Benefits of Probiotics and Prebiotics for Dogs and Cats

Many of us think of bacteria as harmful, or even deadly, but did you know that certain bacteria are not only desirable, but necessary for your pet's good health?

"Friendly" bacteria such as Bacillus coagulans (Lactobacillus sporogenes) and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are just a few of the helpful microorganisms that can reside in your dog or cat's intestinal tract where they play an important role in defending his body against disease and illness.

These kinds of bacteria are referred to as "friendly" because, rather than causing illness and disease, they serve to defend your pet from harmful organisms which can invade his body from time to time.  

Keeping this complex ecosystem of microorganisms in balance, however, is not always easy.  In this ongoing “tug of war” between friendly and harmful bacteria, sometimes the friendly bacteria get outnumbered due to a number of causes:  

  • The use of prescription drugs
  • The aging process
  • An inadequate diet
  • A compromised immune system
  • Fertilizers, pesticides and other chemical pollutants
  • Stress  

Probiotics and Antibiotics

One of the most common ways that the ratio of friendly-to-harmful bacteria gets nudged out of balance is through the use of antibiotics. Of course, the use of these drugs is not always avoidable, especially if your dog or cat is fighting a serious infection.

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not able to distinguish between friendly and harmful bacteria, so when eradicating the harmful bacteria (the source of many serious infections), they also kill off a large number of friendly bacteria. This leaves your pet with even less of a defense the next time he is exposed to harmful microorganisms.  That's why many people turn to a probiotic supplement to help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria.

Even a natural event such as aging can affect the balance of good and harmful bacteria in your pet's intestinal tract. Regardless of the cause, if your pet shows any of the signs of an unhealthy intestinal tract, this should serve as a red flag: It’s time to intervene and help your pet get his intestinal ecosystem back on the right track. Some of the most common symptoms of an unhealthy digestive tract are the following:  

  • Flatulence
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Sluggishness
  • Skin problems
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS)    

Probiotic Supplements - Replacing Friendly Bacteria

One of the simplest and most effective remedies for poor digestion is to administer probiotics to your pet. Probiotics are supplements comprised of different kinds of friendly bacteria. These beneficial bacteria help restore the balance of bacteria in the gut so that harmful bacteria do not overwhelm the digestive system. 

The ingredients in them may vary from brand to brand, as do the methods of delivery. For instance, probiotics may come in capsules, powder, or tablet form. They may even be included in some brands of commercial pet food, although this is not considered the best source since high temperatures during the manufacturing process can reduce their effectiveness. For this reason, supplements are considered the more effective way to go.  

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are the nutrients that act as food for the "good" bacteria that live in the intestinal tract. They help the beneficial bacteria thrive. Prebiotics are a specialized form of fiber that occurs naturally in foods such as chicory, asparagus, artichokes, garlic, honey, wheat and oats. One of the most common prebiotics is FOS or fructooligosaccharides.