinal Problems

The majority of our four-legged canine friends will suffer from some sort of gastrointestinal disorder even if it's just a mild case of diarrhoea because dogs just can't resist eating certain undesirable and stinky things. However, if your pet suffers from a more severe case you should get them to the vet as soon as you can so they can be thoroughly examined in order to find out whether something sinister is going on.

If your dog has been prescribed a course of antibiotics, very often they will suffer a bout of diarrhoea as a result which could be a good time to offer a probiotic supplement to help get their gut working well again by restoring any imbalance the medication may have caused.

Conclusion

It's always a good idea to check the ingredients on your pet food and to make sure the levels of protein are good. But it is also important to check if there are any probiotics included in the formula and if not, think about adding a supplement to make up for this. Your pet may well benefit from a prebiotic supplement being added to their diets but if you are unsure of the amount, the best person to talk to about quantities as well as when and if the supplement would be beneficial, is your vet or a qualified animal

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