You’ve probably heard the buzz about probiotics helping to support gut health for humans — but did you know that probiotics can also help support the health of your pet? It turns out that both dogs and cats can benefit from probiotics as a regular part of their overall healthy, nutrient-rich diet.
How do probiotics work?
The intestines contain billions of bacteria that are collectively called the “microbiome.” When an imbalance exists in the microbiome, it can cause digestive upset, leading to unpleasant symptoms — including excess gas or loose stool.
That’s where probiotics come in. Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria that help promote balance in the intestines — for humans and animals alike.
As senior research nutritionist at Purina, Dr. Gail Czarnecki-Maulden, PhD, explains, “Probiotics decrease the pH in the gut and help the good gut bacteria thrive.”
What are all the benefits of probiotics?
In addition to helping the good bacteria thrive to reduce digestive problems in dogs and cats, probiotics also offer other benefits. One key benefit is that probiotics can support immune health.
“Most of our immune system is located in the digestive tract,” says Czarnecki-Maulden. “This creates lots of opportunities for the good bacteria to interact with immune cells and support immune health.”
Another benefit is connected to dogs displaying anxious behavior. A specific probiotic strain, found in Calming Care from Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements, has been shown effective in helping dogs maintain calm behavior and cope with external stressors like separation, unfamiliar visitors, novel sounds, or changes in routine and location.
What are the long-term effects of taking probiotics?
Some probiotics work faster than others, and the long-term effects may also vary, depending on the strain of probiotics and what it is being used for.
According to Czarnecki-Maulden, it can take anywhere from one or two days to several weeks to see results from probiotics given to your pets — and it depends on the specific probiotic strain and its intended benefit.
How can you choose the right probiotic for your pet?
There are several different options when it comes to probiotics for your animal companion. Some probiotics come in the form of a supplement, while others are added to pet food to provide their benefits through your pet’s diet. For example, nearly all Purina Pro Plan formulas for dogs and cats are now fortified with probiotics for digestive and immune health. Pro Plan offers a full spectrum of performance and specialized nutrition formulas, including options that support healthy aging, help with canine cognition and more. Every ingredient is carefully chosen for a specific purpose, and the nutrition is backed by over 500 scientists including nutritionists, behaviorists and veterinarians.
Regardless of the form of the probiotic, “It’s important to choose the right probiotic for your specific need,” Czarnecki-Maulden adds. “Some probiotics are good for digestive health or addressing digestive upset. Some help support the immune system.”
Along with the right probiotic strain, the number of “live” bacteria also matters. Regardless of the probiotic selected and used, the product must contain an efficacious amount to exert its positive health benefits for the pet.
While probiotics do offer numerous benefits, they aren’t suitable for every pet or for every situation. In some circumstances, like for animals with a significantly compromised GI tract or who may be undergoing treatments like chemotherapy, the decision to start probiotics should be made only with your veterinarian’s advice.
“We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what probiotics can do for our pets, as well as the importance of the intestinal microbiome,” says Czarnecki-Maulden. “It’s an exciting area that is now getting a lot more attention. I am hopeful we will have even more understanding of what probiotics can do in the near future.”
To make decisions about the best nutrition for your pet, you should always consult your veterinarian.