Just like us, dogs love friends, food, a splash in the pool and a scenic Sunday drive. But humans and dogs have even more than the obvious in common: our digestive systems work in much the same way and host many of the same microorganisms.
This means that probiotics, those friendly, live bacteria we reach for when using antibiotics or battling diarrhoea, could be useful for our pets too.
As is the case with humans, the microorganisms in our pooches’ digestive systems, the so-called “gut microbiome”, fall into two groups: healthy and harmful.
“These two groups compete for limited resources,” explains Beryl Shuttleworth, a zoologist and biochemist from The Herbal Horse and Pet. By increasing the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria in the digestive system, you can lower disease-causing bacteria to a level that doesn’t cause problems.
Benefits of dog probiotics
So far, research shows that probiotics could help prevent and treat the following in dogs:
- Acute gastroenteritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Skin allergies
In studies, probiotics not only competed with bad bacteria for resources in the GI tract, but also boosted the health of cells that secrete digestive enzymes.
Probiotics also cut inflammation, and one bacterial strain found in dogs’ digestive systems boosted the immunity of young puppies.
So, right from the start, probiotics play a key role in our dogs’ health and wellbeing – and more benefits are discovered year by year.
“As we learn more about the gut microbiome, we’re learning that it not only affects the digestive system, but also the immune and nervous system,” says Rupert van der Merwe, managing director of Probio, who notes that probiotics may even help treat behavioural problems in dogs.
Dog probiotics available in SA
In South Africa, probiotics are available in tablet, capsule, powder and liquid form, making it easy to choose a supplement that works for your dog. If you’re supplementing your dog’s diet with probiotics, it’s also wise to add a prebiotic – “food” for the live microorganisms. A popular prebiotic is spirulina.
Some of the products on our shelves include:
Prowell L Pet Food Spray, R74.50, www.shop.probio.co.za
Kyron Protexin Soluble, R380.50, www.realpet.co.za
Vondi’s Spirulina Sprinkle, R55, www.takealot.co.za
Lastly, try giving your dog unsweetened, plain yoghurt – a simple, cost-effective way to give your pet a probiotic boost.