Some of our biggest concerns as pet owners revolve around whether we’re doing the right thing by our beloved companions. Are they getting all they need? Are they happy? Can we do more?
Since they can’t answer us, we act in their best interests and hope we’re doing a good job. But there are signs they can give us to let us know if everything’s okay - or not.
Recently, my oldest dog, Mia has shown signs of digestive troubles and so wanting to make sure I do all I can to help her, I started looking into probiotics for dogs and how they might help my older dog.
Dr Sue Armstrong is a Veterinary Surgeon and Homeopath at Natural Instinct, manufacturers of an award-winning probiotic, so we sat down with Sue to ask her some of the most common questions about probiotics for dogs.
Q) How do probiotics work in a dog’s digestive system?
Probiotics help to restore the normal healthy gut flora in the dog’s digestive system and help to increase the number of so-called ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut. They have been shown to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and in some cases directly kill them.
Q) Are there any specific symptoms that a dog might have that would lead you to believe a probiotic could help?
Probiotics are especially useful during and after antibiotics when the normal healthy gut flora can be wiped out alongside the pathogens.
The gut bacteria can also be altered through stress, dietary indiscretion, bowel disease such as colitis and with many medications, especially those that affect the immune system, probiotics can play a very useful role in these situations to help restore the healthy gut flora.
One particular stress period that we recommend probiotics such as Zoolac for is during the transition from one diet to another, such as when changing from a processed kibble to a raw diet.
Q) Can probiotics be given daily or do they lose effectiveness if given continuously?
Probiotics can be given daily to animals during a particular stress period.
But however good the probiotic is they can never be as complex and individual as a healthy gut flora, so ideally they are only fed until the gut balance has been restored to normal.
Q) Are there any age limitations for giving probiotics to dogs?
No, there are no age restrictions to the use of probiotics.
Q) What should someone look for in the ingredient makeup of a probiotic to be assured of its quality?
High-quality pharmaceutical grade products containing mixed flora and in high enough numbers are important. Zoolac, for example, contains 4.2 billion bacteria per ml and uses several different strains.
Q) Natural Instinct has just launched a complementary new diet, Pure Offal and the main ingredient isn’t in all of their complete diets because it is very rich. Would you recommend probiotics to owners who are introducing new foods to their dog and how long should they give probiotics for while introducing the new food?
They can be extremely useful when changing the dietary type, such as kibble to raw, as this is both a stress on the system and also requires the gut flora to make adjustments.
Adding a new ingredient such as offal is a minor stress and most dogs would not need probiotics for this. Some dogs cannot tolerate very much offal at all with or without a probiotic.
So, here’s what we learnt and 6 reasons you should consider before giving probiotics to your dog:
1. Probiotics bring balance to a dog’s normal healthy gut flora and help to increase the number of so-called ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut. They can hinder or in some cases, kill harmful bacteria too.
2. There are no age restrictions for dogs taking probiotics.
3. They can be given daily, however ideally will only be fed until the gut balance has been restored to normal since even the best probiotic can never be ‘as complex and individual as a healthy gut flora’.
4. Probiotics are ideal for helping dogs to process very rich foods.
5. Probiotics might be useful during high periods of stress or when changing diets and are especially useful when taking antibiotics (as well as directly afterwards).
6. When choosing a probiotic look for a supplement which has a number of high-quality pharmaceutical grade products containing mixed flora, and in large quantities. Sue gave a marker of one saying “Zoolac, for example, contains 4.2 billion bacteria per ml and uses several different strains”.