Probiotics are all over the news these days. And for good reason! They are good for us humans…are they also good for our furry family members?
Over the past 10 years, probiotics have been widely studied in the field of human medicine and are now being studied more than ever in the field of veterinary medicine. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) of the The United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”.
Probiotics are made up of bacteria (predominantly) and yeast and are commonly added to foods and supplements that our pets consume, but can also be found in fermented products. Probiotics should not be confused with prethe biotics that are food probiotics generally use and are sugars and starches which aid in the growth of prothe biotics or “good bacteria” in your gut.
Our pet’s digestive system contains many types of bacteria, called the microbiome. These bacteria play a crucial role in maintaining the overall balance of health with the animal’s immune system. This complex relationship supports the immune system and helps protect against “bad” bacteria and provides overall nutrition for our pets. When this relationship is interrupted, it can pave the way for the emergence of diseases. A common reason for disturbance is stress, and can often lead to diarrhea and more so vomiting and reduced appetite. Other common disturbances can be caused by a pet’s diet, exposure to viruses, exposure to disease-causing bacteria, medications, and age.
The goal for our pets is to maintain a healthy microbiome and probiotics can help with that. Some commonly used probiotics in dog and cat food supplements are: Lactobacilli sp., Bifidobacterium sp., Bacteroides sp., Enterococcus sp., Streptococci spp. These combinations can aid digestion, aid nutrient absorption, support immune function, and displace “bad” bacteria. Probiotics are often recommended to balance the disturbed microbiota in a cat or dog. When this disturbance occurs and the “bad” bacteria multiply, it can lead to stomach upsets which could give our pets diarrhea, vomiting, gas or make them reluctant to eat. Probiotics may be recommended for diet changes, stress, medications and conditions affecting the digestive tract and have been shown to support healthy skin, normal kidney function, normal liver function and normal immune function .
With the vast array of research going on, the probiotic landscape is changing all the time. Although there is no governing body that oversees label claims for probiotic products in the veterinary market, finding a product from a reputable manufacturer will likely provide a good quality, supported product. For instance, Tomlyn Pre and Probiotic Nutritional Supplement for Dogs contains the highest colony forming units (CFU) on the market and is a source of live (viable) naturally occurring microorganisms. The advanced formula contains over 8 billion CFU of probiotics per packet to help support good digestive and gut health. Additionally, the formula contains fructo-oligosaccharide as a prebiotic to support the growth of beneficial bacteria and the five probiotics. If you think a probiotic is an option for your pet and their overall health, don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian to recommend the right product to keep your pet’s gut happy and healthy.