Probiotics for Dogs and Dog Digestion
You may have heard that probiotics can be good for your dog. And if your dog tends to suffer from stomach upset, gets diarrhea when stressed, or seems to have difficulty properly digesting, you may want to consider getting some probiotics for dogs to help with their digestion.
Let’s take a look at how your dog’s digestion works, what benefits probiotics offer, and whether you want to use probiotics for your pup.
How Does Dog Digestion Work?
First, let’s consider how your dog’s digestion works. A dog digests food differently than humans, which is why they can get away with eating pretty much anything without getting seriously ill (though, of course, garbage and some people foods are still not good for their digestion).
Unlike for humans, dog saliva does not aid in digestion. Dog’s saliva simply moistens the digestive tract to make it easier for the dog to move food to their stomach. When the dog takes a bite, its tongue pushes the food to its esophagus, which then propels the food to the stomach.
It’s in the stomach that digestion actually begins. Here, the food is stored with gastric juices for four to eight hours (much longer than food is stored in human stomachs, which usually comes to about half an hour). From the stomach, the food passes into the small intestine, which absorbs the nutrients available in the food with help from the liver and pancreas.
Once in the small intestine, the nutrients from the food will pass into villi and microvilli, fingerlike folds that produce digestive enzymes, absorb nutrients, and block the absorption of waste. From there, the food passes into the large intestine (colon) where fluids, electrolytes, and certain vitamins are absorbed. The waste is then excreted through the rectum.
Where Do Probiotics Come In?
Probiotics are living microorganisms in the dog’s digestive tract. They provide balance in the digestive system and help prevent disease. They aid in breaking down food, fighting off pathogens, strengthening immunity, making nutrients and vitamins, and interacting with the dog’s gut and brain axis to help them develop a good and healthy mood.
What are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics and probiotics work together in the dog’s digestive tract. Prebiotics are fibers and nutrients that promote the growth of good bacteria that already exist in the dog’s colon. Probiotics, then, feed the prebiotics in the colon to promote a balanced digestive system.
Why Do Dogs Need Probiotics?
All dogs are created with an appropriate balance of prebiotics and probiotics to help them digest their food and maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, it is possible for dogs to suffer from various illnesses or stressors that lead to an unhealthy gut balance.
There are a few common reasons for dogs to take probiotics. These include:
- To help with diarrhea brought on by stress (such as moving, boarding while you’re on a trip, etc.).
- To boost digestion after a change in the dog’s diet.
- To keep the gut healthy during the use of antibiotics.
- To help manage diarrhea brought on by parasites, bacterial overgrowth, etc.
- To help an older dog maintain a healthy digestive system.
What are the Types of Probiotics for Dogs?
You can find probiotics for dogs in a variety of ways. Some dog foods come with probiotics, while you may also be able to supplement probiotics for your dog in capsules, chews, or powders.
In addition, there are some probiotics in foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. However, it’s important to look for the right probiotic for your dog, as not all probiotics that work for humans will help your dog. The types of probiotics that dogs use are called:
- Bacillus coagulans
- Bifidobacterium animalis
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Enterococcus faecium
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
According to studies in the Journal of Animal Science and Technology, probiotics for animals can help dogs
- Reduce stress
- Modulate the immune system
- Protect against pathogenic bacteria
- Develop growth performance
Because gastrointestinal issues are some of the most common issues dogs face, probiotics play an important role in ensuring your dog stays healthy.
How To Know Your Dog Needs Probiotics
As you can see, probiotics have a lot of amazing benefits for dogs. But how do you know when your dog is low and may need to supplement with a few more probiotics? Well, there are a few main signs:
- Unhealthy-looking poop
You should talk to your dog’s vet before choosing to diagnose a probiotic. Keep in mind that, when you start using probiotics, your dog may experience an increase in some of these symptoms while their gut gets used to the new probiotics. Eventually, though, symptoms should wear off.
Choosing a Probiotic
A great way to start when choosing a probiotic is by talking to your dog’s vet. Studies on probiotics have sometimes had mixed results, which means that probiotics may not be truly effective for every dog. Ask your vet if they think probiotics are a good option for your pup.
In addition, you want to make sure you read the label on the probiotic. Check if the strains mentioned above are present and be mindful that too many strains in one product are likely to compete with one another and end up providing little to no benefit.
Also check the use-by date and the guaranteed analysis of how many live bacteria will survive the shelf life of the probiotic. Once you’ve purchased it, be sure to keep it in a temperature-controlled area, as too much heat could easily kill the probiotics.
Does Your Dog Need a Probiotic?
If your dog is struggling with diarrhea brought on by stress, has parasites, or seems to be having a difficult time managing their digestion, you may want to consider a probiotic to help restore their gut balance and overall health.
However, don’t hesitate to talk to your vet before choosing a probiotic—there may be a deeper issue in your dog that probiotics won’t be able to help.
Keeping an eye on your dog’s poop is one of the best ways to check how their digestion is doing! If you need help with this, our team at Idaho Poop Scoop is here for you. We can help you pick up your dog’s poop and keep an eye out for any irregularities. To get help scooping poop, don’t hesitate to check out our services!