Probiotics are live microorganisms found in foods or supplements that help balance intestinal bacteria. There are a lot of claims about the benefits of probiotics—that they aid digestion, help with diarrhea, including as a side-effect of taking antibiotics, boosts the immune system, and reduces colds.
Studies are showing some very encouraging signs that these claims are true. And if it can help us, it can also benefit our dogs.
Dogs that are prone to bouts of diarrhea, senior dogs, dogs who travel to shows or events, dogs on antibiotics prone to stomach upset, or if you want to aid digestion and boost the immune system can all benefit from taking probiotics.
Just as there are many different kinds of antibiotics to treat different and specific infections, so there are also specific bacteria that target certain health issues. In human studies Lactobacillus in different strains reduces diarrhea, for example, Lactobacillus GG (LGG) is in the over the counter supplement Culturelle, and L. casei DN 114 001 in the Dannon yogurt products. In a study of day care children these two strains actually reduced the incidence of illness in the children.
Studies prove that some strains of probiotics reduce diarrhea, including diarrhea associated with taking antibiotics. Whether they boost the immune system is still debatable, but as author Parker-Pope states, the intestinal tract is important to our immune system and probiotics not only aid digestion but also create a barrier within the intestines.
I’ve found some more fascinating information on probiotics that I will post soon, including how to decide which probiotics are effective, how much you actually have to give to have positive benefits, and much more. Stay tuned!
Probiotics: Looking Under the Yogurt Label by Tara Parker-Pope