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What are postbiotics and what can they do for your dog?

You may have heard of prebiotics and probiotics but what are postbiotics? Recent studies have shown promise in postbiotic research that could potentially boost the health of our pups. Let’s delve into postbiotics and what they can do for dogs.

What does biotic mean?

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! When it comes to pre, pro and post biotics, we are referring to elements surrounding microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract.

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What are probiotics?

Ever wonder how fibre is digested in your body? Well it’s largely due to tiny bacteria in your 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! Just like us, dogs also have a diverse microbiome which aids in digestion.

Probiotics are a supplement of these helpful bacteria. 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.

There are 3 main types of probiotics, they are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii. 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!

Human digestive system Human digestive system with doctor hand hold magnify glass to show probiotics stock illustration probiotics stock illustrations

What are 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.

Red apple fruit with half and green leaf isolated on white Ripe red apple fruit with apple half and green apple leaf isolated on white background. Apples and leaf with clipping path apple stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

What are 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. Postbiotics are commonly found in any source of probiotics (yogurt, cheese, etc.). They can also be synthesized in a laboratory for supplementation as well.

How do postbiotics improve digestive health?

  • Lower blood sugar and prevent diabetes by relieving glucose intolerance by increasing insulin sensitivity.
  • Reduce diarrhea and irritable bowl 
  • Reduce inflammation 
dog siesta at park jack russell dog relaxing and resting on grass meadow at the park outdoors and outside on summer vacation holidays dog stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Take home message

Postbiotics are still a relatively new concept for supplementation but there is a lot of positive research going on to determine the exact benefits of postbiotics and their role as a functional food. You will likely hear more about postbiotics as they gain in popularity. As it stands the best form of supplementation is through a combination of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics.


View Sources

Merdian. “What are postbiotic? 5 health benefits”. https://www.chiropractor-schaumburg.com/what-are-postbiotics-5-health-benefits/ 

WebMD “What Are Probiotics?” https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-are-probiotics 

WebMD “What Are Prebiotics?” https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/prebiotics-overview 

Alltech. 2021. “Prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics for pets— what’s the difference?” https://www.alltech.com/blog/prebiotics-probiotics-and-postbiotics-pets-whats-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.

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.

Jha, Aashish R., Justin Shmalberg, Jirayu Tanprasertsuk, LeeAnn Perry, Dan Massey, and Ryan W. Honaker. "Characterization of gut microbiomes of household pets in the United States using a direct-to-consumer approach." PloS one 15, no. 2 (2020): e0227289.

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