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Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Should Your Dog be on a Probiotic?

March 25, 2016 / (1) comments

Probiotic supplements are everywhere. You might be taking one. Should your dog?

 

Nutritional supplements containing live microorganisms (bacteria and/or yeast) that aim to improve health can be considered probiotics. They are typically used to improve the workings of the gastrointestinal tract, and they certainly do play an important role in this regard.

 

Consider a dog with diarrhea, for example. Whatever the cause—stress, dietary indiscretion, infection, antibiotic therapy—the diarrhea will sometimes persist even after the initial problem has resolved. The blame often lies with an imbalance between two categories of gut microorganisms:

  • those that promote normal, healthy gastrointestinal function
  • those that secrete toxins or are otherwise disruptive when they are present in larger than normal numbers

 

Probiotics are essentially a way of boosting the number of “good” microorganisms present in the gastrointestinal tract, thereby helping them to out-compete the “bad” ones.

 

It also appears that probiotics can improve canine health in other ways: They seem to be able to beneficially modify an animal’s immune function.

 

Studies have shown that probiotic supplementation can help treat infections outside of the gastrointestinal tract as well as some allergic and inflammatory diseases. This isn’t too surprising given that a large proportion of the body’s immune system is associated with the gut. Anything that influences the immune system there could have a wide-spread benefit.

 

One of the downsides of probiotic supplementation is the fact that the microorganisms aren’t able to effectively stay and reproduce within the gastrointestinal tract for a long period of time. The noticeable benefits of probiotics tend to wane once supplementation is stopped. This isn’t a big problem if you are giving a probiotic to deal with a short-lived problem—say diarrhea associated with antibiotic use—but for chronic disorders, probiotic supplements often need to be given more or less continually. This can be done safely, but the expense and inconvenience may eventually become an issue.

 

Three strategies are helpful if you find yourself in this situation.

 

  1. Many people have found that when taking probiotics themselves, they can eventually move to an every-other-day or even less frequent dosing schedule. The same is probably true for dogs.

     

    I recommend following the instructions on your dog’s probiotic supplement for at least a month or two to determine what the maximal benefits might be. Then play around a bit to see if you can get away with giving it every other day or just a couple of times a week.

     

  2. Consider adding a prebiotic supplement to your dog’s diet. Prebiotics are non-digestible ingredients that support the growth of probiotic microorganisms. Think of prebiotics as a way to preferentially feed the “good” microorganisms in the gut, giving them a potential advantage in their competition with the “bad” microorganisms.

     

    Fructo-oligosaccharides, beet pulp, chicory, arabinogalactan, and inulin are all commonly used prebiotics for dogs.

     

  3. If you can identify and address the underlying cause of your dog’s symptoms (e.g., poor diet, gastrointestinal or immune disorders, chronic stress, etc.) you may find that probiotic supplementation is no longer necessary.

 

Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Powered pig gut
    04/01/2016 11:22pm

    My dog is nearly 14 and he's had GI issues since I brought him home 12 years ago. For the past couple of years I've given him a supplement that is the only thing that has worked over time. It's powered organs of other mammals: porcine stomach, duodenum and jejunum; bovine spleen, liver and kidney (and more); ovine spleen . . . I don't know how it works, but my dog has never been healthier.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.


 
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