Probiotics. Sounds powerful, doesn’t it? Pro and biotic. And yes, they are a powerful part of every diet, for people or pets.
We see ads all the time for yogurts, kefir and fermented products meant to assist your digestion. For pets, things are a little different, and while many have the same base bacteria, it is the delivery method which differs greatly.
To make probiotics more attractive to people, they are usually laced with sugars and flavours. Some of the sweeteners are poisonous to pets, and many pets are sensitive to things such as cow’s milk and lactose that can be a part of human probiotics. So, while sharing your yogurt with your pet may seem good, it can be a problem.
There are many forms of probiotics for pets.
Some foods already have them added but the way foods are stored and handled can degrade them dramatically.
There are natural fermented products, such as raw goat’s milk kefir, which are ready to use, safe for pets, and are very potent probiotics. Making fermented veggies and such can also add probiotics to your pet’s food.
There are also many powdered products that can be added to foods, or probiotic treats which deliver probiotics in chewable form. The amount of probiotic per dose can vary greatly in these products but any probiotic is better than no probiotic. However, getting your money’s worth is key. Some chews will have less than a billion CFU (colony forming units) per dose, some powders will have over 30 billion. (For reference, a typical yogurt will have about one billion.)
Some gut health items, or foods that “promote gut health”, will use the term ‘prebiotic’, possibly hoping customers might mistake them as containing probiotics. Don’t get me wrong, a good prebiotic is essential to a probiotic working well but, unless there is a useful amount of probiotic, in a form that survives how the product is packaged and stored, you may not really be getting what you think.
Most probiotics contain prebiotics and other helpful ingredients. Some contain digestive enzymes, which can help pets with an enzyme deficiency, or which need a little extra help breaking down the food. Some will have gut-soothing items, herbs or roots that can calm the gut, such as marshmallow root, aloe, or licorice root. Some may have fulvic and humic acid, which can also work with probiotics to aid digestion and contribute other health benefits.
Probiotics are even more important whenever a pet’s system has been compromised or overloaded. Antibiotics can kill off digestive flora, and probiotics can restore that balance. Even things like the stress of moving homes, adding a new pet or person to the home, surgery, or other stressful episodes can put the gut out of balance, and adding a supplement to help regain that balance can help a lot.
Adding natural supplements works best when you are using unprocessed, natural foods, but there is no doubt that adding real food and probiotics to processed foods does have a benefit.