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The Paw-sitive Effects: How Prebiotics, Probiotics And Synbiotics Benefit Pets

Updated: Apr 15

Probiotics and prebiotics can offer several benefits to pets, similar to their effects in humans.


What are probiotics?

 

Probiotics are live microorganisms, primarily bacteria and yeast, that when consumed in adequate amounts, offer health benefits to the host organism (usually humans or animals). Typically, these microorganisms are bacteria or yeast that are similar to those naturally found in the human gut. They confer health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. These microorganisms are often referred to as "good" or "friendly" bacteria because they contribute to the balance of the microbial community in the intestines, which is important for digestion and overall health. The most common types of bacteria used as probiotics include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.


What is the function and benefit of Probiotics?

 

Probiotics can be found in certain foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso, as well as in dietary supplements. They work by replenishing, promoting or enhancing the population of beneficial bacteria and a healthy balance of gut bacteria which can be depleted due to factors like illness, antibiotic use, or poor diet, which is essential for digestive health, .


Research suggests that probiotics may have a positive impact on various conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), and certain allergies and suggests that probiotics may offer several health benefits, including:


Probiotics for Pets:

1. Improved Digestive Health and Management of Digestive Disorders:

Probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract of pets, promoting smooth digestion and reducing the risk of gastrointestinal issues like diarrhoea and constipation. Probiotics can help regulate bowel movements and beneficial in managing certain digestive disorders in pets, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and reduce the severity of diarrhoea.

2. Boosting the immune system and Reduction of Food Allergies and Sensitivities:

Some research suggests that probiotics may help reduce the severity of food allergies and sensitivities in pets by modulating the immune response and improving gut health enhancing the body's immune response, potentially reducing the risk of infections and allergic reactions as a significant portion of the immune system resides in the gut. By promoting a healthy gut microbiota, probiotics can help enhance the immune response of pets, making them more resilient to infections and diseases.

3. Supporting mental health:

Brain
Brain

There is emerging evidence suggesting a connection between the gut microbiota and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Probiotics may play a role in promoting mental well-being by influencing the gut-brain axis.

4. Preventing and treating certain conditions:

An eczema on a dog's skin
An eczema on a dog's skin

Probiotics have been studied for their potential to manage conditions such as eczema, urinary tract infections, and even dental health.





5. Support during Antibiotic Treatment:

Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria

in the gut, leading to digestive upset and diarrhea. Probiotics can help replenish the gut microbiota during and after antibiotic treatment in pets, reducing the risk of gastrointestinal side effects.

 6. Dental Health:

A dog with a tooth brush in its mouth
A dog with a tooth brush in its mouth


Probiotics may contribute to oral health by helping to control harmful bacteria in the mouth, reducing the risk of dental issues in pets.





However, it's essential to note that the effects of probiotics can vary depending on factors like the specific strains used, dosage, and individual differences in gut microbiota composition. Additionally, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action and potential benefits of probiotics for various health conditions.


What are Prebiotics?

 

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers, carbohydrates, and certain compounds that serve as food for probiotics, the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Unlike probiotics, which are live microorganisms, prebiotics are essentially the "fuel" that nourishes the growth and activity of these beneficial bacteria.

Common types of prebiotics include:

  1. Inulin: Found naturally in certain foods like chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, and onions, inulin is a type of soluble fiber that serves as a prebiotic by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

  2. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS): Similar to inulin, FOS is a type of carbohydrate that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables like bananas, garlic, and asparagus. It functions as a prebiotic by providing nourishment to beneficial gut bacteria.

  3. Galactooligosaccharides (GOS): GOS are prebiotics composed of short chains of galactose molecules. They occur naturally in certain foods like legumes (e.g., lentils, chickpeas) and dairy products. GOS can also be added to foods and supplements to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.



What is the function and benefit of Prebiotics?

 

The primary function of prebiotics is to selectively stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, in the gastrointestinal tract. Prebiotics pass through the upper gastrointestinal tract undigested and are fermented by bacteria in the colon, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and other beneficial compounds in the process.


Consumption of prebiotic-rich foods or supplements can help support the growth and activity of probiotics in the gut, thereby promoting a healthy balance of gut microbiota. The synergistic relationship between prebiotics and probiotics is often referred to as synbiotics, and products containing both prebiotics and probiotics are available in the market.


The health benefits associated with prebiotics include:


  1. Promotion of Beneficial Bacteria Growth: Prebiotics provide nourishment to beneficial bacteria in the gut, stimulating their growth and activity. This helps maintain a healthy balance of gut microbiota in pets, which is essential for proper digestion and overall health.

