What exactly is a prebiotic? (And how is it different from a probiotic?)
Date Posted:17 December 2018
There’s a battle going on in your dog’s gut every day…
It’s a type of showdown between “good” bacteria (such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) and “bad” bacteria (like E. coli or Salmonella).
It includes other microscopic organisms, too, such as yeast. But for discussion purposes, we’ll refer to bacteria, since that’s the main type of microscopic “resident” inside of your dog’s intestines.
The “good” bacteria serve a very important purpose - they keep your dog healthy.
They do this in several different ways. Of course, they directly affect your dog’s gut health, helping to prevent things like diarrhoea or other stool problems. And they help your dog to process and absorb the nutrients he or she needs from their dog food.
But these microorganisms also affect the rest of the body, including your dog’s weight, breath, hair and skin, urine, and immunity.
In fact, 70% of the body’s immune system is located in the gut - that’s true for humans as well as for dogs. With that in mind, you can certainly see why your dog’s gut health is so important.
But how do you maintain good gut health? The key is to tip the balance in favor of the “good” or beneficial bacteria.
Since the “bad” bacteria can have the opposite effects - ranging from upset tummies to inflammation and negative effects on your dog’s overall health - you’ll definitely want to take measures to limit the growth of bad bacteria, and encourage the growth of good bacteria.
It’s as simple as that.
Here’s how you can tip the balance in favour of the beneficial bacteria, so that your dog stays happy and healthy.
Here’s how prebiotics work to help beneficial bacteria survive and thrive in the gut – so that they can work their magic to keep your dog healthy
You can think of prebiotics as a source of food and energy for the bacteria in your dog’s gut. So, probiotics refer to the beneficial bacteria or yeast, while prebiotics are a food source for the probiotics. And by providing the right energy sources, you can encourage the good bacteria to grow.
Basically, when you feed a probiotic and a prebiotic to your dog together, you’re putting the odds in favour of the beneficial gut bacteria - giving them a leg up, so that they flourish.
When you create an ideal gut environment with the right energy sources, the good bacteria will thrive and start to encroach on the territory of the bad bacteria. And when there’s more good bacteria than bad bacteria, there are positive effects on your dog’s gut health and overall health.
Finding the right prebiotics for your dog
Prebiotics are naturally contained in many kinds of food, especially those with a high fiber or sugar content. Examples include whole grains, beet pulp, leafy greens (especially dandelion greens), raw garlic, and certain fruits and vegetables.
While many of these types of fibers can’t be digested by your dog’s own digestive juices… they can be digested by the bacteria that live inside of your dog’s gut. So, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship - the bacteria get a food source, and in turn, they help your dog to absorb all of the nutrients from the food they eat, and play a positive role in your dog’s health.
But, it can be a lot of work to find all of the right prebiotics for your dog. And of course, some dogs won’t be crazy about the taste of beet pulp or leafy greens…
Plus, if fed in the wrong form or wrong quantities, certain fibers and prebiotics can cause digestive upset, including gas and loose stools. Also, garlic can have toxic effects if given in large quantities.
For all of these reasons, it’s easiest to feed your dog a food that already contains a special formulation prebiotics mixed in. That way, they’ll enjoy the taste, and you can know that you’re giving the right amount for them.
Also, it will be one less thing on your to-do list. Giving your dog the right prebiotics will be as simple as giving them their daily meals.
And when you use a dog food that also contains probiotics, you’ll have the best combination possible - the bacteria that are beneficial to your dog’s gut and overall health, and the right energy source to help those beneficial bacteria thrive.
A few more ways to care for the probiotics
If you invest in probiotics, you’ll want to be sure you do everything you can to maximize their effectiveness. After all, a probiotic is no good if it doesn’t survive the journey to your dog’s intestines.
A prebiotic is a great place to start, because it means those beneficial bacteria or yeast will have an adequate food source. Here are a few more things you can do:
- Store all probiotics and prebiotics properly, at the recommended temperature. Some will require refrigeration, while others do not. Either way, following the directions for storage will help to ensure that adequate numbers of beneficial probiotics make it to your dog’s gut.
- Watch for the expiry date. For the same reasons as storing at the proper temperatures, you’ll want to be sure you use all supplements before the expiration date. That way, the probiotics will be strong and more likely to take up residence in your dog’s gut - and you’ll get a better effect for your money, in terms of health benefits.
- Avoid antibiotics when possible. If your dog is on an antibiotic, that antibiotic may be harmful to the beneficial bacteria - that’s because an antibiotic might not distinguish between “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria, and may end up hurting the good bacteria as well. Thus, the antibiotics could end up cancelling out the effects of the probiotics. That being said, sometimes antibiotics are necessary - and at those times, a probiotic can help to get the bacteria balance in the gut back to normal as quickly as possible. And adding in a prebiotic could help, too.
- Be sure to give probiotics in sufficient numbers. If there aren’t enough of them to set up camp in your dog’s gut, then they just won’t be effective. To be sure you have enough, you’ll need to be sure you have a good quality probiotic. Then you’ll want to feed it exactly as instructed. Often, this means daily supplementation - which can be easily accomplished by using a probiotic dog food.
How to get a free sample of a dog food that contains both probiotics and prebiotics
Get your free sample today, of a probiotic and prebiotic dog food made right here in Australia. It contains everything your dog needs to maintain a healthy gut (which means better digestion, better immunity, a healthier skin and coat, and better overall health) in your dog.
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