At Scrumbles, we have first-hand experience of the power of probiotics for dogs. After on and off problems, our vet prescribed us a probiotic paste to calm down our pets’ sensitive stomachs. And to our amazement it worked!
We spent a long time reading up on gut health and probiotics. Our research highlighted how probiotics for dogs are hugely beneficial as part of their daily diet. Read on to uncover the benefits of probiotics and how they impact your pooch.
According to a recent survey, 95% pet owners are primarily concerned with the digestive health benefits of the dog food they choose. Pet pawrents are right to prioritise dog food designed to aid digestion. Your dog’s gut and your own play a huge role in overall health and quality of life.
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said, “bad digestion is at the root of all evil”. Unbalanced gut flora can have negative effects on every dog’s immune and digestive system, which is why we advocate living the gut life.
So, what are probiotics?
Probiotics are microorganisms found in your dog’s body. You might have heard of probiotics referred to as “good” and “friendly” bacteria. Probiotics promote gut health aiding digestion and balancing your dog’s gut flora.
The origins of probiotics for dogs
Wild canines would hunt for their food, so their diet consisted of mainly meat. However when they ate their catch they also ate the vegetables inside their bellies. These vegetables were fermented by their prey’s digestive system containing probiotics. Some modern-day pooches have even been known to eat soil when craving probiotics that they aren’t getting in their diet. Clever dogs!
Probiotics were discovered for humans back in 1907. High in the Caucasus Mountains of Bulgaria, a scientist named Elie Metchnikoff was baffled by the long lives enjoyed by the villagers – many of them in their 100s! Metchnikoff found villagers would drink a fermented yoghurt drink daily. This drink was brimming with a probiotic known as Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
Gut bacteria and your dog’s microbiome
Bacteria is everywhere. However, before you reach for the bleach, some bacteria are friendly. Inside every dog is their gut microbiome. This is made up of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi that directly affect their immune system. Good bacteria aid digestion and absorb the nutrients and vitamins from your dog’s breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Gut bacteria really are a dog’s best friend and have a big part to play in your dog’s overall health. If they’re out of balance your dog can suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diarrhoea and other digestive problems.
Unbalanced gut bacteria can contribute to animals and humans developing allergies, diabetes. Recent studies show how poor gut health can lead to mental health and mood disorders like anxiety. This is because microbiomes play a big role in the production of serotonin, the happy hormone built in our gut.
Fur Fact: Unlike their pet pawrents, a dog’s slobbery saliva doesn’t contain any digestive enzymes.
Benefits of probiotics for dogs?
Your dog’s gut affects almost every other function in their body. Ensuring it is running smoothly has a far-reaching impact on their physical and even mental health.
- Digestion aid: Probiotics are pawsome for aiding your dog’s digestion. Probiotics can help poor pooches who suffer from allergies or who have regularly upset tummies including vomiting, gas and bloating.
- Stool quality: The poo picking pet parents among us will have experienced “events” we would rather forget. For dogs who are suffering diarrhoea or loose stools, probiotics can help treat the symptoms and improve stool quality. Similarly if your dog suffers from constipation, probiotics can help.
- Immune Boosting: Probiotics provide an essential role in keeping your dog happy and healthy. Boosting their immune, probiotics can help reduce the frequency and length of illnesses. They’re particularly helpful post a course of antibiotics to rebalance their gut.
- Improve skin and coat: It’s thought that probiotics can help improve skin and coat condition through synthesising essential vitamins e.g. B group vitamins
Environmental factors like stress can also impact stool quality and these can be tricky to avoid even with probiotics. Just as we can all get a dicky tummy in a stressful situation, so can your pooch. You may notice tummy upsets or loose stools during stressful situations. These include anxiety during firework season, moving house or if they suffer from separation anxiety. A lack of appetite is a common symptom of stress and this further reduces the nutrients your dog gets. In these situations, keeping things consistent is important so before changing diets, help appease your dog first.
What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?
A lot of people confuse the two, but they are not the same thing and each play different roles for your pet’s digestive system. Prebiotics are complex sugars that fuel probiotics. Common prebiotics in pet food include FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharide), MOS (Mannan oligosaccharides), chicory root and beet pulp. Prebiotics can be helpful in fuelling the microbiome. But, as they can also feed harmful bacteria they should be used with caution, particularly if a pet has a pre-existing issue like IBD.
Probiotics and your dog’s immune system
As well as the skin and other organs, a key part of your dog’s immune system is known as the circulating immune system, which involves the blood and lymph liquid. Lymphocytic cells recognise antigens which are the bacteria, parasites and viruses that cause an immune response.
There are two types of lymphocytic cells which synchronise or stimulate the immune system. These are called T-cells and B-cells. They either destroy and remove the antigens themselves or produce antibodies which activate this response in other cells.