  2. Improved digestive health: By supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria, prebiotics can can help regulate bowel movements, relieve constipation, and support overall digestive function in pets, reducing the risk of gastrointestinal issues like bloating, gas, and diarrhoea.

  3. Enhanced Nutrient Absorption: A healthy gut microbiota is crucial for optimal nutrient absorption in pets. Prebiotics help create a favorable environment in the gut for nutrient absorption, ensuring that pets receive maximum nutrition from their food.

  4. Enhanced immune function: By promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, prebiotics may help strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of infections.

  5. Potential reduction of inflammation: Prebiotics may contribute to the production of short-chain fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation in the gut.

  6. Support for Weight Management: Some studies suggest that prebiotics may help support weight management in pets by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria associated with lean body mass and reducing the growth of harmful bacteria linked to obesity.

  7. Management of Chronic Conditions: Prebiotics may play a role in managing chronic conditions like diabetes and kidney disease in pets by promoting gut health and supporting overall well-being.


Including prebiotic-rich foods in the diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, can help support a healthy gut microbiota and overall well-being.


What are Synbiotics?

 

Synbiotics refer to products that contain both prebiotics and probiotics, two substances that are beneficial for the health of the digestive system and overall well-being and therefore offer a combined benefit of both products. The combination of these two components can provide synergistic benefits by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and supporting their activity. By providing both probiotics and prebiotics together, synbiotics aim to enhance the survival, growth, and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to improved digestive health, enhanced immune function, and potentially other health benefits.


It's important to note that while there is evidence supporting the potential benefits of synbiotics, more research is needed to fully understand their mechanisms of action and their effects on different aspects of health. Additionally, the specific strains of probiotics and types of prebiotics used in synbiotic products may vary, so it's important to choose products that are backed by scientific evidence and tailored to individual health needs.

Considerations for Pet Owners

 
  1. Consultation with a Veterinarian: Before introducing probiotics or prebiotics to a pet's diet, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian. They can provide guidance based on the specific health needs and conditions of the pet.

  2. Appropriate Formulations: Choose pet-friendly formulations of probiotics and prebiotics. These are often available in the form of supplements or pet foods specifically designed to support digestive health.

  3. Consistent Administration: Consistency in providing probiotics or prebiotics is key to seeing potential benefits. Follow the recommended dosages and guidelines provided by the veterinarian or product manufacturer.

  4. Quality Products: Select high-quality products from reputable brands to ensure the viability of live microorganisms in probiotic supplements.


When considering probiotics or prebiotics for your pet, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian to determine the most appropriate products, dosage, and treatment plan based on your pet's specific health needs and condition. Incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into a pet's diet, under the guidance of a veterinarian, can contribute to digestive health, immune system support, and overall well-being for dogs and cats. Always tailor the approach to the specific needs and health status of the individual pet.


References

 

Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., Merenstein, D. J., Pot, B., ... Sanders, M. E. (2014). The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 11(8), 506–514. doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2014.66


Sanders, M. E., Merenstein, D. J., Ouwehand, A., Reid, G., Salminen, S., Cabana, M. D., ... Lenoir-Wijnkoop, I. (2016). Probiotics for human use. Nutrition Bulletin, 41(3), 212–225. doi:10.1111/nbu.12233


Plaza-Díaz, J., Ruiz-Ojeda, F. J., Vilchez-Padial, L. M., & Gil, A. (2017). Evidence of the anti-inflammatory effects of probiotics and synbiotics in intestinal chronic diseases. Nutrients, 9(6), 555.


Swanson, K. S., Dowd, S. E., Suchodolski, J. S., Middelbos, I. S., Vester, B. M., Barry, K. A., ... & Fahey Jr, G. C. (2011). Phylogenetic and gene-centric metagenomics of the canine intestinal microbiome reveals similarities with humans and mice. The ISME journal, 5(4), 639-649.


Herstad, H. K., Nesheim, B. B., L'abée-Lund, T., Larsen, S., Skancke, E., & Avershina, E. (2017). Effects of a probiotic intervention in acute canine gastroenteritis—a controlled clinical trial. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 58(6), 341-349.


Gibson, G.R. and Roberfroid, M.B. (1995). Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: Introducing the concept of prebiotics. The Journal of Nutrition, 125(6), 1401-1412.


Swanson, K.S. et al. (2002). Fructooligosaccharides and Lactobacillus acidophilus modify bowel function and protein catabolites excreted by healthy humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 132(10), 3042-3050.


Markowiak, P. and Śliżewska, K. (2017). Effects of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics on human health. Nutrients, 9(9), 1021.

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