The 10-second version: Probiotics for dogs can be just as effective as they are for humans, and help with issues ranging from digestion (constipation and diarrhea), to immune systems and even brain function. Wondering if they might help your FBFF (furry BFF) and how to get the most out of it for his health? Read on.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are seemingly everywhere now. You’ve probably seen shelves of grocery stores lined with yogurt, specialty drinks, and foods that scream out “Great source of probiotics!”
We are still in the early stages of discovering all the benefits of the “good bacteria” called probiotics, and there’s more to come. In addition to aiding digestion, there have been discoveries of how our gut health is also linked to other areas of our bodies: the good bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract, which is full of neurons, can also benefit our brain function, cognitive development, and even our mood.
And since many animals have gut bacteria in their digestive systems, probiotics can keep our dogs healthy and active as well!
When Your Dog Can Benefit from Probiotics
Picture this: Before the road trip to the campsite, it’s time to have your dog do his business. The tent, the camp stove, water, fishing gear, everything’s all loaded up except your family. He walks over to his usual spot, engages in the doggy-poo squat and stares at you. And as usual, you turn your head away from the awkwardness.
You know how long he needs, but when you look in his direction to see what’s up, he’s still in his potty squat, still glaring at you. You watch his poop inching out in a glacial pace. Or worse yet, you go to scoop it up, but it feels more like ricotta cheese.
He ate nothing out of the ordinary (that you know of). Did he not drink enough water? Is he stressed? What could you have given him to ease his bowels?
Because of aging, sickness, stress, or general poor health, gut bacteria are sometimes damaged or destroyed, which can cause intestinal and general digestive problems. If your dog is suffering from constipation or diarrhea or seems to get sick more often than normal, it may be beneficial to add probiotics to his diet.
What Do Probiotics Do for Dogs?
Not only do probiotics improve a dog’s gut, they also support the brain, digestion, assimilation of nutrients, and the immune system.
1. Probiotics Boost Dogs’ Immune Systems
The gut and the immune system are intricately linked. Especially with active, outdoorsy dogs, viruses and bacteria can enter the body through the mouth, but thankfully, probiotics live starting at the esophagus and throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract. Maintaining the good bacteria keeps the bad bacteria in check throughout the entire digestive system.
If you see your dog getting sick for no obvious reason, it may be time to add probiotics to his diet.
2. Probiotics Aid in Digestion
Probiotics have positive effects on the entire digestive system. By enhancing the digestive process, it facilitates the removal of harmful toxins. If your dog has been on antibiotics, probiotics can help replace the good bacteria that may have been wiped out.
If your dog has diarrhea, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome, it may be time to try probiotics.
3. Probiotics are Good for the Brain
The gut is filled with nerve cells, so probiotics in the gut can also boost brain function. This is what’s known as the gut-brain axis, and scientists are continuing to discover more links. Probiotics synthesize some important hormones, such as serotonin, and can affect your dog’s mood. Anxiety and depression can be linked to your dog’s gut health.
Sources of Probiotics for Dogs
There are many “human” foods that are also good for dogs, and many are full of probiotics that benefit our overall health.
Some dogs are finicky. Others scarf anything down as long as it’s edible. The smell and sour taste of fermented vegetables can be a complete hit or miss, so a little patience is required.
The fermentation process causes microbes to break down raw vegetables so they’re more easily digestible, and also produces lactic acid that kills off harmful bacteria.
It’s a good idea to introduce fermented veggies slowly. Sauerkraut, carrots, and even kimchi are good examples of fermented vegetables for dogs.
Yogurt is a good source of probiotics, but make sure it’s free of any sweeteners (both natural and artificial). Look for yogurt that has a lot of cultures and less lactose, like plain Greek-style yogurt. It’s also rich in calcium and protein.
Kefir is loaded with good bacteria, so it’s one of the most powerful and efficient sources of probiotics that you can give to your dog. Kefir is rich in Vitamin B1, B12, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and biotin. It’s also rich in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Dirt (Let Your Dog Be a Dog!)
Yes, you read that right. Let him play in the dirt! Most dogs love digging and frolicking around in the mud for reasons our adult human minds can’t fathom. Oddly enough, it’s instinctual and a natural way to build up his overall immune system. So let him indulge in nature and maybe even join in on the dirty revelry.
There are lots of sources of probiotics you can try. However, there are times when the most efficient and time-saving method is by giving them a supplement. Offering healthy food and adding probiotics supplements is one of the best ways to your active dog healthy for years to come.
What to Look for When Choosing Probiotic Supplements for Dogs
Make sure it has both prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics nourish the probiotic bacteria and keep them active. This is what is known as symbiotics.
Make sure they’re the supplements aren’t cooked or heated when they’re made, as that can kill off most of the digestive enzymes for dogs.
Bonus Ingredient: Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk is a soluble fiber that works very well as a laxative, so if your dog has constipation, this would be especially helpful. It’s also a prebiotic that supports the good bacteria of the dog’s colon.
Our Gut Feeling
There’s a saying that the gut is the “second brain.” With so many neurons throughout the gut and the gastrointestinal tract, it’s no wonder why the gut has been traditionally linked with moods. Phrases like “gut instinct,” “gut-wrenching,” and “butterflies in my stomach” all point to the connection of our overall well-being and our guts. This is also true for our dogs and other animals.