The Ultimate Guide to Probiotics for Pets
Did you know that many veterinarians all over the world recommend probiotics for pets? Would you give your pet probiotic supplements? Before you answer this question, make sure you understand everything that is at stake. Let’s begin with 3 important definitions that will prove useful along the following lines:
- Probiotics – They are live microorganisms populating several parts of your pet’s body, from the oral and nasal cavities and respiratory organs to the gastrointestinal tract, vagina, and even the skin. The term comes from the Latin preposition “pro”, which means “for”, and from the Greek “bios”, which means “life”, hence the overall meaning “for life”. Keep reading to find out how probiotics for pets support their life and health.
- Prebiotics – They are substances that support the growth and activity of probiotics, or, otherwise put, food for the latter. In diet and the supplements industry, they are fiber compounds that pass through the upper gastrointestinal tract undigested and reach the intestines, where they feed the existing good bacteria. Keep reading to find out what foods qualify as prebiotics.
- Symbiotics – The general term refers to the beneficial interaction of two different elements. In this particular context, it refers to the combination of probiotics and prebiotics, the secret to a healthy and active pet.
How Probiotics for Pets Work and What Benefits They Provide?
Although there are some tmajor differences between cats and dogs’ digestive systems, there are also numerous similarities. For example, cats have a smaller stomach and a shorter digestive tract compared to dogs. However, both cats and dogs process food in their stomach, absorbing nutrients and water as the processed food moves along the intesines.
For both pets, the gut is the most important part of their immune system. Its role is to allow food absorption and eliminate toxins and bacteria. The importance of probiotics for pets’ health becomes obvious when the system breaks down.
The pets begin to experience digestive upsets, displaying symptoms like vomiting, constipation of diarrhea. In dogs, gastrointestinal problems could be attributed to their tendency of eating anything they come across. In cats, they are mostly the consequence of the parasites found in their prey, if you’re wanting to tame down your cat then, you may want to check out these cat behavior tips!
In both pet categories, these issues signal an unhealthy balance between the good and bad bacteria populating their gut. Some strains of good bacteria have the power to fight bad bacteria and pathogens, so supplementation with probiotics for pets should solve all issues.
Different strains of probiotics pair with all the important parts of your pet’s immune system. When bacteria and viruses enter your pets’ mouth, probiotics are already there, neutralizing them or securing their passage throughout the gastrointestinal tract.
When the level of good bacteria drops, some of the good bacteria and viruses manage to escape their watch and induce infections, inflammations, and diseases that are very difficult to treat. Therefore, adequate levels of probiotics lower your pets’ vulnerability to disease.
Another benefit of probiotics for pets is enhanced digestion, which brings about more efficient absorption of minerals and vitamins. Your pets’ digestive system will process nutrients more efficiently, providing the body with everything it needs to remain healthy and function properly.
Brain proper functioning seems to be directly dependent on good bacteria levels. The microbiome in your pets’ intestines produces the neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, vital for brain health. Since the gut abounds in nerve cells, it would not be far from the truth to say that the probiotics residing here support brain function. One clinical study already confirmed his theory, showing hat mice with low gut bacteria levels behave differently compared to normal mice, engaging in risky behaviors.
Other beneficial effects of probiotics for pets would be the more effective synthesis of important hormones, like serotonin, and even DNA repair. Many specialists claim that the gut is, for humans and pets alike, a “second brain”. Others go as far as assuring that the gut is the most important, and the brain comes second.
In theory, your pets’ gut flora should preserve its health and balance. In practice, the poor nutritious value and the chemicals-rich composition of the food your pets eat destroy that balance. Antibiotics have a devastating effect on it as well. Supplementation with probiotics for pets is the easiest and safest way to restore and protect your pets’ gut flora.
Of course, “probiotics” is a general term that could include hundreds of bacteria strains. In order to reap the full benefits of supplementation and avoid side effects, you need to know which strains are more beneficial for your pets.
Contrary to what some may suggest, pets and humans have different needs, so giving your pet probiotics you use yourself is not a good idea. Instead, you should look for probiotic supplements for pets, containing specific strains.
Top 6 Strains of Probiotics for Pets
1. Bifidobacterium animalis
It is one of the most heavily studied probiotic strains in dogs and cats. Research showed it has the power to treat acute diarrhea and support general intestinal health. It seems bifidobacerium animalis adheres to skin cells, transits the murine gastrointestinal tract and significantly reduces the translocation of S. typhimurium.
- animalissupplementation significantly reduces the presence of Clostridia, especially Clostridium difficile, in pets, and has significant potential for gastrointestinal health. Since C. difficile is the main cause of diarrhea, probiotics for pets containing B.animalis should be your first choice when your pets show signs of acute diarrhea.
This strain seems to be very beneficial for puppies and kittens. It increases weight gain and stimulates growth, and it is critical in boosting immunity. Pets receiving Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements displayed fewer allergy symptoms and developed fewer diseases throughout the years.
It is a must have in probiotics for pets, specialists considering it one of the foundation bacteria of the canine intestinal flora. It has valuable antimicrobial properties. It seems to have the highest concentration and works best teamed up with Lactobacillus fermentum, and Lactobacillus salivarius.
