Probiotics have been a healthy living mainstay for more than a decade. They have moved from the secluded recesses of the health food store to the aisles of your local 7-11. With probiotics becoming so common in human diets – what about dogs? We are looking to change that.
Probiotics are microbes that are beneficial to digestive health. Each animal species has their own special “blend” of microbes that keep the digestive tract healthy. Without some of these microbes, certain animals would not be able to survive. So how do you know if your dog could benefit from a probiotic?
1. Mild Tummy Troubles
The number one reason that dogs are put on probiotics is because of “tummy troubles.” If your dog has digestive issues, probiotics can help a great deal. Keeping your pup on a daily dose of probiotics can help prevent common digestive issues such as loose stool.
2. Recovery from Digestive Illness
Many things can stress or damage the digestive tract in dogs, from medications to parasites to viruses.
Anything that damages the lining of the intestines can lead to a condition called “leaky gut syndrome” – an issue where things cross from the bowel into the bloodstream that shouldn’t. Often when this happens, the immune system is stimulated and the normal “good” microflora of the gut is affected. Oral probiotic supplements can help to boost the population of normal microbes, returning the bowel to a better state of health.
Probiotic bacteria specifically reduce inflammation, feed mucosal cells, support normal immune response to antigens and ‘run out’ disease-causing organisms from the bowel.
3. Itchy Skin
Many dogs that have itchy skin suffer from atopic dermatitis. In dogs and humans alike, regular, long-term probiotic use can cause an improvement in symptoms. With many cases of atopic dermatitis, skin infections are common. Dogs with atopy tend to go on and off antibiotics frequently to control skin infections. Giving probiotics at the same time as antibiotics may help to improve the immune system and reduce future antibiotic use.3 If you are interested in trying probiotics for your atopic dog, ask your veterinarian for specific advice.
4. An Immune Boost for Every Dog
If your dog is healthy and has zero health issues, probiotics can still benefit him. A great amount of the immune system (called gut-associated lymphoid tissue or GALT) is housed in the gastrointestinal tract, so gut health is tightly connected to overall immune health in the dog.2
Experts also believe that probiotics contribute to the healthy development of the immune system from infancy. As mentioned previously, probiotics help to maintain balance in the digestive tract. A steady stream of “good bugs” in the diet starting in puppyhood acts as a preventative against disease in many body systems.
Probiotics have been shown to improve immune function in dogs with a variety of immune system problems, such as IMHA (immune-mediated hemolytic anemia) and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).3 Each case is different and not every probiotic ‘blend’ on the market is the same. Talk to your veterinarian about which probiotic is best for your dog’s specific condition.
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About the Author
Dr. Deborah Shores is a graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has many years of experience working in animal hospitals and clinics from Virginia to South Carolina, treating mainly dogs and cats. She has a special interest in nutrition and holistic veterinary medicine.
- Palmquist, Richard. The Role of Probiotics In Immune System Support in Dogs. Veterinary Information Network Alternative Medicine Vet-to-Vet Message Board. August 25, 2010.
- Otte, Vern. Effects of Pedioccus-Based Probiotics on Gastrointestinal & Immune-Related Diseases of Cats and Dogs. State Line Animal Hospital, Leawood, KS, USA. Veterinary Information Network.
- Silver, Robert. Clinically Relevant Nutraceuticals Every Veterinarian Should Know. Rx Vitamins for Pets, Niwot, CO, USA. Veterinary Information Network.