Probiotics for pets: a guide

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Here are some of our most frequently asked questions, in one handy guide.

I already feed my dog/cat really good food. Why would I need a probiotic?

The problem of poor gut health in companion animals is rooted in pet food.

Commercial pet food is processed food, and any healthy “live” bacteria inside the food is killed in production. There are also studies proving bisphenol-A, or BPA, is detrimental for the gut. For human food, BPA is starting to be eliminated from packaging. In pet food, we are still far away from eliminating BPA-lined cans and other packaging. (That said, rest assured that none of Because Animals’ biodegradable, human-grade packaging contains BPA!)

Are probiotics all about digestion?

Dogs and cats benefit greatly from probiotics – and not just for digestion. A dog’s immune system is greatly influenced by the digestive tract. And likewise, when the gut is devoid of healthy bacteria – aka, probiotics – poor digestion is only one of the many negative health issues that can arise.

I feed my pet a raw diet, so I don’t need to worry about probiotics.

A raw meat diet is all the more reason for a probiotic. Probiotics help maintain a normal balance of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. Even though raw meat may harbor some healthy bacteria, raw meat also contains many pathogenic bacteria (such as Salmonella and Listeria) that can make your pet sick. Among the extraordinary benefits of probiotics is that they can combat pathogenic bacteria, which means that supplementing your pet’s diet with healthy microbes can decrease the chance that your pet will become ill from eating a raw diet.  

At the very least, probiotics should be used to transition your pet to a raw diet.

Should dogs have human-grade probiotics? After all, dogs and humans have very different digestive tracts.

Interestingly, research has shown that dogs have very similar microbiomes to humans. Here is a recent paper demonstrating that.

The amazing thing about the microbiome - whether in dogs, humans, or any other animal - is that bacterial compositions vary remarkably between individuals (even within the same species!) depending on diet and the environment. Overweight humans have more similar microbiomes to one another and to overweight dogs, and lean humans have more similar microbiomes to one another and to lean dogs.

All of that is to say that the human microbiome and the changes that occur can be predictive of what we see in dogs. So if we know that a given probiotic benefits humans, the chances are very good that it will also benefit dogs!