We hear about the value of probiotics for humans on a daily basis. But should you be giving your dog a probiotic supplement as well?
What is a Probiotic?
Nutritional supplements that contain live microorganisms – bacteria and/or yeast – and are aimed at improving one’s health can be considered probiotics. These microorganisms boost the “good bacteria” in the gut. As their numbers increase, they out-compete the “bad bacteria.” Why is this important?
We are learning that so much of our immune system is affected – either positively or negatively – from our gut. Keeping our gut health in top form has widespread benefits to our immune system. And studies have shown that probiotic supplements can help treat infections outside of the gut area, as well as some allergic and inflammatory diseases.
Should I Give Them to My Dog?
Probiotics are regularly given to all animals – from cows and horses to guinea pigs and birds – when they develop diarrhea. The cause for the diarrhea in dogs could be from stress, eating something from the garbage, from an infection or from being on antibiotics. The diarrhea could clear up on its own, or persist for a while. Whatever the cause, it has disrupted the balance between two categories of gut microorganisms:
- those that promote normal, healthy gut function – the “good bacteria”
- those that secrete toxins or are disruptive in larger than normal numbers – the “bad bacteria”
Once the probiotics work their magic and the bacteria is back in balance, the diarrhea will generally stop. If the problem was short-lived, stopping the probiotics shouldn’t be a problem. One of the downsides of probiotic supplements is that the microorganisms aren’t able to stay in the gut and reproduce for a long period of time. The pronounced benefits tend to taper off once the probiotics are stopped.
Related: Doggie Diarrhea – What Do I Do?
Other Considerations for Long-Term Probiotic Use
If the diarrhea continues once off the probiotics, it could be for some chronic underlying cause. In this case, work with your veterinarian to come up with a program which may include giving probiotics on an ongoing basis. If expense is an issue, you might be able to move to an every-other day schedule after following the product directions for a full month or two.
You might also consider adding a PREbiotic supplement to your dog’s diet. Prebiotics are non-digestible ingredients that promote the growth of probiotic microorganisms. They basically feed the “good bacteria” giving them the winning edge over the bad ones. Commonly used prebiotics for dogs include inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides, beet pulp, chicory and arabinogalactan.
If you can identify the underlying cause of your dog’s chronic diarrhea (poor diet, gastrointestinal or immune disorder, chronic stress) you may be able to take other steps to treat that cause and find that you no longer need to keep giving probiotics.
In any case, your dog will benefit from probiotics. A stronger, healthier gastrointestinal system will improve his immune system, helping him to fend off other health issues.
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