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Do Probiotics for Dogs Work? Or are they just a Grab for your Dollar?

Prebiotics & Probiotics, There are literally thousands of these supplements for humans, & following the mighty dollar, pharmaceutical companies have realised there is a huge market for dogs. But, do they really work? Do they need them or are you simply wasting your money believing all the claims the companies are making about their miracle supplements?

Do they work or are they really just Snake Oil & a waste of money?

I did a quick Google search on Probiotics for dogs and I was slammed with so many amazing products that promised to be the answer to all my dogs problems! I could not believe the claims so many of these companies were making....

'Stimulates your dog’s digestive system, helps fight off bad bacteria and can help your dog’s body to produce vitamins'. Produce vitamins? What vitamins and how? Last time I checked your dog’s gut can not produce vitamins! ... 'Has been proven to fight unwanted internal growths of concern', I have to ask what are these internal growths of concern?... 'We’ve infused this topper with a savoury beef flavour' (reading between the lines here chemical flavouring, possibly MSG.... O.M.G! 'Helps eliminate excessive barking and overall misbehaving'. I’ve got to get me ALL these products! Wait, there’s more! These magical formulations 'eliminates the need for Anal gland expression, fixes bad breath, stops paw licking and fixes itchy skin' !!!!!!!!! (there's not enough exclamation marks to express how I am feeling here!)

Do Probiotics for Dogs Work?

This stuff seems to be the answer for everything from bad breath right through to barking!!! Before I explore some of these magical claims - what are Prebiotics & what are Probiotics anyway?

Prebiotics for Dogs - Food for Probiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that feed the probiotics. In order for the probiotics to survive in the bowel, you need to feed them prebiotic foods. Prebiotics help stimulate the growth and survival of probiotics. Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are somewhat resistant to heat from cooking. They are also resistant to stomach acids so they are able to travel to the large intestine intact to nourish the good bacteria that reside there. Prebiotics occur naturally in plants including: Flax, Hemp & Chia Seeds, Psyllium Husks, Fruit such as bananas & berries - Green Bananas and Green Banana Flour are excellent sources. Coconut Flesh, and Green vegetables - the harder the better think stalks and skins of veggies like pumpkin. In a nutshell, insoluble fibre!

Probiotics for Dogs - Food for Bacteria

Probiotics are good bacteria that inhabit the digestive tract. Probiotics are also available in capsule or powder form. These foods are heat-sensitive & have a very short shelf life. Check your health food store’s or chemist’s refrigerator for the freshest supplements. Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods including: Kefir (unsweetened), Unsweetened Greek Yogurt, Tempeh, Sauerkraut, and Kombucha (not the fancy sweetened flavoured drink varieties)

I worked with a client recently who’s dog was prescribed a Probiotic formulation for her dog by a vet. This product was quite possibly the best pro/prebiotic formulation I have seen to date designed for animals. The company had wonderful, transparent listings of all of the strains of bacteria and the suggested application of their powder. I was very very excited, because to answer the questions do the work and do canines need them? YES, absolutely, they do and they work - but there are none that I am aware of that actually do what they claim, and YES some dogs need that added defense to build them back to optimum health after illness.

I am not a chemist, nor would I assume to understand the learnings of one, but one thing stood out in reading their brochure. This product was established, respected and well know in the animal husbandry industry - that is in the production of animal proteins and eggs for human consumption and therefore well researched, documented & fit for human consumption. We eat the end product (in this case chickens & eggs)  so checks and balances are in place!

This is a very very controversial subject. But I want you to understand the biological argument & teachings so you can make your own decisions. There are 10 strains of Lactobacillus in this particular formulation. 10. They have all been harvested from: Milk, Cheese, Yoghurt, Fermented Plant Matter, Pickled vegetables, fermented carbs (think beer), intestinal tracts of animals - cows, horses, sheep, pigs, poultry. This one is a good one - Found in alimentary tract of breast fed and bottle fed infants. It is important to note here that breast fed babies get their nutrition from mums milk - many many levels away from digesting meat on their own, and bottle fed babies formula is created using cow, sheep or goat milk. They are also harvested from Japanese soy sauce, Sake (rice wine), Isolated from cattle intestinal content and pigeons.

