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Explain the Buzzword

The lowdown on probiotics and why they can improve your dog’s health

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If you’ve ever wondered what probiotics are and why gut health is increasingly thought to be important for overall health, you’re not alone. The buzzword “probiotics” is thrown around a lot lately, with TV commercials and dairy-aisle packaging routinely touting their benefits. But what exactly are probiotics, and what do they have to do with health and wellness?

What are probiotics?

Basically, probiotics are good bacteria that help keep digestive tracts happy. Lest the word “bacteria” scare you off, there are in fact types of bacteria that are good for you, and probiotics fall into this category. Simply put, probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria and yeasts, which are similar to microorganisms that are found in the gut, and therefore promote good gut health. (The word “probiotic” derives from the Greek word “pro,” meaning “promoting,” and “bio,” meaning “life.”)

Because probiotics are similar to the hard-working microorganisms found in the gut, consuming food or supplements that are probiotic-rich is excellent for the gut health of both people and dogs. It can prevent or treat gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, as well as improve overall wellness—gut health is increasingly thought to have far reaching effects and has even been linked to Alzheimer’s. Cardiologist turned autoimmunity/microbiome expert Dr. Steven Gundry reports that almost all of his (human) patients who suffer from memory loss also have underlying gut issues. (The canine version of Alzheimer’s is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.)

Where can you find probiotics?

For people, think supplements, dairy products such as yogurt and kefir, or naturally fermented foods including sauerkraut and kimchi. Though pup’s can safely enjoy plain, unsweetened, live culture yogurt (try adding some to your dog’s dinner!), probiotic supplements formulated specifically for dogs are best; this way, you can be sure that the probiotics survive long enough to benefit your dog’s digestive tract. 

Where else can you find probiotics? Increasingly, they’re being used in non-food products, from kitty litter to dog-bed fabrics, where they fight odours naturally. They’re also making a welcome appearance in grooming products too. Skout’s Honour has a new grooming line called Probiotic Skin Care For Pets that contains probiotics to improve skin health and naturally protect your dog’s coat. The topical probiotics in their shampoos and conditioners reduce inflammation and boost the skin’s natural defenses, reducing shedding and solving skin problems like itching and hot spots. It’s probiotics for the win, inside and out! 

Bonus! Prebiotics are like food for probiotics. These non-digestible carbohydrates give probiotics the best chance for survival as they move through the stomach. Good sources include bananas and whole grains!

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