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Probiotics for Dogs are part of a new nutrition rage. Those of us who have been aware of the benefits of probiotics for some time may be surprised by this new attention, it’s almost as if probiotic supplementation is a new discovery, but also welcome it with some apprehension as the large manufacturers rush to promote their products, which often offer more hype than benefit, kind of like their dog food. :)
So, what exactly are probiotics? Well, they are microorganisms called bacteria that populate the entire digestive tract and play an important role in digestion, nutrient assimilation and immune system function. They are so important to our own health that the average person has four pounds of this bacteria in his body. Probiotics are often referred to as beneficial bacteria, gut microflora, or “friendly” bacteria. They are referred to as “beneficial” or “friendly” because they are a benefit to the body in many important ways, as opposed to pathogenic or “unfriendly” bacteria that can cause illness.
Probiotics play many important roles in your dog’s body, but probably the most noticeable to the average pet parent, is the role a probiotic plays in the immune system. Gut microflora helps to maintain a healthy mucous lining (mucosa) in the intestinal tract. This lining, flourishing with friendly bacteria, prevents the over-growth of other organisms, like Candida albicans. and assists in the prevention of pathogenic bacteria, food particles and toxins from entering the blood stream. If this lining is damaged, it is the resulting “leaky gut” that produces many of the symptoms of imbalance we see all too often in our dogs and other pets such as skin problems, systemic infections, and autoimmune conditions.
Anything that damages this mucous lining in the GI tract and disturbs the intestinal balance can be devastating to an animal’s health. Unfortunately, your dog very often comes home from his veterinarian with a prescription for the two largest culprits: antibiotics and steroids. Other offenders that destroy probiotics include chlorinated water, pharmaceuticals and a poor diet.
Because of environmental toxins so common in our lives today and over done prescriptions from the local vet, providing probiotic supplementation for your dogs should be done on a daily basis. The use of these friendly bacteria should be increased with the use of any antibiotic or steroid therapy. The probiotic supplement for dogs you select should have a number of different species of beneficial bacteria, with two of the more common being Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Homemade kefir or yogurt can also be used and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut make a good functional food supplement. Unfortunately, the sauerkraut found in the supermarket is not a true living food, instead being made with vinegar, and commercial yogurt products typically have some active cultures added back in after the product is made though in too small of a quantity to have any real impact, especially when compared with supplementation with quality probiotics for dogs.