Species Appropriate Food for Dogs

Lets re-visit Species Appropriate Food for Canines. They are carnivores - they need meat to survive. These strains are harvested from animals that do NOT EAT MEAT therefore do NOT have the digestive bacteria to process these. On further reading the brochure states it is a product designed for optimum health for cows, calves, pigs, piglets, sheep, lambs, horses, foals, all poultry life stages, and then at the end - Canines.

Dogs do not eat grass or grains, they need different bacteria to break down these meat-based proteins, all these other animals that the Bacteria strains are harvested from are plant & grain eaters.

Truth in Dog Food Labeling: Look Beyond the Claims

One of the biggest challenges for manufacturers of probiotic products is survivability of the bacteria. Most commercially available products suffer a huge loss of activity during storage. After 2 to 6 months of storage sitting on a shelf, almost no live organisms are present.

A study by Weese and Martin, at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, a couple of years ago compared the actual product contents vs label statements for a variety of commercially available pre/probiotics within the pet industry.Of the 25 products evaluated, only 2 had acceptable correspondence between actual production of bacteria classes and what was stated on the label.

That was 2 only, leaving the other 23 literally sitting on a shelf - as useless as can be! We have no way of knowing which products have some benefit and all the others absolutely none!

So those dried shelf stable supplements that are marketed as the magical cure-all for your dogs are more than likely completely inert, that is, you are paying in most cases a lot of money for something that is not going to benefit you doggo whatsoever!

The all mighty dollar dictates this market - the research and formulations are in place for the animal husbandry industry, that is farmed and grown foods for us humans. They’ve spent the money as it’s a lucrative produce & have to Keep our human food chain in optimum health. All other Canine Marketed products are based on a similar, or inferior selection of bacteria.

In summary: I do not believe that canine research has been advanced enough to invest in canine MARKETED probiotics or PREBIOTICS YET. And the prices some companies charge is nothing short of highway robbery - I mean come on, $49.95 for 30 grams?

My recommendation is do your research - look for a product that lists the strains of bacteria included. And I am not going to even try to pronounce these, they are all listed below for reference! Look for those bacteria that are cultivated from meat eating sources, and even better still from canine sources.

It may seem strange but there are a lot of beneficial bacteria found in soil - and no - not just the stuff found in your yard! There are some pro and preboitics based on bacteria cultivated from soil that have been proven to benefit canines, but they are hard (if not impossible) to find in Australia unfortunately.

Beneficial Strains of Bacteria that Canines can digest

WHICH STRAINS ACTUALLY WORK IN A CANINE GUT?  For specific health concerns, some  strains of probiotics have properties that offer better results than others.

Look for a product that has multiple strains - not just one strain, and look in particular for any of the following that are beneficial for a dogs gut and will NOT be destroyed during a canine's digestive process. Remember dogs are not sheep or cows!

Lactobacillus Acidophilus – useful probiotics for dogs with diarrhoea.

Lactobacillus Casei – important part of the gut-brain axis & can affect mood & emotions.

Lactobacillus Plantarum – help build healthy colon walls in dogs with IBS

Lactobacillus Rhamnosus – can decrease antibiotic-related

Bifidobacterium Animalis – managing acute diarrhoea

Enterococcus Faecium – inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut

Pediococcus Acidilactici – manage skin conditions & leaky guts

Lactobacillus reuteri – inhibit bacterial growth like Salmonella

Saccharomyces boulardii – used to treat Candida & yeast

Bacillus Coagulans – have a positive effect on inflammatory digestive diseases

Bacillus Indicus – produces B vitamins, vitamin K2, an advantage for those needing digestive enzymes

Bacillus Subtilis – is an inhabitant in the guts of healthy dogs, used to treat urinary tract infections

So, do Dog Probiotics Really Work?

As I said - this topic is controversial, and this represents my findings only and in no way over-rules the advice from your vet, but I hope I've given you enough information to make your informed choice! So, do you think they are Snake Oil or the elixir of life?? I know what I believe, nothing but good training will stop excessive barking, certainly not a commercial dog targeted probiotic!  Imagine if a product made for human consumption made promises that you will talk less?????

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