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In response to concerned dog owners frantically searching for a natural alternative to antibiotics, makers of probiotics for dogs have enlisted the assistance of veterinarians, bacteriologists and animal nutritionists for the purpose of developing superior probiotic supplements specially formulated for all dog breeds. The best probiotics contain host-specific bacteria beneficial to a dog’s overall health and well-being. In fact, canine probiotics have become so popular with dog owners that surveyed veterinarians report experiencing a significant reduction in the number of dog owners bringing their dogs in for antibiotic treatment.
About Dog Probiotics
So what are probiotics and how do they keep your dog energetic, healthy and out of the vet’s office? To begin, canine probiotics are NOT the same kind of probiotics humans take to improve their health. Never give your dog probiotics meant for human consumption because they won’t work and could cause a dog to experience vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that already exist in your dog’s intestines. Due to illness, change in diet, medications and even stress, a condition called dysbiosis, or microbial imbalance, allows “bad” bacteria to overwhelm the “good” bacteria living in your dog’s GI tract. Dysbiosis directly reduces immune system functioning in affected dogs, making them vulnerable to everything from chronic diarrhea and malnutrition to skin diseases, allergies (both seasonal and environmental) and a variety of infections. What probiotics do is restore balance to the gut flora so that “good” bacteria proliferate and out-populate harmful bacteria in the dog’s intestine.
Once released into a dog’s intestines, probiotics begin to manufacture enyzmes and vitamins vital to optimizing immune system function. Probiotic bacteria also prevent “bad” bacteria from reproducing so that your dog’s health stabilizes at peak level.
When purchasing probiotic supplements, be aware that the best dog probiotics will:
- Contain host-specific bacteria meant for dogs, not people
- Be able to survive the acidic conditions of your dog’s stomach as they pass into his intestines
- Provide sufficient amounts of live bacteria to colonize his intestines and eradicate “bad bacteria”
- Contain more than nine strains of probiotic bacteria (the more strains a probiotic supplement for dogs contains, the better!)
Enhancing your dog’s GI tract with a diversity of probiotic strains ensures the dog’s intestines contain enough variety of “good” bacteria to protect him against all the “bad guy” bacteria. For example, the L. plantarum bacteria helps prevent viral infections; L. salivarius attacks fungal infections; L streptococci protects dogs against IBD (irritable bowel syndrome) and colitis; and L. rhamnosus has been shown in studies to dramatically reduce instances of respiratory illness and diarrhea in dogs.
10 Amazing Facts About Probiotics for Dogs
1. Probiotic bacteria thrive throughout your dog’s body, although the majority are found in your dog’s intestines. This prevalence of probiotics in the canine system is why probiotics benefit all aspects of your dog’s health, not just his GI tract.
2. Probiotics actually produce natural antibiotics specifically meant to eliminate the population of pathogenic (bad) bacteria. In fact, many vets and human doctors think that synthetic antibiotics will eventually be phased out as bacteria continue evolving resistance against laboratory-made antibiotics.
3. Probiotics form a symbiotic relationship with a dog’s body to create a reciprocal defense strategy against fungal, viral and bacterial infections.
4. Dog probiotics not only help produce B vitamins but also vitamins A and K, essential fatty acids and increase bioavailability of nutritents important to a dog’s health: calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and proteins.
5. Dogs (and humans) have 11 times more probiotics in their bodies than blood, bone and tissue cells.
6. Probiotics may play a preventive role in the development of some cancers in dogs. A few strains of bacteria used to formulate probiotics appear to stimulate anti-cancer chemical production while theL. casei strain may lower the risk of bladder cancer in dog breeds prone to this kind of cancer.
7. All puppies (and human babies) are born free of disease. A puppy’s gut flora is established during his first two or three months of life but is quickly disturbed by poor diet, environmental stressors and antibiotics, making supplementation with probiotics vital to a puppy’s good health.
8. Probiotics are NOT the same as prebiotics. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that colonize a dog’s intestines and eradicate “bad” bacteria. Alternately, prebiotics are made with substances helpful for microbial growth within the intestines. Also, prebiotics cannot be digested in the intestines or assimilated into the body. They simply remain in the gut to promote bacterial growth.
9. The first symptom of dysbiosis in dogs is diarrhea, usually accompanied by flatulence, bloating and audible stomach noises. Antibiotic use almost always gives dogs diarrhea because of the drug’s powerful ability to disrupt the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the intestines by killing all bacteria instead of just infection-causing bacteria. Antibiotics also irritate the lining of the intestines by creating a severe imbalance of normal gut flora and traumatizing sensitive intestinal walls.
10. The health of your dog’s GI tract also influences his brain health and cognition. When the intestines can’t break down food adequately to absorb essential amounts of nutrition from foods, the canine brain suffers just as much as the immune system. Dogs with dysbiosis may not respond to commands quickly, stare blankly ahead when their owners are talking to them or wander aimlessly as though they didn’t know where they were going.
Are Probiotics Safe for Dogs?
Of course! Since your dog already has the same kind of bacteria living in his body that are provided by probiotic supplements, there is no reason to think they are not safe.
