Do Probiotics Help Pets?

Probiotics treat digestive health issues for humans, but are probiotics for pets? Can they help dogs and cats? In what ways? Can pets take human probiotics? The team at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital is happy to help answer your questions about using probiotics with your pets. 

Also, researchers have been looking into the ways that improving gut flora has other applications in treating certain diseases that affect pets. We’re excited about these findings and wish to share some of them with our pet families.

The Basics of Probiotics for Pets and Humans

Probiotics are live organisms that improve the microbalance of the intestines. The tissues of the stomach and the intestines rely on these bacteria to aid in digestion and to protect against viruses and foreign bacteria. When good bacteria are reduced through disease, illness, or medications, probiotics are beneficial in restoring balance to the gut. 

Most of us are familiar with the advantages of eating yogurt, as this food has natural cultures that encourage microbalance. There are also a number of probiotic products, including powders, capsules, and treats made for pets. Many pets benefit from kefir, a fermented drink with live cultures, similar to yogurt, that some people enjoy. 

Dogs and cats require distinct bacteria for healthy digestion and immunity.  Most probiotics for humans contain different bacteria so they won’t work for our pets. 

Conditions Treated with Probiotics

The “beneficial bacteria” in probiotics for pets have historically been used to treat digestive ailments. They help with diarrhea, vomiting, and to restore gut flora after the use of antibiotics. More recently, probiotics are being used for a wider variety of conditions, including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Yeast infection

  • Colon cancer

  • Kidney disease

  • Liver disease

  • Diabetes

  • Cardiovascular conditions

  • Skin conditions

  • Cushing’s disease

Why is it that probiotics can aid in conditions that are not a part of the digestive system? What researchers uncovered is that the intestinal tract contains a concentration of chemical molecules that affect the rest of the body. An imbalance in the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria can trigger the development of many diseases, not just those associated with the digestive tract.

Two forms of good probiotics, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, can be used to encourage insulin resistance and significant reductions in blood sugar concentrations in animals. This is especially promising in treating diabetes in pets–an unfortunately common disease affecting our companion animals. 

Before Treating Pets with Probiotics

Probiotic products for dogs and cats (and sometimes rabbits) can be purchased over the counter and online. The caveat is that the animal supplement industry is mostly unregulated. There’s a wide range in the quality of probiotics for pets.

There is substantial evidence that supports probiotics being useful in gastrointestinal ailments. More research is needed before probiotics can be heralded as the next cure-all for more complex diseases.

As with any medications or supplements, we advise that you seek the insight and recommendation of your veterinarian. Probiotics can be especially advantageous for pets with certain conditions. The expert team at Union Lake can better assist you in finding the right probiotic for your pet. 

For more information about probiotics for pets, please give us a call