The importance of digestive health in humans (and pet health) has emerged to the forefront of research where probiotics have grown to become an indispensable factor for overall well-being. Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that healthy gut flora (“good” bacteria) is essential and largely responsible for immune system function. Astonishingly, gut flora has the potent ability to activate and suppress biological factors that play a role in allergy and disease development (e.g. Diabetes). More specifically, the strains of bacteria present within the digestive system and how they live, grow, and produce bi-products can activate and/or suppress genes. Despite this, all microbiota are not created equal and as such, the composition of one’s digestive community can not only greatly influence, but may also reveal an individual’s health status (1,2).
In order to maximize one’s digestive health, many individuals consume probiotic supplements or specific probiotic-rich foods (e.g. live culture: kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, etc.). While the knowledge regarding probiotic health continues to expand, many individuals are unaware that digestive health and probiotics are just as important for their pets as well. The numerous benefits of probiotics in pets parallel that of humans and not only involve enrichment of “good” bacteria but also serve as a digestive aid, preventing “bad” bacteria overgrowth in addition to decreasing inflammation. Although more research needs to be performed regarding probiotic supplementation in animals, there are several factors that pet owners should be cognizant of upon selecting the most appropriate probiotic supplement on the market. Factors for probiotic selection include: bacteria strains, dosage, and administration method. Although not a comprehensive list, pooch-specific, beneficial strains may include: Enterococcus faecium (strain SF68) and Bacillus coagulans. It must be noted, as with human health, tolerance and efficacy may vary among individual pets so it is important to work with their veterinarian to maximize health (3).