T-cells activate white blood cells in the blood as well as influencing the good bacteria that exists inside a dog’s gut. B-cells produce immunoglobulins, or antibodies, like Immunoglobulin A (IgA) which plays a role in protecting the dog from local infections in its secretion from the mucous membranes, such as in saliva or tears. B-cells have long lives and are responsible for remembering the antigens, so they can fight them if ever exposed again. When your pooch has a vaccination, it is targeting these B-cells to produce antibodies.
Lymphocytes flow around the dog’s body to where they are needed but the majority of them are based in the gut, where dendritic cells assist in identifying antigens. As well as these cells there is a normal level of bacteria called gut flora and the gut is acidic for extra defence against nasty antigens.
Between 70-80% of your pooch’s immune system is in their digestive tract. Feeding a gut-friendly diet with probiotics helps keep your dog’s immune system in check.
When should you give your dog probiotics?
Probiotics are gut-friendly and offer a number of benefits for your pooch which is why we recommend daily probiotics for dogs. However, if that’s not already the case there are number of occasion where you might want to explore probiotics for dogs.
- Following the use of antibiotics which can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach-aches for your dog as they destroy both good and bad bacteria. The addition of probiotics will help get their gut back to a happy state.
- Leaky gut syndrome in dogs, where toxins enter the bloodstream through the intestinal wall, can be caused by unbalanced gut bacteria. This condition results in gas, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Probiotics in a healthy dog form a layer over the inside of the intestine, and a strong barrier helps ensure only nutrients are absorbed into the blood.
- Some cheeky canines always find a way to eat things they’re not supposed to from bins or the street. These dietary indiscretions can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in otherwise healthy pooches. Dog breeds like the Basenji can inherit digestive problems and some dogs just suffer from regular upset tummies. These symptoms can be eased with the inclusion of probiotics for dogs into their daily diet.
Probiotics for dogs: are these the same as those for humans?
Most human probiotics are unlikely to cause your pet any harm. However, given your dog’s digestive system is made up of a different bacterium, it’s best to introduce a probiotic specifically designed for their digestive system.
Many human probiotics are available from special yoghurts and milk drinks like Yakult and Activia. As dairy is a known allergen for dogs (and cats) that can cause upset to their tummies we’d recommend against feeding it for your dog.
Many foods have naturally occurring probiotics but aren’t suitable for you to include in your dog’s diet, like onions which contain thiosulphateand are toxic to dogs. You might not have the time to make batches of fermented vegetables and there’s no guarantee your choosy canine would eat them. Thankfully there are a wide number of probiotics for dogs that you can choose from.
Picking the right probiotic for dogs
If you’ve decided you’d like to include probiotics in your dog’s diet, then where do you possibly start? It might be tempting to load your doggy with as many as possible. However, this isn’t recommended as the probiotics can compete for space with existing bacteria and ultimately not achieve the benefit you were looking for. Instead look for a probiotic and dosage that is proven to aid digestion.
Enterococcus faecium is found naturally in the flora of animals. It’s known to be beneficial to dogs and is the probiotic we add to Scrumbles at a dosage of one billion CFU (colony forming units). This colony forming unit count tells you how many live probiotic bacteria are in the dog food and we’ve chosen one billion, not simply because it’s a fun number, but because it is shown to see health benefits. Studies show that Enterococcus faecium increases the presence of the antibody IgA in dogs. IgA helps protect against pathogens and improves the overall health of dog’s skin, digestive tract and respiratory system.
How to get probiotics into your dog’s daily diet
You have two main choices. Use supplements that have probiotics for dogs, or feed a diet that includes probiotics.
There are a range of supplements available in pill, power and paste form but we believe it’s easier and can be better value to feed a probiotic dog food which your furriend likes the taste of like our range of dry dog food Scrumbles.
Whichever choice you make, do make sure that the probiotics are live in order to get the benefits. Probiotics can be rendered inefficient if subjected to heat and moisture so need to be prepared and packaged carefully. Once Scrumbles is cooked we let the food cool fully. Only then do we add our gut-friendly probiotic and pack it into resealable bags with a moisture barrier. This carefully planned process is totally worth it for the wiggle of approval from our doggy consumers.
What to expect when changing your dog’s food
When switching any dog food, we recommend you introduce it to your doggy gradually over 7-10 days. Keep your feeding routine the same but add in some of the new dog food with each meal, eventually phasing the old food out altogether.
As with any transition, you may notice a change in your dog’s poo and it isn’t uncommon to see some loose stools during this period. This can be a sign that you are transitioning too quickly or overfeeding so take it slow and watch how your dog responds. These symptoms should go away after a couple of weeks. Be sure to keep an eye out and if the problem persists it may be worth reverting or consulting with your vet.
Are you considering introducing living the gut life? Do you already feed Scrumbles? Let us know in the comments!
References for further reading