Probiotics for Dogs: What and Why?
The gastrointestinal tract (GIT), which extends from the mouth to the anus, contains approximately 400 different species of microorganisms, called endogenous microflora, and includes various bacteria, yeasts, fungi and protozoa. These microflora are acquired at birth from the mother (during the birth process and through direct physical contact afterward), and later from the environment, and are necessary for the health and proper functioning of the GIT. Beneficial or endogenous microflora play an intrinsic role in both digestion and immunology. They help degrade food, especially in sick animals when enzymes may not be secreted, convert waste material to energy, and are the first line of defense against infection. Digestion in mammals including dogs is a cooperative effort between enzymes secreted by the body and those secreted by endogenous microflora. The endogenous microflora also plays a key role in an animal’s immunological response. Infections that enter through the GIT must first overpower the endogenous microflora. Under normal healthy conditions this happens only with a very large initial dose of infectious microorganisms; however, if the animal is stressed, a smaller number can successfully infiltrate the GIT. The normal composition of dog intestinal microflora can be altered by stressful conditions, such as weaning, dietary changes, gastrointestinal infections, and oral administration of antibiotics. The conventional treatment of infection is to use antibiotics, which are like atom bombs to bacteria – they kill both good as well as bad indiscriminately. That means along with the pathogens, many beneficial microorganisms may be killed as well, and sometimes the target microorganisms may even survive while beneficial ones are killed. Some common symptoms that may be the result of poor digestion are Bad breath, Tooth problems, Loose stools, Diarrhea, Allergies, Vomiting, Gas, Skin problems, Excessive shedding, Weight problems (over or under weight).
Probiotics are microorganisms used to combat other microorganisms, and can provide an alternative to antibiotics that rapidly become obsolete. Probiotics are defined as direct feed microbials or microbial cell preparations in sufficient numbers, which alter the microflora of the host intestine and by that, exert beneficial health effects on the host. Probiotics help to maintain the proper amount of good bacteria and yeast within the intestinal tract. Probiotic microorganisms, which include bacteria, yeasts, and fungi (Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus strains), are good competitors and can push back pathogens and allow the endogenous microorganisms to recover. They also stimulate the immune system so that the body can fight more effectively. Although probiotic microorganisms are confined to the GIT, they have wide-reaching effects and can help control infections not located in the GIT by activation of the immune system.
They are also found to exhibit antioxidant properties and reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood. They facilitate the absorption of some minerals, crucial for carrying out life sustaining processes. Probiotics can also assist in the production of vitamin B and folic acid. They are also effective in reducing inflammation of the intestine.Yogurt products, fermented milk, miso and cheese are some foods that contain probiotics. Usually, yogurt can be mixed with dog foods, or can be given as probiotic supplement. Nowadays, many probiotic supplements are available in the market, and they can be added with the food of your dogs.
It may be concluded that the feeding of probiotics to dogs may be a valuable tool to improve their health and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disorders. These bacteria play a significant role in the prevention and treatment of many diseases.
Authors – Mahima1 , Amit Kr. Verma2# and Amit Kumar3
1 Veterinary Officer, State Veterinary Hospital, Deepa, Bijnor (UP)
2 Assistant Professor, Dept. Epidemiology and Veterinary Preventive. Medicine , DUVASU, Mathura
3 Assistant Professor, Dept. Microbiology and Immunology, DUVASU, Mathura