We know that probiotics are friendly forms of bacteria that live in the intestines and can improve our health as well as our doggo’s, in many ways.
Veterinarians recommend probiotics for everything from treating digestive conditions to boosting the immune system.
However, experts advise that in order to fully reap the benefits of probiotics for dogs, prebiotics for dogs may be equally important.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are food ingredients that travel undigested to the colon. There they ferment and are converted into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. They act as a source of energy for colon cells and preserve electrolyte and fluid balance. This allows the intestine to move properly.
When prebiotics is present in the bowels, they promote and support healthy digestive flora.
Prebiotics essentially feed microflora. So it is a good idea to also use them in combination with probiotics to support the growth of good bacteria in your dog’s gut.
How are PREbiotics beneficial to your pup?
Prebiotics are types of fibre that can help to support that good, beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
The potential benefits for dogs may include improved bacterial populations in the GI tract, improved GI health and stool consistency. Potential benefits outside of the GI tract may include reduced inflammation, improved behaviour and cognition.
Prebiotics for Dogs — the Health Benefits
Prebiotics are fibres that feed good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics are known to help introduce good bacteria into the dog’s gut, but it’s the prebiotics that acts as a fertilizer for the good bacteria that’s already there.
Gut supportive therapy assists in promoting overall health, particularly in young dogs and cats, and even assists in treating allergic or autoimmune and digestive disease.
“When the intestines are leaky, proteins that wouldn’t normally move through the intestinal wall can get through … and the body sees these as foreign invaders,” Dr. Lisa Brienen, DVM, explains, noting that a dog’s body will naturally create antibodies to fight off these proteins, which can lead to skin, eye, ear, digestive and neurologic problems. “If you heal the leaky gut, you can solve these problems … which is why prebiotics (and probiotics) can be helpful for the immune system and support health in all systems of the body,” she adds.
What Foods Can Act as Prebiotics for Dogs?
Many fibre-rich foods can act as prebiotics for dogs such as cooked pumpkin.
“Pumpkin helps with intestinal health, whether the dog is dealing with diarrhoea or constipation,” she explains.
Prebiotic fibre assists in slowing down intestinal transit time, absorbs fluid, lowers the pH and provides nutrients for beneficial bacteria allowing them to grow. Better yet, prebiotics isn’t as fragile as probiotics. They are not live and so not sensitive to temperature, pH or gut transit time, unlike probiotics.
Sneaking Prebiotics for Dogs into Your Dog’s Diet
The good news is that some prebiotics for dogs may already be part of your canine’s daily routine provided they are on an excellent diet.
Prebiotics are fibres and are relatively easy to introduce into your dog’s diet.
“Prebiotics and probiotics are included in most commercial foods, so in one way or the other, your dog is probably getting some benefit … as long as you’re feeding him a high-quality diet,”explains Dr. Charles Loops, a homeopathic veterinarian.
However, Dr. Loops warns that preparing a diet at home should diligently incorporate probiotics and prebiotics for dogs.
If your dog is on a single dry food and that’s all you ever feed them, you also may want to consider incorporating prebiotics and probiotics, Dr. Loops advises.
Prebiotics for Dogs — Knowing When to Supplement
When considering supplementing your dog’s food, it’s always best to let your veterinarian know.
“Generally speaking, if your dog is otherwise healthy and is fed a complete, nutritionally-balanced diet appropriate for their life stage, there may not be a medical need for additional prebiotic or probiotic usage,” Dr Morrison, DMV, explains. “However, there are certain medical or physical conditions where a veterinarian might recommend prebiotics or probiotics as part of treatment.”
Dr. Brienen recommends prebiotics for dogs.
“It feeds the friendly bacteria in the colon, and turns them into important short-chain fatty acids,”
A Word of Caution When It Comes to Prebiotics for Dogs
It’s also important to know that the usage of probiotics and prebiotics for dogs is not well regulated. To help avoid this, it’s always recommended to follow a veterinary-approved dietary supplement such as Stomax.