4. Lactobacillus fermentum
Just as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, it is one of the foundation elements of the canine microbiota, having one of the highest concentrations, impressive survival characteristics, and a powerful impact on the intestinal microbiota.
5. Lactobacillus reuteri
Another must have strain in probiotics for pets, is seems to bring about valuable health benefits, while being very resistant to environment factors and helpful in infection control and eradication.
6. Lactobacillus salivarius
This strain is present in high concentrations in the gut of several pets, being considered responsible for their oral and gastrointestinal health. It seems to have a powerful impact on the other bacteria strains, being able to control pathogens and infections.
How to Choose the Best Probiotics for Pets
Choosing the right supplements for your pet cannot be easy, with so many products competing for your money. You have numerous aspects to consider. Some impact your convenience and budget, others determine the supplements’ effectiveness. Here are the main aspects that should influence your decision when buying supplements for your pet.
- Strains included – If possible, the supplement you buy should include all the above strains. If you can’t find one that covers them all, perhaps you can combine two. The basic idea is that all the above strains are beneficial and important to ensure a balanced intestinal flora for your pet.
- CFU count – The term refers to the number of colony forming units, or living bacteria one serving of probiotics for pet contains. This number should be directly proportional to the number of probiotic strains. You can choose a supplement with a CFU count in the range of hundreds of millions if your pet is healthy and you want to protect their health, or a CFU count of tens of billions if you are using the supplement to treat some of your pet’s health problems.
- Viability – If you check the label or the online description of the supplements you consider buying, you will see mentions like “guaranteed at manufacturing date” or “guaranteed by expiration date”. They refer to the viability of the live bacteria in the supplement. Needless to say, you should go with probiotics for pets guaranteed by expiration date. Otherwise, there is no telling how many of the colony forming units are still alive after manufacturing.
- Manufacturer reputation and guarantees – In the United States, the supplements industry lacks regulations. Anyone can pack some powder into a nice looking jar and sell it as a supplement. You will see there are websites selling dozens of supplements and products from various categories, with just a P.O. box behind them. If you care about your pet’s health and your money, you should stay away from such websites. Look for reputed producers, with high Better Business Bureau rating and reputation, with GMP certified facilities, that give the complete list of ingredients for their products and don’t make unrealistic promises. These manufacturers will always back their probiotics for pets with money back guarantees ranging from several months to one year.
- Storage requirements and dosage – No matter how much you love your pet, caring for it is often tiresome with your already busy schedule. Don’t make it even more difficult with products that require refrigeration or several administrations a day. It shouldn’t be difficult to find a powder or liquid supplement to mix in your pet’s food and store at room temperature.
Prebiotics and Their Importance in Supplementation with Probiotics for Pets
As mentioned above, prebiotics is food for probiotics. Without them, no matter what probiotic strains you administer to your pet, they may not survive and colonize their gut. There are three ways to make sure your pet gets its needed prebiotics:
- Adjust its diet to include prebiotic foods.
- Give it prebiotic supplements.
- Look for probiotic supplements that contain prebiotics as well.
The easiest solution would probably be to buy a supplement that combines probiotics with prebiotics. However, if you have trouble finding that supplement, or you are willing to invest a little time and effort in ensuring a healthy diet for your pet, consider adding the following foods to it:
- Leafy greens
Do Probiotics for Pets Have Side Effects?
In theory, probiotic supplements should be safe for both humans and pets. In practice, the change they induce in the intestinal flora and their impact on the functioning of the gastrointestinal system could have some mild repercussions.
On the first days of administration, your dog could suffer from gastrointestinal discomfort, perhaps mild diarrhea, show signs of agitation and even pain. Some pet owners consider these side effects a sign that the probiotics for pet work, but others complain about them and criticize the products that induce them.
To eliminate risks, you should consult your vet before beginning administration. They should be able to warn you if the product you bought or intend to buy is safe for your pet and what side effects, if any, you should expect.
Another way to avoid side effects, or at least diminish their intensity, is, to begin with a lower those than the one the producer recommends. It is better to give your pet only half of the recommended serving on the first 2-3 days, to give their body time to adjust to the change, and increase the dose gradually.
Further Safety Concerns Related to Probiotics for Pets
As mentioned above, probiotic supplements can be a godsend for your pet. However, you should choose them carefully, taking into account the above-discussed aspects, and consulting with your vet. You should also monitor your pet carefully on the first days of administration.
These supplements do not abide by any regulations. Third party tests showed that only about 10% of the products on the market contain the advertised CFUs. The rest contain around 50% of the advertised amounts or less. This means you can never be too careful or picky, and 3rd party tested products should take priority on your list of choices.
Most probiotics for pets are not actually tested on pets, but only combine bacteria strains known to benefit pets. Some manufacturers have embraced the trend towards 100% natural, allergen-free formulas, but others still use fillers and conservatives in their products. Before you buy supplements, you should read their label carefully, to know what you’re paying for.
The Bottom Line
Your pet’s health is precious, and probiotics are certainly one way to ensure it. Now that you know how they work, what strains to look for, and how to choose the best probiotics for pets, all you need to worry about is checking out the available offers and reading the labels carefully.