Your dog’s gut is filled with millions upon millions of tiny bacteria. Although we may think of bacteria as a bad thing – like germs that can make us sick – not all bacteria is bad! In fact, “good” bacteria in the gut is essential for proper health. Good bacteria assists with digestion by producing enzymes that help break down food properly, prevents acute diarrhea, and competes with bad bacteria, even helping to ward off sickness..
There has been tons of research lately about the gut microbiome and its effect on overall health in both humans and dogs. Microbial imbalances in the gut have been linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, immune disorders, cardiovascular disease, liver and kidney disease, and more. Scientists are even researching how the gut microbiome influences brain health and behavior!
Basically, happy gut flora means a healthy body! A low carb, high protein diet is best for facilitating a healthy gut microbiome in dogs, but they can also benefit from some extra help. This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics are a way to supplement some of that beneficial gut bacteria.
When choosing the best probiotic for your dog, there are a couple things you should consider.
Although most of the research on probiotics have been focused on humans, lately there have been more studies on probiotics for dogs specifically. This is great, since obviously dogs and humans have pretty different digestive systems and dietary needs… for example, a dog’s gut is much more acidic than a human’s, so the bacteria must be able to survive in more acidic conditions. Although probiotics designed for humans can absolutely still benefit dogs, canine specific probiotics have been shown to be more beneficial.
Prebiotics are also important for gut health; it is basically food for probiotics! Probiotic bacteria need something to obtain energy from, and that is what prebiotics provide. Many probiotic supplements also contain prebiotics. Otherwise, it is easy to provide whole food sources of prebiotics. Leafy green veggies, asparagus, broccoli, berries, or apple are some good options (all of which are best served steamed or pureed for optimal utilization by dogs).