Most people have heard of the word “probiotic,” even if they are not entirely sure what it means! It is a word that you have almost certainly noticed while shopping in the supermarket, and is often prominently featured as a benefit on the label of products such as yoghurt and yoghurt drinks as an aid to good digestion. But did you know that an increasing number of dog owners also feed probiotic supplements to their dogs as well?
Do you know what a probiotic is and what it does? Are you wondering if you should be feeding a probiotic supplement to your dog? Read on to learn more about probiotics for dogs.
A probiotic is a living microorganism, such as the types that form the cultures within live yoghurt, and is considered beneficial to the health of the person (or animal) that consumes it. Probiotics are sometimes referred to as “friendly” bacteria, ones that support the body’s immune system and can help to fight off infection and other “bad” bacteria.
Probiotics are not all the same; many different strains and types of probiotics exist and can be cultured, in order to support particular functions (such as the natural bacteria or “flora” of the gut, to help with digestive upsets) and to improve the health and effectiveness of a wide range of bodily systems.
Probiotics offer a great many benefits to dogs, as they can help to support a healthy immune system and fend off a wide range of bacterial conditions. Probiotics can inhibit the growth and spread of such nasties as E-coli and salmonella, and can help to treat or prevent a wide range of other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, urine infections and many other issues. Probiotics are often especially effective at preventing or reducing the incidence rate of chronic conditions, those that are apt to flare up repeatedly even after successful treatment.
Probiotics can also boost production of the body’s own healthy bacteria, and may be especially useful when administered to dogs that have been given a course of antibiotics.
Antibiotics are medications that treat bacterial infections by killing the harmful bacteria that is present, but they are not particularly selective, and will usually kill a good quantity of the body’s own friendly bacteria as well. This means that after treatment with antibiotics, the body will be more susceptible to the risk of infection from other illnesses and bacteria, as the body’s normal levels of friendly bacteria that helps to fight off infections has been reduced.
Administering a probiotic supplement to your dog after they have finished a course of antibiotics can help to stimulate the body’s own production of its good bacteria, bringing the body’s defence systems and natural immunity back up to its regular levels within a shorter period of time. This can greatly reduce the chances of your dog contracting a secondary infection after recovery as the result of treatment with antibiotics!
All dogs can benefit from supplemental probiotics, although care should be taken when considering probiotics for dogs that are not in good health. While probiotics can help dogs that are sick or have a suppressed immune system in much the same way that they can help a healthy dog, they may also prove a little too invasive within the body of a dog whose normal functions are compromised. In a sick dog, probiotics may potentially develop and multiply in quantities greater than usual, unchecked by the natural limits imposed by the healthy body. By all means look into giving a sick dog probiotics, but make sure that you do so in consultation with your vet.
For healthy dogs, probiotics have a lot to recommend them. They can help to promote good health within the gastrointestinal tract, help to increase and maintain the health of the gut, and provide a second line of defence against illnesses and infections that have a tendency to flare up during times of stress. They can also offer a real immune system boost that can benefit any dog, but especially dogs that are slightly smaller or less resilient than most.
Probiotics for dogs usually come in powder form, and should be mixed with water to activate them before giving the mixture to your dog to drink. You can also buy canine probiotics in paste, liquid or suspension format, or as a powder that can be sprinkled over the food. Some probiotic supplements need to be kept refrigerated, and any probiotic product in any format should always show an expiration date, after which the product is no longer viable to use.
As mentioned earlier on, the term “probiotics” refers to all of the possible friendly bacteria strains that fall under the heading, and imply asking for “a probiotic” is a little bit like asking for “a drink” in a restaurant; you will need to specify what type you would like!
Some of the most popular probiotic strains known to be beneficial to dogs include:
The live probiotic contained within any supplement offered for sale for administration to dogs will state what bacteria is present within it, and should also give a description of any particular issues or complaints that it is particularly designed to target. Your vet will be able to advise you on this in more detail, and will almost certainly sell or be able to order in a probiotic supplement for your dog.