Probiotics for dogs? 

Did you know your dog has trillions of tiny friends living in their gastrointestinal system?  Like people, dogs have different strains of bacteria in their gut that play important roles in digestion, protecting against foreign invaders, and so much more.  It’s an important relationship that needs to be nurtured with the proper nutrients. You can get plenty of these nutrients from a well balanced diet. However, we can also add probiotics to the diet to populate the gut with beneficial bacteria.  This blog will discuss what probiotics do, their benefits, and where to find them. 

How do probiotics work? 

There are more bacteria living in your dog’s gut than there are people on the planet.  Some of these bacteria provide a plethora of benefits for the host. Unfortunately, there are other bacteria that can be harmful.   

A probiotic is a combination of good bacteria strains and yeasts that are beneficial to the body.  In theory, when you ingest these bacteria you introduce them to the gut where they will repopulate with time.  This will kill off bad bacterial strains which are potentially responsible for numerous stomach issues such as chronic diarrhea, etc.  In addition, when the good strains have reached a certain population your dog will begin to experience additional benefits. 

What are the benefits of good bacteria? 

The major role of the microbiome in your dog’s gut is to assist with digestion and aid the immune system.  With respect to digestion, there are things that your dog will eat that can’t be broken down by their body.  Fortunately, bacteria contain enzymes that can digest these food particles and release additional nutrients for absorption.  It’s a benefit to both parties known as a symbiotic relationship. This includes releasing vitamins, neurotransmitters for the brain, micronutrients, and more. 

They also assist the immune system.  A significant amount of the immune system is in the gut - scientists  believe over 80% in fact. If you think about it, this makes sense. After all, the GI tract is technically outside the body and regulates what can enter.  It is constantly interacting with potential pathogens. Therefore, you need the largest presence here. Bacteria interact with your immune system to protect the body from illness and more. 

Can probiotics help with allergies? 

It’s possible that good bacterial balance helps with allergies.  Leaky gut syndrome, also known as intestinal permeability, is a hot research topic right now.  As mentioned previously, the gut is a barrier between the outside world and the body. Sometimes, the gut becomes a little “leaky” because of chronic inflammation, infection, etc.  When this happens, undigested food particles may slip through the intestinal membrane before being completely broken down.   

The body sees these particles as invaders and creates an immune response.  If the “invader” happens to be an undigested chicken protein, then the body may make the mistake of identifying all chicken as a pathogen and initiate an immune response whenever ingested.  Essentially, the body’s immune system is overreacting to food leading to an allergic reaction. A good balance of bacteria helps support the gastrointestinal system and strengthens the membrane to prevent an incident like this.    

Where can you find probiotics? 

More than likely, pet stores that retail supplements will carry probiotics for your pet.  You can also get probiotics from food sources such as goat’s milk, kefir, and fermented food products.  It’s also not a bad idea if the supplement contains prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible food products that feed the bacteria.  These help the bacteria colony grow and sustain itself.   

As you can see, a good mix of healthy bacteria in the gut provides a significant benefit for your dog.  A healthy diet alone may be enough to sustain these bacteria. However, things like antibiotics can disrupt the bacterial population.  If you have any concern about your dog’s health give probiotics a try! More than likely, a month or two will be enough to determine if your dog experiences a benefit.