Acidophilus is a probiotic, which is a general term for good bacteria usually found in the gastrointestinal tract. It helps to keep the digestive system healthy in both humans and pets, but that doesn’t mean you should simply add a dollop of your probiotic yogurt to your dog’s dinner.
Uses For Probiotics
The digestive system uses helpful bacteria to digest food and make some vitamins, so it’s important to keep these types of bacteria at a healthy level. As with people, stress, some medications, especially antibiotics, and any sudden changes in diet can upset the balance of these bacteria in your dog, leading to excess gas and diarrhea. Adding acidophilus to your dog’s food may help improve his digestive system and his immune function, particularly if your dog has had a course of antibiotics. Other occasions when a probiotic may be appropriate is during the transition to a new brand of pet food, or if your dog has a food allergy or bowel inflammation.
Acidophilus comes in different strains, even if it is always called Lactobacillus Acidophilus. The strain found in the human digestive system is not the same as the one found in dogs. So, a product containing L. Acidophilus that will keep your stomach and intestines healthy, won’t necessarily have the same benefits for your dog. You should look for a probiotic specifically produced for dogs, and if you are worried about which is the best, have a chat with your vet and get his opinion.
Live yogurt contains probiotic bacteria. However, while some people advocate just adding a spoonful of plain, live yogurt to your dog’s food, others warn against dairy products with dogs, mostly because of the risk of lactose intolerance. If you do decide to feed your dog a spoonful of yogurt, make sure that it is a live yogurt, and that it is the plain variety with no sugar or artificial sweetener, as this will do your dog more harm than good. Fruit-flavored yogurts are absolutely off limits for your dog, even if he does like them. This is because of the sugar levels. Also, only add the yogurt to the food until your dog's digestive problems clear up.
To work effectively, probiotics need to be given in high doses. This is because they need to survive a journey through the acidic stomach and small intestine to reach the large intestine, where the good bacteria do all their work. According to "Modern Dog" magazine, your dog needs to consume “millions or billions” of live acidophilus bacteria. A dog probiotic product should indicate the number of colony forming units (CFUs) per gram of probiotic. This translates, for example, into 1x106 CFU for 1 million per gram and 1x109 CFU for a ratio of 1 billion per gram. Because probiotics are not drugs, giving an exact dosage is not so important, according to Dr. Shawn of the Paws & Claws animal hospital in Plano, Texas. He also says that the daily dose range for dogs is between 20 to 500 million CFUs, whereas people need between 3 and 5 billion CFUs per day.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.