If I was asked to compile a list of some of the most important supplements to add to your dog’s diet, probiotics would be right up there towards the top of the pile. So just what is it about probiotics for dogs that makes them so important to your pooch? Why is good bacteria so vital to good dog health? And how can you, as a dog parent, boost your dog’s all-important immune system for little more than a few pence a day?
Your dog’s immune system
The key to good canine health is a healthy immune system, the vast majority of which is in your dog’s gut. The gut comprises the stomach, the small and the large intestine. It’s where your dog’s microbiome resides. Your best friend’s unique community of microorganisms. Good bacteria, bad bacteria, fungi and yeast. A happy little band of genderless brothers and sisters who work in harmony with one another to keep your dog in tip-top condition.
The thing is though, your dog’s microbiome sometimes needs a little helping hand. A little reinforcement if you like. A replenishment of front-line troops to keep those naughty but necessary bad bacteria in check. That’s where probiotics for dogs comes in. Probiotics are rich in good bacteria. Good bacteria that includes the likes of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bifidus. Naturally occuring good bacterial stormtroopers present in yogurt and buttermilk, kefir and certain cheeses. And Saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic yeast impervious to antibiotics and beneficial for combating chronic diarrhoea.
So just what do probiotics do?
Probiobics in your dog’s diet serve a multitude of functions. They:
- Aid in digestion
- Help with the absorption of nutrients
- Promote overall health
- Produce essential vitamins
- Discourage the growth of harmful (bad) bacteria
- Produce enzymes
- Support the immune system
As a canine nutritionist, I’m often asked for recipes for homemade dog food. I frequently tell people that recipes are all very well, but recipes themselves don’t make a complete canine diet. To make a complete dog diet, you need much more than just recipes. Probiotics for dogs included. That’s why I recommend anyone considering making homemade dog food for their pet buy and download my Homemade Dog Food Made Easy!
Health benefits of probiotics for dogs
Adding probiotics to your dog’s diet has a great many benefits. They can:
- Help combat yeast overgrowth
- Benefit pancreatitis sufferers
- Help combat obesity
- Protect against leaky gut syndrome
- Benefit allergy sufferers
- Replenish good bacteria lost because of medication
- Benefit dogs suffering from bowel diseases
- Support your dog’s immune system
Best natural probiotics for dogs
In addition to various processed products on the market, there are also a number of readily available perfectly natural products. Chief among these is natural yogurt. And if cow’s milk yogurt is a problem for your dog, there’s always goat’s milk yogurt.
Other natural products include kefir and other fermented products such as chaga and kimchi. And don’t discount soil-based probiotics. They’re hardier, and help replace the good bacteria dogs were once used to when, in the wild, they ate off the ground.
You can also feed your dog a number of prebiotic foods. Foods that don’t provide good bacteria but that feed existing good bacteria in your dog’s gut encouring them to proliferate. These foods include:
- Chicory Root
- Dandelion Greens
If you feed your dog a home cooked diet, probiotics are likely to be less of an issue because the quality of homemade food is so much higher than commercial dog food. That said, my view as a canine nutritionist is that you can never strenthen your dog’s immune system enough.
Personally, I give my dogs probiotics every single day!