Why Probiotics Are Important For Dogs

Dogs Naturally Magazine

The dog’s intestinal tract is a fascinating place.  It can digest large pieces of food, render pathogens such as salmonella and e-coli harmless, and convert the food to nutrients the body can use .  Much of this work is performed by enzymes and microflora in the gut.  The microflora, commonly known as beneficial bacteria, aid in digestion, absorption, and the production of B vitamins and enzymes.  Most importantly, they are a primary defense against foreign invaders and an important part of a healthy immune system.

There are over 100 trillion microorganisms, from some 400 different species, in a healthy digestive tract. Many researchers now believe that declining levels of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract may actually mark the onset of chronic degenerative disease and a suppressed immune system. Poor diet and other environmental stresses can be extremely damaging to the beneficial bacteria colonies.  Although there isn’t much research done in dogs, in humans, the beneficial bacteria count can often be as low as 4 to 5 per milliliter whereas a healthy colon would have at least 100 billion per milliliter.

Beneficial bacteria appear to interfere with the ability of disease-causing organisms to latch onto the lining of the gut.  In a process known as competitive exclusion, they can also crowd out harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.  They can also facilitate the digestion and absorption of important nutrients from foods, improving overall health. Mounting evidence suggests they also exert significant anti-inflammatory effects on the cells and tissues of the body.

Factors that cause a decline in beneficial bacteria

There are many reasons for declining numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut.  They include:

  • Aging – over time, beneficial bacteria lose their vitality.
  • Changes in the acid/alkaline balance of the bowels – this is why feeding grains and a lot of vegetable content to dogs may not be a great idea:  it changes the pH in the gut and slows down digestion which promotes the growth of the harmful, putrefying bacteria.
  • NSAIDs such as Rimadyl, Metacam and Deramaxx are destructive to the intestinal flora.
  • Chlorine in the drinking water not only serves to kill bacteria in the water; it is equally devastating to the colonies of beneficial bacteria living in the intestines.
  • Radiation is devastating to the inner bacterial environment.  This includes radiation from cell phones, cordless phones and WIFI.
  • Virtually all meat and chicken and dairy that you feed your dog (other than organic) is loaded with antibiotics, which destroy all of the beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Antibiotic herbs such as goldenseal (if taken in sufficient quantities) can have a negative impact
  • Antibiotics of any kind indiscriminately destroy both bad and GOOD bacteria — allowing virulent, mutant strains of harmful microorganisms to emerge and run rampant inside the body. In fact, antibiotics (both medicinal and in our food supply) are the #1 culprit in the overgrowth of harmful pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract (a condition called dysbiosis) that may be at the root of many autoimmune disorders and certain cancers.

What you can do

Obviously, supplementing with a good probiotic is crucial to your dog’s health.  There are many types of probiotics on the market but in general, you are looking for a formula containing the two following probiotics:
  • L. acidophilus resides primarily in the small intestine and produces a number of powerful antimicrobial compounds in the gut (including: acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin, and bacteriocin). These compounds can inhibit the growth and toxin producing capabilities of some 23 known disease-causing pathogens (including: campylobacter, listeria, and staphylococci), as well as reduce tumor growth and effectively neutralize or inhibit carcinogenic substances.  It’s also important to note that L. acidophilus is the primary beneficial bacteria in the vaginal tract.
  • Many researchers believe that declining levels of bifidobacteria in the large intestine actually mark the eventual onset of chronic degenerative disease. Bifidobacteria benefit the body in a number of ways. They consume old fecal matter, have the ability to remove cancer-forming elements (or the enzymes which lead to their formation), and protect against the formation of liver, colon, and mammary gland tumors.
When starting your dog on probiotics, you might want to start slowly.  The probiotics will cause a die-off of the harmful bacteria in the gut and this may cause gas, loose stools and stomach rumblings.