Antibiotics are a different story. When you give your dog antibiotics for an infection, the drug starts killing the bacteria causing the infection. However, antibiotics don’t discriminate when they start targeting bacteria. Instead of just killing “bad” bacteria, antibiotics eradicate all bacteria. That’s why your dog usually develops diarrhea after taking antibiotics for 24 hours–his entire GI tract is now suffering dysbiosis.
Alternately, probiotics are on the opposite spectrum of anti-bacterial medications because they re-populate “good” bacteria in the intestines so that elimination of “bad” bacteria happens safely and naturally. Canine probiotics do this by overwhelming “bad” bacteria and modifying the acidity, or pH level, of a dog’s gut to prevent infectious bacteria from being able to survive in conditions not conducive to their growth.
What are the Benefits?
Most dog owners aren’t aware of the fact that nearly 85 percent of their pet’s immune system is intimately connected to the healthy functioning of the digestive system. When a dog’s GI tract is suffering dysbiosis, chronic health issues soon emerge because the immune system is overwhelmed with trying to combat the exorbitant amount of “bad” bacteria infiltrating the intestines. That’s why dogs with a “leaky gut” (the colloquial term for dysbiosis) suffer non-gastrointestinal illnesses like skin and ear infections, joint problems, lack of energy, allergies and upper respiratory disorders–their immune system is stressed and extremely overtaxed trying to prevent the “bad” bacteria from taking over and causing sickness.
The best probiotics not only stop diarrhea and vomiting due to antibiotic use but will also:
- Improve coat appearance
- Rid your dog of halitosis and odd “body” smells
- Reduce flatulence
- Prevent or diminish allergy symptoms
- Maximize functioning of the intestines to facilitate absorption of vitamins and minerals from food
- Encourage and stabilize regular bowel functioning
- Give your dog more energy
- Reduce incidences of illness by optimizing the immune system’s ability to fight viral, bacterial and fungal infections
- Calms upset digestion caused by dietary or travel changes
- Encourage production of B vitamins, including folic acid and biotin
- May reduce cholesterol levels in dog breeds prone to atherosclerosis
- Inhibits growth of candida albicans, a type of yeast responsible for causing numerous infections in dogs
- Relieve inflammation in joints of older dogs
Probiotics also helps boarded dogs manage stress-related vomiting and diarrhea so that their health is not compromised while away from their owners. Dogs with reduced immune system functioning, such as puppies, senior dogs or dogs with chronic diseases, also benefit from probiotic supplements. Probiotics promote enzymatic activity necessary for breaking down the elements of your dog’s food needed to help intestines absorb food: fats, carbohydrates, fiber, oils and sugars. Enzymes also offer systemic assistance against protein-based allergies as well as tissue inflammation responsible for canine arthritis. Although raw foods contain digestive enzymes, these enzymes dissolve when raw foods are processed or cooked. This means your dog’s physiological systems become stressed as they must work harder to produce enough enzymes to properly digest food. In addition, more stress on the body’s organs means valuable energy is being taken away from the immune system. Many health issues suffered by dogs–gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, pancreatitis, excessive gas, lethargy and skin problems–can be traced back to nutritional deficiencies caused by lack of enzymatic activity. With probiotic supplements, you can eliminate these problems without making your dog feel worse by putting him on a regimen of antibiotics.
Do Probiotics Cause Side Effects?
Probiotics rarely cause side effects in dogs unless the probiotic is made with inferior bacteria strains or is not a probiotic specially formulated for dogs. Some dogs may experience worsening of their health problems within 24 to 72 hours of taking their first probiotic supplement but this situation quickly reverses itself once the dog’s gut flora receives the full benefits of a healthy GI tract rich in “good” bacteria.
High-quality probiotics should include accurate, colony-forming unit (CFU) information on the label. CFUs tell dog owners how many bacteria strains are contained in the probiotic to ensure owners are giving their dogs the right amount of probiotic supplements.
Why You Should Start Giving Your Dog Probiotic Supplements
Three reasons exist for supplementing your dog’s diet with probiotics:
1. Probiotics are an all-natural supplement that contains only microorganisms already found in a canine’s body. On the contrary, antibiotics harbor genetically modified bacteria that have been mutated using UV radiation, chemicals and x-rays. Who wants to put that kind of substance into their dog?
2. Hundreds of recent studies have examined the effects of probiotics on dogs, as well as cats, rabbits and livestock; the studies have found that animals raised without adequate colonies of “good” bacteria guarding their GI tract from “bad” bacteria typically develop diseases or chronic conditions that significantly reduce their quality of life.
3. You love your dog and want him to have a long, active and healthy life free of health problems and too many upsetting visits to the veterinarian.
Start your dog on his path to long-term wellness by giving him the best probiotic available today. You’ll notice an amazing difference within a few days and even more improvements as the probiotics completely eliminate dysbiosis, strengthen his immune system, increase his energy and give you the peace of mind knowing that your best friend for life is feeling great and happy knowing that you–his one and only human–cares so deeply for his well-being.
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Disclaimer: the advice and information in this article is not intended to be used as a replacement for professional medical advice from a veterinarian.