Should I give my pet probiotics?
Your vet might recommend giving your dog or cat probiotics for several reasons. Continue reading to learn more about how probiotics work and why we use them in our pets.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Why are probiotics important?
We know that everyone has a living microbiome composed of millions of bacteria that inhabit our digestive system. These bacteria are present in the stomach, small and large intestines. A large amount of attention and scientific research has centered around these bacteria, both in humans and animals. Large-scale human studies have shown we have a unique compilation of bacteria, and recent data suggest that different populations of bacteria can have effects on weight and digestion. Additionally, in diseases that affect any part of the digestive system such as diarrhea, these bacteria can change drastically. The ability of the bacteria to recover seems to affect the overall recovery of the patient too.
What can probiotics be used for in pets?
Clinical trials for pets are smaller than in human medicine. However, they still suggest that probiotics are helpful in cases of acute diarrhea. Probiotics improved recovery times in simple, uncomplicated cases of diarrhea in cats and dogs. Some theories suggest that they could also be helpful in long-term digestive disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD); however, scientific proof doesn’t exist at present.
Additionally, small studies have looked at immunity. These studies found an increase in the immune response to vaccination in dogs fed probiotics.
Probiotics have also been suggested as helpful in weight management and dental disease, although studies have not yet provided enough information for exact recommendations.
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics - What’s the difference?
- Probiotics are the actual bacteria that inhabit the digestive tract.
- Prebiotics, meanwhile, are nondigestible foods or nutrients that promote the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria.
- Synbiotics are combinations of prebiotics and probiotic microbes.
Are probiotics safe for cats and dogs?
Probiotics appear to have no serious side effects and are well tolerated in most animals.
What should I look for on the label?
It’s important to remember that many different types of probiotics exist. Products contain different microbes, combinations, and concentrations. These are classified as food supplements. It’s also worth noting that probiotics aren’t considered medicinal products and aren’t regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Manufacturers aren’t required to provide scientific information to legal authorities for approval. This can lead to exaggerated claims on marketing information.
Read the labels closely and beware of claims that start with “may help” as there is probably little evidence to back-up these claims.
Using controlled scientific studies that showed a positive effect for diarrhea, concentrations of probiotics around 108‐1010 cfu/d are recommended. The species of probiotics should include Enterococcus faecium and Lactobacillus acidophilus, though it should be noted that there are many different strains of each of these bacteria.
The use of probiotics continues to be a hot topic of research in human and veterinary medicine. The future for their use in pets is very exciting!
Have more questions about probiotics or other supplements?
Schedule a video consult to chat with one of our vets.