Probiotics for Dogs
Pets are a vital part of life and family. There
is no better sight after a long day at work than
a dog at the door. Dogs protect, comfort, and
add joy to life. Studies have shown they improve
human health and increase longevity. As humans
learn of ways to improve their own health,
shouldn’t our pets benefit as well?
Fortunately, there are a growing number of
products available for our pets, and probiotic
supplements are among the best. Probiotic
supplements offer a wide range of health
benefits for dogs and other pets, just as they
do for humans.
Anyone who has had to deal with a dog who is
experiencing any kind of irregular digestive
problem knows that it is no fun and usually
messy. Just as the beneficial bacteria in the
human digestive system is often reduced or
destroyed by diet and environmental factors, the
bacteria that should be present in the canine
gastrointestinal tract is diminished in the same
Raw meat, which dogs would often be eating in a
natural environment, contains enzymes that are
required for food to be metabolized properly.
Enzymes are proteins that aid in essential
biochemical reactions. They work with probiotics
to help absorb nutrients, produce vitamins, and
metabolize calcium. Dry and canned pet foods do
not usually include these enzymes that are so
helpful in digestion because the enzymes are
destroyed as the food is processed.
When dogs are outside, they drink from standing
water, eat things they may find in the yard,
roll around in grass, or splash in nearby ponds
or streams. Getting dogs to stop this behavior
is neither practical nor even healthy, as they
need to be outside and certainly benefit from
the exercise these activities generate. In doing
these things, however, they are exposed to a
variety of toxins. Chemicals are used to treat
lawns and often end up in ground water and
streams and rivers. Exposure to these chemicals
often kills beneficial bacteria in the body.
Another factor that causes fluctuations in a
dog’s natural amount of good bacteria is stress.
Stress, in fact, is a big problem for pets,
often a result of changes or traumatic events. A
visit to the vet, being left alone for long
periods, thunderstorms, pregnancy, changes in
diet, a new family member, or moving to a new
location can all cause a dog a high amount of
stress. This stress results in changes to the
digestive tract, killing beneficial bacteria and
causing the animal further digestive problems.
Using antibiotics for pets, though sometimes
necessary, kills beneficial bacteria, just as it
does in humans. A further problem for dogs and
cats occurs when they are ill. The digestive
system shuts down so that nutrients can be sent
to the immune system. They do not hold very much
energy stored in their muscles, often only
enough for about 24 hours. When this stored
energy is used, the body must burn the energy
stored in fat. If this energy allotment is
depleted before the dog has recovered from
illness, they can die.
For every one of the problems listed above,
probiotics can help. These bacteria aid the
immune system and help fight infection and
disease. They also prevent diarrhea. Though that
is always a good thing, it can be essential when
a pet is fighting an illness, preventing further
loss of nutrients. The probiotics will also
metabolize food that remains in the animal’s
system when he or she is ill, making additional
nutrients available and giving the pet longer to
There are a variety of canine probiotic
supplements available. It is a good idea to use
the same criteria for choosing a pet supplement
as for a human supplement. The product should
come from a reputable company and have dosage
and manufacturing processes readily available.
It should always list exactly how much and which
probiotics and other ingredients are included in
the supplement. Common bacterial colonies
include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Entercoccus
faecium, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bacillus
coagulans, and other bacteria that are common in
human supplements. These pet supplements will
often include a helpful combination of enzymes
along with the probiotics, so that animals get
the most benefit from the supplement. An ideal
supplement should contain at least three
bacterial strains and enzymes that include
protease, lipase, amylase, and peptidase.
Dogs who are generally healthy should receive a
probiotic and enzyme supplement once a day,
depending upon weight of the dog and according
to specific label directions. Dogs who are
taking antibiotics should get an accelerated
dosage of probiotics during the duration of the
antibiotic treatment, as well as for a week or
two afterwards. Pets who are ill or undergoing
prolonged stress should receive a concentrated
probiotic/enzyme formula that contains three or
more times the amount of a regular dosage.
More and more veterinarians are using probiotics
to treat dogs and other pets. From regular
digestive problems to chronic kidney disease,
illnesses in pets can be eliminated or eased
with the proper probiotic supplements. Pet
owners should talk to their veterinarians to
find out more information about the products
that would be most helpful to their dogs.
Huffnagle, Ph.D., Gary and Wernick, Sarah. The
Probiotics Revolution. New York, NY:
Bantam Dell. (2007).
Natural Dog Health Remedies. (2009). Probiotics
Taylor, John R. and Mitchell, Deborah. The
Wonder of Probiotics. New York, NY: St. Martin’s
Trenev, Natasha. Probiotics: Nature’s Internal
Healers. Garden City Park, New York: Avery
Publishing Group, 1998.
The Whole Dog. (2009). Probiotics, What Are
They? Do Our Dogs Need Them? .
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