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Probiotics for dogs

Can eating microbes be good for your dog? You may have heard of probiotics in your cheese and yogurt, but did you know that these tiny organisms can also be good for your dog and help with digestion! If your dog has issues with a turbulent tummy, like irritable bowel syndrome, sensitive stomach or chronic diarrhea, your veterinarian may recommend that you try probiotics. Even if your pup does not struggle with tummy problems, they may still benefit from a probiotic supplement. Keep reading to find out why!

What are probiotics?

Let’s start from the very beginning by asking what the term biotic means. Biotic components are living organisms in an environment. Even humans and our dogs can be considered examples of biotic organisms! 

Ever wonder how fibre is digested in your dog’s body? Well it’s largely due to tiny bacteria and other microbes in their large intestine. These bacteria are beneficial as they make up what’s called the microbiome, which helps to break down and digest fibre as well as keep your digestive tract healthy! 

Probiotics are a supplement of these helpful microbiota. Usually probiotics are cultured from yeast and other fermented foods. They are then fed as a food supplement to balance the digestive system and improve bowel irritation. As a result, they can improve and restore the gut flora. 

The role of the microbiome in dog digestion

Your dog’s microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that are largely located in the large intestine. The microbiome consists of microbes that are both helpful and potentially harmful. In a healthy dog, these microbes coexist peacefully. However if the balance is tipped by illness, a poor diet or antibiotics, it could leave your dog susceptible to illness.

The microbiome plays a major role in digestion for dogs and other mammals and is the primary region for fibre digestion. Microbes ferment and breakdown fibre from the carbohydrates that your dog has consumed. Examples of fibre can include anything from vegetables to grains and even seeds. Most plant products contain a certain amount of fibre. Unlike protein, fats and starches, fibre is not broken down by enzymes or stomach acid and must be digested by the microbiome to elicit their full nutritive benefits.

Gut microflora in the microbiome break down fibre through a process called fermentation, where otherwise indigestible fiber is metabolized by the microflora to produce compounds short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Acetate, propionate and butyrate are SCFAs that can be then used by the body as a nutrient source, muscle function, neuro-endocrine function and brain function. Some studies have shown that SFCAs may also possibly prevent the development of chronic diseases, including certain cancers and bowel disorders like crohn's disease and IBS.


Benefits of probiotics for dogs

Probiotics are a nutritional tool to help aid your dog’s digestive function. Think of it the same way as giving your dog a vitamin or mineral supplement to help with their nutritive health. Giving your dog a daily probiotic can greatly benefit their overall health. 

Although probiotics can be taken to improve general digestive health, they are also suggested to help those suffering from chronic digestive diseases like Irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, infectious diarrhea (caused by pathogens like viruses, harmful bacteria or parasites), and diarrhea caused by antibiotics. Some studies have even shown that probiotics can help relieve allergies in dogs!

One 2018 study tested the effects of probiotics on dogs with acute diarrhea. It was hypothesized that the probiotic Enterococcus faecium 4b1707 would improve the clinical outcome of acute, uncomplicated diarrhea in dogs compared to a placebo. The researchers conducted a double blind, placebo controlled study with one hundred forty-eight client-owned dogs with acute diarrhea. Results of the study showed that the administration of the probiotic greatly reduced the severity of diarrhea compared to dogs given the placebo. Dogs in the probiotic group had a significantly shorter duration of diarrhea, as well as a shorter rate of resolution. As a result, dogs with acute diarrhea may not need prescription medication if they are supplemented with a probiotic. 

Common probiotics for dogs

You can purchase probiotics for your dog either at your local pet store, online or from your veterinarian. Probiotic supplements come in many different forms including:

  • Powders
  • Capsules
  • Tablets
  • Chews and treats
  • Capsules

The probiotic species that are most commonly used in these supplements are the same species that would be found in your dog’s microbiome. Some of the most common species of probiotics that you would see on a supplement label are:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Bifidobacterium breve

The difference between probiotics and prebiotics

Prebiotics are not living organisms like probiotics but they instead help the good bacteria in the digestive system to grow and thrive. Think of prebiotics as food for good bacteria. Prebiotics come from healthy fibre in food. Some great sources of prebiotics are fruit, veggies and whole grains. In addition to helping grow healthy gut bacteria, prebiotics can also help reduce blood sugar, reduce bloating and help absorb calcium.

The difference between probiotics and postbiotics

A more recent supplement, postbiotics are byproducts or metabolites of the fermentation process carried out by probiotics in the intestine and are essentially the waste products of probiotics. It may sound gross but these waste products can be very useful for promoting digestive health! A few examples of postbiotics are:

  • Short chain fatty acids (acetate, propionate and butyrate)
  • Organic acids 
  • Bacteriocins
  • Carbonic substances 
  • Enzymes

These postbiotics occur naturally but can also be given as a dietary supplement. Research has found that rather than supplementing probiotics, it may actually be more beneficial to supplement postbiotics rather than probiotics. This is because it may actually be the postbiotic “waste” products providing the digestive health benefits instead of the probiotics themselves.

Probiotics and Kabo

At Kabo, we believe wholeheartedly in the health benefits of probiotics for your dog. That’s why we include probiotics in our fresh kibble. All 3 of our kibble recipes include Bacillus licheniformis and Bacillus subtilis as probiotic species to help improve your dog’s digestive health!

Terrier showing its belly
Terrier showing its belly

View Sources

National Health Service. "Probiotics". 27 November 2018.

Harvard Ed. “The Microbiome”. 

Y. Siva, A. Bernardi and L. Fozza. “The Role of Short-Chain Fatty Acids From Gut Microbiota in Gut-Brain Communication” Front. Endocrinol., 31 January 2020. 

AKC. “Probiotics for dogs” (2020). 

Nixon, SL, Rose, L, Muller, AT. Efficacy of an orally administered anti-diarrheal probiotic paste (Pro-Kolin Advanced) in dogs with acute diarrhea: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical study. J Vet Intern Med. 2019; 33: 1286– 1294. 

Davani-Davari, D., Negahdaripour, M., Karimzadeh, I., Seifan, M., Mohkam, M., Masoumi, S. J., Berenjian, A., & Ghasemi, Y. (2019). Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 8(3), 92. 

Aguilar-Toalá, J. E., R. Garcia-Varela, H. S. Garcia, V. Mata-Haro, A. F. González-Córdova, B. Vallejo-Cordoba, and A. Hernández-Mendoza. "Postbiotics: An evolving term within the functional foods field." Trends in Food Science & Technology 75 (2018): 105-114.

Wegh, Carrie AM, Sharon Y. Geerlings, Jan Knol, Guus Roeselers, and Clara Belzer. "Postbiotics and their potential applications in early life nutrition and beyond." International journal of molecular sciences 20, no. 19 (2019): 4673.

Alltech. 2021. “Prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics for pets— what’s the difference?” 

Salminen, Seppo, Maria Carmen Collado, Akihito Endo, Colin Hill, Sarah Lebeer, Eamonn MM Quigley, Mary Ellen Sanders et al. "The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of postbiotics." Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology (2021): 1-19.

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February 20, 2024
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