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Probiotics (also known as Direct Fed Micro organisms or DFM's) are actual living organisms with a good attitude that are administered orally; either as liquid drinks or as nutraceutical ingredient in dog food. It has a positive effect on the intestinal flora where many different bacteria reside. The gastro intestinal tract of your dog (well, yours too as you are both mammals) contains over 400 species of micro organisms (bacteria but also yeast, fungi and protozoa).
Did you ever hear about good bacteria or do you think all bacteria are just bad and you need to clean, kill and get rid of them?
It is a fact you need bacteria for good health and the same is true for you tail-wagger.
"Good bacteria" provide easy-absorbable energy. They help you pooch digest his food and absorb the nutrients.
When the large intestine is colonized by these so-called good bacteria, there simply isn't any room left to be occupied by the bad types that want to make your dog sick. This way the intestinal flora forms a natural protective barrier which keeps opportunistic pathogens (like Salmonella and Escherichia coli) from proliferating.
Probiotics for dogs activate the canine immune system (increased antibody levels and increased macrophage activity).
Two strains of direct fed micro organisms can currently be used in dog food:
As these are living bacteria, the products containing probiotics become ineffective when heated and it is best to keep these refrigerated.
Specialized probiotic supplements often contain different strains of bacteria. There are many brands to select from and you need to start somewhere to find out which supplement fits your individual dog best.
When your dog has had an antibiotics treatment, supplementing his dog food with DFM's helps establishing intestinal balance more quickly. This is because antibiotics do their done rather a-specific and not only kill the bad guys, but also the good guys. Probiotics help replenishing the beneficial bacteria resulting in a quicker return to a balanced intestinal microflora. Since probiotics and antibiotics have opposite effect you should not give them together but rather leave at least 4 to 5 hours in between.
As there are no known adverse effects you could decide to daily supplement probiotics as preventative measure. Dogs with large numbers of "good" bacteria are better equipped to fight the growth of the "bad guys".
Everybody that arrives in this world does so with a sterile intestinal tract. This applies to both humans and dogs.
When you provide DFM's to newborn puppies they will have a head start because of the beneficial bacteria that will colonize their intestines. Also at weaning when they make the transition from mother's milk to puppy dog food, probiotics can help the young animal's digestive system as it is not fully developed at that time.
Generally speaking all stressful events in your dog's life can be a good excuse to supplement his dog food with these helpful bacteria strains. Events like vet visits, shipping, grooming, vaccinations, surgery, relocations, being left alone often, and even weather changes or stress due to biting insects. You know your dog best! And as you may have experienced yourself: stress opens the door to disease. When he is stressed he may have reduced appetite, eat less and loose weight.
Probiotics are especially helpful when you dog experiences problems digesting his food or when he is recovering from clinical enteritis (bacterial infection of the small intestines).
Probiotic supplements can help putting a stop to diarrhea, stimulate firm stool and help in case of Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). As DFM supplements reduce internal gas they also reduce flatulence and help prevent of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), better known as bloat (a life threatening swelling and twist of the stomach that can kill your dog in less than an hour, so when you suspect your dog is experiencing bloat then hurry to the vet!).
A few examples of supplements for dogs are (note this is not an exhausting list and examples are given in no particular order).
Natur's way Daily MSE (Multiple Stabilized Enzymes)
Sold as dry powder this product contains numerous strains of yeast, fungi and bacteria, vitamins, minerals, detoxifiers and a bunch of enzymes (protease, lipase, amylase, lactase, cellulose, glucose, maltase and phytase). Because of all of these enzymes the digestibility of feeds in greatly increased.
Fasttrack Canine Microbial Supplement
This product can be sprinkled over wet or dry food on a daily basis. It contains both Lactobacillus acidophilus and Enterococcus faecium. Other ingredients are Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which are live yeast cells, and a number of enzymes that help digestion (protease, casein and amylase).No side effects are known, though when your dog is lactose intolerant the amount of lactose in this product may be too high.
Ultra Probiotic Powder
Add about a teaspoon a day on top of your dog's menu. Amongst the ingredients are the same bacteria strains and yeast strain as in the previous described product.
Feelwells Probiotic Healthy Dog Treats
BioFlora Probiotic Supplement
As a cheap alternative you can also add live culture yogurt on top of your dog's food, though the amounts of helpful bacteria (the Lactobacillus acidophilus strain) are much lower.
For prevention live culture yogurt is fine, but when you are dealing with major stresses (like after an antibiotics treatment) you may want to go for a more concentrated form of these "good" bacteria.
So choose wisely! Besides, some dogs cannot tolerate yoghurt very well (because of a lactose intolerance) and get diarrhea.
Probiotic supplements DIRECTLY increase the amount of beneficial bacteria that populate your dog's GI tract. You can increase intestinal health in different - more INDIRECT - ways, such as by supplementing prebiotics. Several substances contribute to the balance in your dog's intestines in different ways. You can read more about the novel ingredients and alternatives to canine probiotics here.
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