Probiotics are growing to be a staple supplement for humans, but did you know probiotics might be beneficial for pets, too? These powerful bacterial are commonly used to treat bowel problems in pups, but they also have many more benefits to help your furry friend live a happy, healthy life.
What are probiotics?
Inside your pet’s colon lives a complex network of bacteria and other microorganisms that aid in digestion, produce fatty acids, trigger neurotransmitters and more. This microbiome is delicately balanced—meaning too many or too few of a particular bacterium could throw it out of balance and cause problems. Things like stress, poor diets, antibiotics and toxins can cause these imbalances.
If certain bacteria grow too abundantly, your cat or dog might suffer from a range of health problems, including inflammation of the digestive tract and uncomfortable bowel movements. Microbial imbalances can also leave your dog more susceptible to infections or other illnesses, since healthy bacteria prevent pathogens from exiting the colon.
Probiotics are beneficial strains of bacteria that help to balance your pet’s digestive microbiome and prevent these kinds of problems. Probiotics naturally occur both inside and outside your pet’s body, but sometimes, they are diminished due to imbalances. That’s where probiotic supplements might help.
Probiotic supplements include numerous strains of live bacteria that can help repopulate the healthy bacteria in the gut. Most probiotic supplements are species-specific due to the slight differences in microbiota. For this reason, your cat or dog should never take probiotics designed for humans or another animal.
Many probiotic supplements also include prebiotic fibers that fuel the probiotics and ensure they thrive one they’re in the colon.
How probiotics can help pets
Most people know that probiotics can be useful in alleviating problems with the digestive tract, such as irritable bowel disease or food sensitivities. However, probiotics aren’t just for dogs with digestive problems or cats with food allergies. They can actually have multifaceted benefits for their entire body!
Here are some of the top benefits of feeding your pet a daily probiotic:
- Healthy digestion: Of course, one of the main reasons pet parents turn to probiotics is because their pet is suffering from a digestive problem like diarrhea or inflammation. Many of these problems have roots in gut microbiome imbalances. Pets with gut dysbiosis may experience cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea and more. Probiotics can bring balance to the gut and make digestion operate much more smoothly.
- Immunity: Surprisingly, a healthy gut microbiome is essential to your pet’s immune health. Approximately 70 percent of cells in the immune system live in the gut. Thus, when the gut is compromised by imbalances or harmful pathogens, the immune system is unable to operate as well as it should. This could lead to your pet getting sick more easily or having a harder time recovering from an illness. Introducing probiotics into their diet can restore balance and ultimately bolster their immunity for life-long health.
- Recovering pets: If your cat or dog recently experienced a bacterial infection or had a medical procedure done and is now taking antibiotics, a probiotic may be able to help them, too! Antibiotics do not only eradicate harmful bacteria within the body—they also remove beneficial bacteria and can destroy the natural balance of your pet’s microbiome. Dogs and cats who have to take regular antibiotics may suffer from digestive problems as a result. Probiotics may be able to help repopulate the gut microbiome with healthy bacteria. In this case, you’ll want to feed your pet a probiotic supplement with many different strains, since bacterial diversity is just as important as beneficial bacterial growth.
- Total-body health: Aside from specific ailments like hampered immunity or digestive problems, imbalances in your pet’s gut bacteria can affect their total-body health, from their cognition to their skin. Gut dysbiosis has been linked to low-grade inflammation in pets and humans and may contribute to serious diseases over time, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. By keeping your pet’s gut healthy and balanced, you can help them stay generally healthy for longer.
Not all probiotics are the same, and some can do more harm than good based on your pet’s particular health conditions. Because every cat and dog’s microbiome is unique, they often require tailored solutions to aid in achieving bacterial balance.
Before putting your pet on a probiotic supplement, discuss your options with their veterinarian. They can help you identify a supplement that provides the right strains to combat the problems your pet is experiencing. And, of course, if the symptoms worsen while taking probiotics, you should cease administration of the supplement.
Probiotics aren’t capable of repairing a broken microbiome alone, either. They should work alongside a healthy, balanced diet that contains fibers and nutrients that feed the probiotics in the gut, as well as routine exercise and a stress-free home. Together, these things can put your furry friend on the path to wellness!