Literally, probiotic means "for life." Indeed, probiotics are alive, and they enhance your health and, therefore, your quality of life. You can use some probiotics to nurture and maintain your dogs' health.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are bacteria with beneficial properties, as opposed to harmful bacteria which cause illness. Probiotics grow naturally in the digestive tract, they are already present in a healthy dog's system. Many different probiotic species exist, including lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Some, including enterococcus faecium, have been found to benefit dogs specifically.
How Probiotics Can Help Dogs
Probiotics help address a wide range of issues including diarrhea, inflammation of the gut, dietary problems and to increase immunity. They are also often used after antibiotic therapy. Incidentally, 'antibiotic' translates literally to the opposite of probiotic: "against-life." Probiotics also produce short-chain fatty acids, which hinder 'bad' bacteria like e. coli, salmonella and others. Further, they may help prevent urinary tract infections and also alleviate inflammation.
Choosing and Handling
Many supplements marketed to humans are appropriate for dogs. Some examples include the lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG, which can treat diarrhea in humans and dogs. Certain varieties of lactobacillus acidophilus can improve stool quality for dogs with sensitive bellies. Products with many varieties may be more effective.
Since probiotics are alive organisms, they're vulnerable. Those requiring refrigeration are likely to be more intact, as are freeze-dried probiotics.
Probiotics are measured by colony forming units (CFUs) in the millions or billions. When figuring out dosage, refer to the product label, taking into consideration the dosing is for human adults. If your dog is over 40 pounds or so, give the whole dosage. Otherwise, reduce as needed, and monitor your dog for signs of tummy upset. Yogurt and kefir are foods that have probiotics. You can safely add these to your dog's food unless she is severely lactose intolerant.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.