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 support 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.
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 digestive health.
- Stool quality: Better digestion leads to better poo picking experiences – yes there is such a thing as a pretty pick-usable poos!
- Supporting immune systems: Keeping your dog happy and healthy.
- 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. These include anxiety during firework season or moving house. 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 can support your dog’s immune system.
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.