In this article:
- What are probiotics
- What are prebiotics
- What are postbiotics
- Choosing a probiotic supplement for your dog
If you’ve been researching gut health for yourself or your four-legged friend, you’re likely to have come across the term probiotics. Investigating further, you may have also encountered prebiotics and postbiotics. But what’s the difference between them? Do you need them all for a healthy digestive system? Here we explain the science behind each of these elements and how they all play a role in a balanced, healthy gut.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, give a health benefit to the recipient. We each have billions of bacteria making up our gut microbiome, which varies from person to person and dog to dog. In a dog’s gut, there is a combination of healthy or beneficial bacteria, as well as harmful bacteria. If this combination becomes unbalanced in favour of the harmful bacteria, it can lead to health conditions like diarrhoea, itchy skin, a weakened immune system or even changes to your dog’s mood.
To maintain a healthy gut, this balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria needs to be kept in check and adding a probiotic supplement for dogs to your pet’s diet can help.
Probiotic foods for dogs include raw dairy that is safe for dogs like kefir, goat’s milk, yoghurt and small amounts of cheese. If using yoghurt or dairy products, stick to small quantities as lactose can affect your dog’s stomach. Also avoid products with xylitol, an artificial sweetener which is toxic to dogs. A high-quality probiotic dog supplement will avoid any issues with lactose intolerance or artificial sweeteners.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that feed the probiotics (the beneficial bacteria) in the gut. When probiotics receive adequate prebiotics to feed on, the friendly bacteria can thrive and flourish in the gut, helping to keep harmful bacteria from taking over. When probiotics consume prebiotics, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are produced, providing large amounts of energy to the cells lining the gut. SCFAs protect the gut lining, stimulate water absorption in the colon (to reduce the signs of diarrhoea) and help allow the immune system to work effectively. They also reduce the pH of the colon preventing harmful bacteria flourishing.
Prebiotic fibre can be found in a range of foods:
- Inulin: chicory root, asparagus, onions, leeks, garlic, and bananas
- Fructooligosaccharides: chicory root, asparagus, onions, leeks, garlic, and bananas
- Galactooligosaccharides: chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes
- Beta-glucan: types of mushrooms, barley, oats, rye, and other whole grains
Prebiotic inulin is often used in supplements to support gut health. Prebiotics for dogs (specifically inulin) can be found in both ZamiPet High Strength Probiotics+ Gut Protect and ZamiPet High Strength Probiotics+ Relax & Calm.
What are postbiotics?Postbiotics are inactivated probiotics and their by-products (essentially what’s produced from probiotics when they ferment prebiotic fibre). While it might sound like postbiotics are only an inactive waste product, they offer many similar health benefits to probiotics including:
- A positive effect on gut health, supporting probiotics to produce more beneficial SCFAs
- Helping protect the lining of the gut
- Altering the immune system
- Positively affecting the nervous system, including the brain
The best way to add postbiotics to a dog’s diet is to use a supplement for dogs with a postbiotic, like ZamiPet High Strength Probiotics+ Gut Protect or ZamiPet High Strength Probiotics+ Relax & Calm.
Choosing a probiotic supplement for your dog
There are many benefits of probiotics for dogs, so while researching a probiotic supplement for your best friend, here are some important things to consider:
- Consult your vet first to make sure that a probiotic supplement is suitable for your pet, and they don’t have any other underlying health conditions that probiotics may not address
- For holistic gut health support, choose a supplement containing both prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics
- Look for a probiotic supplement specially formulated for dogs, as these strains will be most beneficial for the digestive systems of dogs
- Look for a probiotic that contains a range of probiotic strains and a high CFU count (over one billion CFU per serve).
The information in this article was checked by ZamiPet Veterinarian and General Manager Dr Andrew McKay, BVSc, University of Melbourne, 2000. Vet Registration No: V3985
Disclaimer: This information is general advice only. Before starting any treatment or supplement with your pet, please consult your vet first for the best approach to getting your pet back to their best health.