Can Probiotics and Prebiotics Encourage Fewer Vet Visits?
Have you brought your furkid to the vet for his/her slight bloating, stinky farts or less than optimal poop? Most of the time, we go through all that hassle only to get a prescription of probiotics for an upset tummy. But…what if we told you that prevention is better than cure?
Our bottom line is - a healthy gut makes a healthy mutt! Improve your furkid’s immunity with pre and probiotics and you’ll start to see less instances of an upset little tummy and the struggle you face as you make your way to the vet.
However, let us first be clear. We still encourage pet owners to bring their pets to the vet when something doesn't feel right. After all, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Before we get to how you can do that, let’s learn a little bit more about…
Probiotics are microorganisms introduced into the body for its beneficial qualities. Ever drank Yakult or ate yogurt because your mum said “it’s good for your stomach”?
That’s a source of probiotics right there, and the pros and cons of probiotics for dogs are similar to that of humans! However, do note that the health benefits for probiotics can differ depending on the type of bacteria strain.
Some health benefits of probiotics include:
- Improved gut health
- Increased digestive function
- Aid in diarrhea, constipation, bloat and flatulence
- Better skin and coat health
- Prevent of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Mitigating Gastrointestinal issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or
- Acute Hemorrhagic diarrhea
Before you jump right into it, it is important to know that probiotics come with mild side-effects too. This can include diarrhoea, constipation and gas. In some cases, the pet’s symptoms might be worse than its original condition.
I know what you’re thinking - aren't probiotics supposed to mitigate those issues? Well, yes! However, we have to give our dog’s body some time to adjust when we first introduce probiotics to their diet.
After all, we are adding beneficial bacteria and changing up their current gut flora. You may need to trial and error to see which probiotic works best for your pet and manage its dosage accordingly. Each and every one of our furkids is different after all.
How can I include Probiotics in my dog’s diet?
Some examples of probiotics you can feed your dog include:
1. Unflavoured Yogurt with live cultures
- Many of our furry companions are lactose-intolerant. Please feed this sparingly and check their body’s reaction before giving more.
- Some companies use cultures to MAKE yogurt, but they are NOT probiotic. Keep an eye out as it is a common misconception.
- Milk becomes 99% lactose-free when made into kefir
- Milk kefir has been known to contain up to 61 strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast, while yogurt usually only contains 5-6.
- As with yogurt, some companies use cultures to MAKE kefir, but they are NOT probiotic. Keep an eye out for this as well!
- Choose ones with low-sodium with dog safe ingredients (stay away from ones containing garlic, onion etc)
- Raw green tripe has been known to contain Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is a great booster for intestinal health and immune function
5. Probiotics supplements
But first - is your dog on Antibiotics?
It is not advised to give probiotics and antibiotics at the same time. At the end of the day, probiotics are still a form of bacteria. Most antibiotics cannot distinguish between good and bad bacteria.
So, if your furkid is on both probiotics and antibiotics, it is recommended that you inform your veterinarian. Most veterinarians would advise you to feed probiotics and antibiotics hours apart to prevent drug-probiotic interaction.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the digestive tract. They mostly come in the form of dietary fiber.
Apart from being metabolised by resident gut microbiomes, they also play a role in improving faecal texture & consistency. While probiotics are fragile and sometimes can’t reach the intestines, prebiotics reach the intestines easily.
In addition, prebiotics can alter gut pH for optimal nutrient absorption and decrease inflammation. Since we already know the benefits of probiotics, why not keep it going with prebiotics?
Some examples of prebiotics include:
- Burdock roots
- Chicory root
- Dandelion greens
We know we shared a lot of nerdy stuff…so here’s the TLDR:
What to Expect: Introducing Probiotics & Prebiotics
As mentioned above, the new addition of probiotics can cause an upset tummy in some dogs. The symptoms usually include diarrhoea/constipation, slight bloating and flatulance.
This can simply be an indicator of change in gut flora or a need to adjust the amount you’re giving. The symptoms should go away after taking probiotics consistently. Prebiotics might also result in flatulance and discomfort due to the increase in gas production.
Based on experience, decreasing the initial amount given and progressively increasing the recommended intake will usually mitigate these side effects.
With that said, taking pre/probiotics may not be suitable for every pet. For example, immunocompromised patients should refrain from the consumption of probiotics. As we always suggest, please consult your veterinarian if you are uncertain.