- Ken Tudor DVM
A balanced homemade or commercial diet should contain all of the essential nutrients your dog needs for adequate health. But who wants just adequate health for their dog? The key to great health is a good diet. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, put it best when he said “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Two supplements can help transform your dog’s diet into a great diet- fish oil and probiotics. Last week we discussed the first. Now find out about the second.
Evidence is mounting that intestinal health is important for overall health. Maintaining the proper balance of the trillions of bacteria in the small and large intestines appears to have a significant impact on overall health. The proper balance of “good” bacteria to “bad” bacteria” can:
1) Promote improved internal immune system function
2) Prevent asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases and other inflammatory conditions
3) Improve digestion and food absorption from the intestines
4) Maintain stool quality
5) Maintain healthy weight
What are probiotics? Probiotics are supplements that contain a variety of species of beneficial or “good” bacteria. They replace the billions that are lost daily in the stool. A good probiotic supplement should also contain a prebiotic.
What is a prebiotic? Prebiotics are supplements that contain indigestible fiber that only “good” bacteria thrive on. The bacteria in probiotics can be inactivated by stomach acid. Prebiotics are not inactivated by stomach acid and arrive in the intestines ready to feed the bacteria.
What look for in a Probiotic/Prebiotic.
1)Contains at least a billion viable cells of each bacteria species per serving
2)Contains 250-500mg of inulin, oligofructose or FOS per serving
A probiotic/prebiotic in an acid resistance capsule is the most effective because stomach acid readily kills the bacteria. However, most dog owners have trouble giving these large capsules to their dogs. Sprinkling the contents of the capsule on a meal or using a powdered product that is also sprinkled on the meal are also effective. When given with a meal, more bacteria are spared from the stomach acid and reach the intestines intact.
The FDA does not require that manufacturers of probiotics ensure that the bacteria in their product are actually alive and useful. It is important that you choose a product that indicates that its bacteria are alive or viable.
Always check with your vet before supplementing with a probiotic/prebiotic to verify the proper dose and there are no existing conditions which would make giving them inappropriate.