Probiotics are one of the most popular health trends of late. They’re touted to play an integral role in keeping our digestive and immune systems in shape. Since those parts of us aren’t all that different from our canine friends, it makes sense to consider the relationship between probiotics and your dog.
As it turns out, they are indeed important to your pooch. You’ll find probiotic bacteria in several parts of their body, including the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory organs, skin, and oral cavities. But what exactly do they do? And what are the best probiotics to give your dog? Read on to find out.
The primary role of probiotic bacteria is to act as the frontline of defence against unwanted intruders. They also assist in the processing of nutrients. Every cell that makes up your dog’s body is accompanied by approximately 10 bacteria, making the microbiome a major organ.
The most common type of bacteria in the microbiome is called commensal bacteria. They eat what your dog eats, with a particular taste for fibres that otherwise go undigested. The fibre they consume comes from three sources:
- Soluble Fibre is fermented by bacteria in the colon and is a primary food source. Your dog can obtain it from pectin in fruit, beta-glucan from mushrooms, seaweed, guar gum, and some grains.
- Insoluble Fibre comes from cellulose. It’s also fermented in the colon.
- Resistant Starch goes through the colon mostly unchanged.
Together, these fibres are known as prebiotics. They consume the substances that reach your dog’s colon and turn them into byproducts called short-chain fatty acids, which are critical to overall health and immunity.
The problem is that bacteria can go rogue and cause issues such as increased production of bile acids that damage your dog’s gut lining, which happens when friendly bacteria compete with the body for nutrients. Pathogenic bacteria can grow out of control and take over commensal bacteria. This is usually what causes a leaky gut.
Both issues are the result of bacterial shifts. They can be caused by toxins, ageing, drugs and antibiotics. Adding probiotics to your dog’s diet helps to ensure that said problems don’t happen by keeping pathogenic bacteria out and assisting in the production of short-chain fatty acids.
If you’d like to learn more about probiotics for dogs, you can find more information here on the Bella and Duke blog. Aside from some valuable insight on the topic, the British dog food company also provides a range of premium prebiotic and probiotic supplements to help your best friend be their happiest and healthiest selves.
Now that we have a better idea of what exactly probiotics are, we can move on to understanding the three main types of healthy bacteria and their benefits.
1. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
These species make up the majority of probiotic supplements. You’ll often find them mentioned on the label as B. or L. Both come from fermented dairy products and last up to 24 hours before being eliminated from the gut.
Lactobacillus converts the sugars in milk into lactic acid, which reduces the presence of bad bacteria in the intestine. Bifidobacteria does the same but resides in the colon and helps support the immune system. Keep in mind that both species can be problematic if your dog is allergic to dairy, so you might want to consult a veterinarian first.
Yoghurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables are the richest sources of lactic acid.
2. Saccharomyces Boulardii
While not actually a bacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii is considered a probiotic as it can help with digestive issues and immune system strength. It’s a type of yeast that has been used to treat diarrhoea in humans, and has recently been found to have the same benefits for dogs as well.
One way that S. boulardii is unique is that it cannot be killed by antibiotics, making it a suitable probiotic to use when your dog is on medication. You’ll usually find it as a supplement in soil-based form. Having no relation to milk makes Saccharomyces boulardii a great option for dogs with dairy allergies.
3. Bacillus Strains
Another soil-based probiotic, Bacillus strains are different in that they’re spore-forming. This means they can protect themselves from stomach acids and antibiotics thanks to a strong coating. Moreover, they don’t have to be refrigerated like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Bacillus strains include B. coagulens, which produces lactic acid and fights inflammatory diseases. Another is B. indicus. This strain is known for producing a high number of carotenoids that serve as powerful antioxidants with several health benefits. There’s also B. subtilis, which is a key influencer on digestive health and is particularly useful for treating UTIs.
Probiotics can be incredibly beneficial to your pup’s overall well-being. That said, don’t forget to provide a complete and healthy diet in addition to prebiotics. Rest assured that your dog will thank you.