Probiotics for Dogs

Why you should consider probiotics for your dog.

The bacteria that reside in the small intestine and colon of the dog play an important role in their overall health. These bacteria constitute a metabolically active system that acts as a significant barrier to infection by pathogenic microorganisms.

DNA-based microbiology that has identified these microorganisms provides insight as to how the bacteria that live in the gut prevent disease, affect nutrient absorption, and impact the immune systems of dogs.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the body’s number one barrier against disease. The bacteria that reside within the gut can be classified as either protective or potentially harmful. The balance of these bacteria is critically important to the overall health of all animals.

The GI tract of the dog is essentially a long unsterile tube that runs from one end of the animal to the other. It is also the largest immune reactive surface in your dog’s body. How we feed our pets and the various stresses we place on them can alter the balance between the good gut microflora and those that can cause disease. It can also alter the defense mechanisms that occur in the lining of the GI tract.

Diet can help eliminate inflammation in the gut. It can increase or decrease gut permeability, thereby altering nutrient absorption and overall health. When your dog’s GI tract is healthy, it allows for the absorption of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, while at the same time preventing the entry of disease-causing substances.

Maintaining Balance in the Gut with Probiotics for Dogs

It is said that our dogs have more intestinal bacteria than cells in their body. Symbiosis is when the good bacteria are in balance with the potentially bad ones resulting in optimum gut health.

There are a number of conditions that can cause the good bacteria to decrease in numbers thereby allowing the potentially harmful ones to over-populate. They are:

  • Poor Diet
  • Antibiotics
  • Intestinal Parasites
  • Medications
  • Steroids

The Digestive System of the Dog

The Microflora of the Dog

The complex microflora of the carnivore GI tract has been studied extensively. Understanding what bacteria are present, in what numbers, and the specific role that each play, has allowed us the opportunity to develop Veterinary Health Products capable of maintaining gut microflora balance.

Dietary Management of Intestinal Bacteria

Probiotics for animals (good bacteria) have been investigated as a dietary management tool for many years. The concept evolves around the ingestion of beneficial bacteria leading to improved colonization within the gut.

One recent study investigated the application of Lactobacillus acidophilus in Canines. When fed to 15 healthy dogs it resulted in a significant increase in the population of recoverable lactobacilli in the feces with a concomitant decrease in the clostridia population. The animal’s displayed no significant changes in blood biochemistry, body temperature, or fecal quality. Immune-function studies showed no significant changes in haptoglobin levels or white blood cell counts but significant increases in serum IgG, monocytes, and neutrophils, which demonstrated how GI bacteria can affect the immune system.

In addition, significant decreases in plasma nitric oxide levels and the osmotic fragility of red blood cells were observed. The researchers concluded that feeding of the probiotic resulted in positive changes in the gut microbiology and in systemic effects that suggested immune system stimulation.

An alternative to feeding probiotics to dogs is the additional use of prebiotics. A prebiotic is a non-digestible food ingredient that is selectively metabolized by the indigenous probiotic bacteria in the gut. Using prebiotics is attractive; because they are stable under heat treatment where Probiotics can be fairly unstable.

Available Prebiotics for Animals:

  • Fructooligosaccharides
  • Lactosucrose
  • Inulin
  • Other Oligosaccharides

There is relatively little published research on the use of prebiotics in companion animals. What there is has focused on Lactosucrose and Fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

Prebiotic Research

Studies on Lactosucrose in dogs resulted in statistically significant desirable changes to the gut microflora. Decreases were seen in harmful Clostridia numbers, toxin levels and fecal odor.

Several studies are available on FOS consumption in companion animals. In dogs, statistically significant increases in bifidobacteria and lactobacilli numbers were seen together with a small but significant decrease in clostridia levels. Increases were seen in lactate and butyrate quantities, but increases were also observed in ammonia, isovalerate, dimethylsulfide, and hydrogen sulfide levels.

By Clayton Bolinger
April 17, 2024