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Behavior and Training

The Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs and Cats

August 11, 2022


The Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs and Cats

Last updated: August 2, 2016

Although intestinal microflora is important for nutrition and digestion, its most important function is helping protect the body from bad bacteria. There is a constant bacterial fight of good versus evil going on in the gut. 70% of the body’s immune system is in our gut and for good reason! If the good bacteria do not win, the body may absorb bad bacteria or viruses, causing illness.

Good Bacteria for Dogs and Cats

Born sterile, the gut is seeded with good bacteria from mom shortly after birth. Mom’s cleaning and mothering starts the transfer of good bacteria to the newborn. Nursing and continued cleaning by mom repeatedly adds bacteria that aids in digestion and intestinal health throughout the nursing period. Using a safe disinfectant such as Chlorhexidine around the babies keeps environmental bacterial and fungal infection in check. Less exposure helps prevent bacteria from affecting the babies in a negative way.

Healthy bacteria are constantly killed and quickly replaced in the normal gut. Stomach acid, antibiotics, products that contain alcohol or just stress can upset bacterial balance in the gut. There is a constant struggle for good bacteria to keep the bad bacteria from dominating and causing disease. Some bad bacteria will get swallowed, especially with pets that like to chew, and the GI immune system must deal with them.

Stomach acid will kill most of the bacteria consumed as a first line of defense. In the intestine, good bacteria form part of the mucosal barrier of the intestine and if adequate, leave bad bacteria with no room to live. After that, the immune system will have to deal with the infection, but the goal is to prevent the need for that immune response. This is where probiotics can help.

Using Feline and Canine Probiotics

Probiotics are live, healthy bacteria that live in the gut. Use probiotics in situations that support the immune function and prevent the body from getting sick. Supporting the GI tract or protecting it during stressful issues is a good use for probiotics. Here are some situations in which a probiotic should be used:

  • Sick and on an antibiotic – probiotics hasten recovery from GI upset caused by illness and oral antibiotic use.
  • Weanling transferring to solid food. Allows for a smooth and diarrhea-free transition.
  • Before shipping to ensure control of diarrhea due to stress.
  • If they are not right and you are not sure what the issue is, don’t wait. Give a probiotic and help the neonate fight whatever it is, even when we do not know the cause!
  • Orphan being bottle-fed – mom is not giving good bacteria so you need to replace her. Use probiotic in the milk twice a day for first two weeks to improve digestion. (Usually stops “bottle-fed diarrhea” in 48 hours.)

Do Probiotics Work for Dogs and Cats?

What Doesn’t Work
Sometimes it is easier to say what not to use! Here is a general guide:

  • Food with bacteria added is usually dead bacteria, and of no use.
    • If it was live bacteria, they would likely be digested and rotten by the time you wanted to feed it or eat it yourself.
  • Whole live culture bacteria.
    • Most of these will be killed by the stomach acid and never get to the intestine.

What Does Work

  • Bacterial spores that will pass the stomach acid and become active in the gut.
  • Treated products designed to pass the stomach acid.

Prebiotics for Dogs Vs. Probiotic

Prebiotics are products that promote good bacterial growth but not pathogenic (bad) bacterial growth. Prebiotics are an energy source that the good bacteria can use, but they are not available to the bad bacteria. Much research is being put into how this works and the benefit of using prebiotics with a probiotic.

Beta glucans (bgmos®) is the prebiotic in Doc Roy’s® GI Synbiotics. Bgmos® not only fuels the good bacterial growth, it binds bad bacteria into clumps, making them easier to spot and remove by the immune system. You can see how prebiotics can be beneficial to the GI tract of an upset pet. Many new ones are on the horizon so stay tuned to this new area of research.

Doc Roy’s® GI Synbiotics is formulated to bypass the stomach acid, delivering more active bacteria to the intestine. GI Synbiotics fuels the growth of good bacteria, while supporting the removal of bad bacteria using prebiotic science.

Our pets carry good bacteria that help digestion and their immune function. You can help the gut by adding good bacteria at times when the bacteria balance is upset and the tummy has issues.

If you have more questions on probiotics for dogs and cats, call us at 800.786.4751.

-Dr. Bramlage
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.