Probiotics, prebiotics, microbiome, bacteria, are all buzzwords when talking about gut health. What are they and how do they function together to keep our pets healthy?
Explained most simply, prebiotics are a food source for probiotics, the healthy bacteria living in a pet’s intestinal tract, making up their gut microbiome. It’s a delicate symbiotic, micro relationship designed to facilitate whole body health, starting in the gut. There are prebiotics and probiotics in some of the foods our pets eat every day, but how do you know if it’s enough? When should you offer supplements? Should they be used every day?
Prebiotics are soluble indigestible fibre that act as a food source for the microflora in your pet’s gut. Feeding the good bacteria in the digestive tract allows them to proliferate so they can make easy work of digestion of food, absorption of nutrients, disease prevention and help to maintain overall health. Feeding a variety of prebiotics ensures that these helper bacteria can thrive in a pet’s microbiome.
Probiotics are healthy living organisms (bacteria) making up the first line of defense against harmful bacteria. They do this by growing and thriving in the digestive tract, leaving no room for the bad bacteria to colonize. A diverse and well-populated bacteria population is critical to your pet’s health. These helpful bacteria residing in the gut make up to 80% of a pet’s immune system, so supporting this health epicenter is one of the best ways to mitigate and even prevent disease.
How do Probiotics Benefit our Pets’ Overall Health?
Supplementing with probiotics is known to benefit pets that suffer from:
– Allergy symptoms / Leaky gut
– Urinary tract infections
– Chronic yeast infections
– Diarrhea, constipation, and bowel diseases
– Bad Breath
When offering a prebiotic / probiotic supplement, the goal is to improve the natural environment in the gut making it easier for the bacteria in the gut to do their job.
Your pet’s environment, and even the food they eat impacts their gut microbiome – either working to support health or unintentionally destroying the good bacteria, increasing risk of illness and disease. Most notably, feeding a processed food diet, high in starch and preservatives, supports the growth of harmful bacteria. Use of antibiotics and other medications, contact with pesticides, harmful household cleaners and other environmental toxins also negatively impact your pet’s gut health and can cause dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is the process by which good bacterial colonies decline, allowing pathogenic bacteria to steal nutrients and create a harmful imbalance in a pet’s microbiome, leading to illness.
When choosing a probiotic supplement, it’s important to look for one that offers many bacterial strains – with beneficial bacteria, it really is the more the merrier. A healthy and balanced microbiome hosts thousands of different bacteria families and microbes. Each bacterial family thrives best on a different diet, which is why offering prebiotic variety is important. Offering multiple healthy fibre options ensures the gut bacteria have food which keeps the microbiome thriving.
Simple Ways to Support Your Pet’s Microbiome:
– Limit exposure to environmental toxins like harsh cleaners, and all the -cides (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides)
– Feed a species-appropriate fresh food diet
– Feed probiotic-rich foods
– Feed prebiotics alongside the probiotics
Most pets can benefit from some added probiotics and prebiotics. Collectively called synbiotics, they are a power duo for your pet’s gut health, which is why they should both be found in digestive supplements for dogs. Kelp, spirulina, and guar gum are common prebiotics found alongside strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two gut-healthy bacterial families living in your pet’s microbiome. Thrive Pro-gut is a synbiotic supplement containing both prebiotics and several strains of each beneficial gut bacteria. Supplementing with probiotics could be the simplest part of your pet’s care routine, with the biggest benefit.
If you’re looking to try adding some whole food prebiotic and probiotic options to add to your pet’s bowl, give some of these a try:
Thrive Pro-gut – 8 bacterial strains and added prebiotics for maximum gut benefit. Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus Caseium, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Lactobacillus Brevis, Bifidobacterium Bifidus, Bifidobacterium Longum, Saccharomyces Boulardii.
Raw Fermented Goat Milk – contains 2 bacterial cultures and is unpasteurized, making it the perfect choice for helping with minor digestive upset. Lactococ-Cus Lactis, Leuconostoc Mesenteriodesand
*Tip – offer both probiotics sources for maximum benefit.
When Should You Offer Pre and Probiotics to Your Pet?
Every pet’s needs are different and a probiotic that works for one pet, may not work for another. If a pet’s small intestine is fully colonized or even overcrowded with bacteria, adding probiotics usually makes digestive symptoms worse. This condition is called SIBO (Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth) which is known to account for up to 80% of chronic digestive issues in humans – more research needs to be done for our pet counterparts.
There are Several Instances When Offering Probiotics can be Extra Beneficial
– Offer starting several days in advance of a stressful activity (vet visit, competition, travel, boarding)
– Offer in advance and during an antibiotic regimen prescribed by your vet
– During a diet change to aid the transition
– Offer 2-3 times weekly for a small boost
It’s important to note that probiotics are NOT digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are proteins that do the work of breaking the food down, making them usable, or digestible. Unless your pet has been diagnosed by a veterinarian with pancreatitis or EPI, your pet should not be given large doses of digestive enzymes regularly.