Bacteria and other microbiota within the canine intestinal tract significantly influence your dog’s physical and psychological health. In addition, gut bacteria populations composed predominantly of “good” bacteria will have positive effects on a dog’s cholesterol levels, his ability to resist gastroenteritis (chronic diarrhea) and even provide antitumor properties.
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Under natural conditions dogs, as well as humans, develop and retain populations of “good” gut microflora that provide adequate protection against a variety of diseases. However, dogs and other domesticated animals now live under unnatural conditions and are constantly bombarded with unnatural substances, from food additives to pollution to antibiotics, that disrupt the normal bacterial composition of their intestines.
This is where supplementing your dog’s diet with probiotics can make all the difference in the world between living with a chronically ill dog and living with a healthy, active, happy dog.
How Probiotics Will Change Your Dog’s Life
Health benefits attributed to the use of probiotics are numerous and well documented. For example, probiotics have been clinically tested and shown to:
- Reduce the frequency and duration of gastrointestinal illnesses, especially diarrhea, associated with antibiotic use.
- Decrease the number of unfavorable metabolites (procancerogenic enzymes) living in the colon
- Relieve constipation and irritable bowel syndrome
- Minimize allergy symptoms by strengthening and stabilizing the immune system
- Improve mineral metabolism to help dogs achieve healthy bone density and bone stability
- Improve coat and skin health
- Provide chemicals necessary for manufacturing biotin (for skin), folic acid and most B group vitamins
- Facilitate removal of toxins by enhancing digestive processes
In addition, probiotics stimulate cellular and humoral immunity. By relying on enhanced humoral immunity, dogs are able to protect themselves against infections by making antibodies that eliminate foreign materials in their bloodstream. As a component of their adaptive immune system, humoral immunity responds to specific threats while cellular immunity remains consistently active but slightly less effective in combating disease.
Why Even Puppies Need Probiotics
At birth, puppies experience abrupt changes to the ability of their intestinal bacteria to protect them from diseases, as gut flora quickly switch from depending on amniotic fluid for nourishment to digesting milk. Rapid maturation of a puppy’s gut initiates the development of digestive enzymes and mucosal proteins that give rise to “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. Unless the normal bacterial population is kept stabilized at this point in a puppy’s life, overgrowth of “bad” bacteria is likely to occur in the GI tract.
Gut microflora is a significant constituent in the canine intestine’s mucosal barrier, a substantiated fact that has veterinarians strongly recommending probiotic therapy, or the therapeutic application of beneficial bacteria, to improve a dog’s overall health.
Accepted criteria necessary for bacterial strains to be defined as a canine probiotic are that the strains be host-specific; that the strains are safe for use in dogs, that probiotic bacteria remain stable in acid and bile; and that they adhere to intestinal walls and proliferate. Bacterial species used most frequently in probiotics for dogs are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
Lactobacillus–the Wonder Probiotic!
Lactobacilli found in canine probiotics not only enhance their resistance to infections but also mediates release of proinflammatory cytokines, a chemical responsible for inflammatory illnesses such as arthritis and possibly certain cancers.
Lactobacillus also helps dogs rapidly digest proteins essential for reducing food allergy symptoms or preventing them altogether. Dog probiotics containing lactobacillus further supports a dog’s ability to absorb nutrients from foods critical to maintaining a dog’s excellent health, such as vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. L. bacillus is also vital for reducing the population of “bad” bacteria in intestines and fighting off infections.
How Probiotic Bifidobacteria Helps Maintain Your Dog’s Great Health
Bifidobacteria already exist in the dog’s intestines but their populations can be reduced when “bad” bacteria are allowed to take over your dog’s intestines. Supplementing your dog’s diet with high-quality probiotics containing bifidobacteria will:
- Stop diarrhea caused by antibiotic use or infection
- Naturally relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
- Heal skin conditions attributed to yeast infections
- Help prevent upper respiratory infections and allergies
- Boost immune system functioning
- Lower cholesterol to minimize risk of heart disease
Even More Beneficial Bacteria are Found in Canine Probiotics
- L. salivarius promotes breaking down of undigested proteins. When proteins remain unprocessed, your dog may suffer symptoms of malnutrition attributed to reduced protein stores.
- L. plantarum helps prevent cancer cell development and emergence of viral infections (canine hepatitis, kennel cough and parvovirus)
- L. streptococci protects dogs against irritable bowel syndrome and colitis (inflammation of the colon)
- L. GG (L. rhamnosus) protects dogs from suffering chronic respiratory illnesses, yeast infections, diarrhea and can help reduce stress and anxiety due to traveling, moving or changes in schedules.
How Do Probiotics Alter Intestinal Bacteria Populations and Improve Health?
Probiotic supplements for dogs promote production of metabolic compounds (antimicrobial agents) that naturally suppress growth of “bad’ bacteria. Lactobacillus, for example, reinforce the robustness of the intestinal barrier to significantly decrease the ability of “bad” bacteria to translocate across the barrier and enter the dog’s bloodstream. Moreover, probiotics regulate intestinal immunity by enhancing immune cell activity within the canine GI tract.
Start a New, Healthy Chapter in Your Dog’s Life By Giving Him Dog Probiotics
The positive effects of dog probiotics on the diversity, function and composition of gut flora have been clinically studied using a wide variety of methods and tools that range from culture-dependent techniques to metagenomic sequencing. As a result of extensive research, dog owners should have the knowledge they need to start taking advantage of the availability of top-grade probiotics and enjoy peace of mind knowing they are helping their best friend remain as healthy and energetic as possible.
Disclaimer: the advice and information in this article is not intended to be used as a replacement for professional medical advice from a veterinarian.