Digestive and bowel issues remain two of the top reasons for veterinarian visits.
While research on the use of probiotics for cats and dogs for these types of issues has existed for decades, they’ve long been scorned by the traditional veterinary community. The mere mention of probiotics was often disregarded as ineffective or a waste of money.
That said, increasing numbers of traditional veterinarians are now coming around to recognizing the value of probiotics. Research is expanding regarding their potential, and their potential benefits are no longer restricted to gut and digestive health.
It’s truly an exciting time for probiotics for our fur-covered family members.
If your pet is one of the many who still isn’t enjoying the many benefits that probiotics offer, take a moment to find out more about these very unique gut-friendly bacteria.
You may become pleasantly surprised at how they might make a difference in not only your pet’s total-body health but his emotional well-being and behavior as well.
The Traditional Role of Probiotics for Gut and Bowel Health
So, what exactly are probiotics and how do they work? Probiotics are living microorganisms, or gut-friendly beneficial bacteria, that are selected according to their usefulness in either humans or animals.
Interestingly enough, the strains of bacteria that offer benefits for cats and dogs aren’t always the same strains for humans.
Researchers are still learning about how probiotics work. They believe these living microorganisms may replenish and regulate the microflora, or gut bacteria, in your pet's intestinal tract as a source of digestive enzymes – and they’re convinced probiotics have a supportive effect on the immune system.
No matter how they work, probiotics promote a number of health-supporting functions, which has traditionally included digestion and bowel health.
Probiotics were discovered in the early 1900s by Russian Nobel Laureate Eli Metchnikoff when he connected the Lactobacillus organism in fermented milk with longevity in the people who consumed it. Metchnikoff advised consuming fermented milk for gastrointestinal (GI) and bowel health.
Research confirms that probiotics can support a pet’s healthy digestive processes. A study of 16 Beagles found that adding beneficial bacteria to their diet improved fat and carbohydrate digestibility in the gut, as well as stool quality.
Probiotics have been proven safe and effective for promoting total gastrointestinal health. And a healthy GI system allows your pet to maximize his optimum health and well-being, no matter what life stage he’s in.
In fact, supporting your pet's GI health is key to him living his longest and healthiest life possible.
For all these reasons, traditional veterinarians are finally agreeing that probiotics may offer benefits for cats and dogs.
The Expanding Usefulness of Probiotics for Pets
Aside from probiotics’ recognized benefits for gastrointestinal health, researchers are confirming exciting new potential for these living microorganisms.
A growing body of human and animal research suggests probiotics may offer additional benefits for many aspects of health, including:
- Maintaining a healthy, normal body weight and composition.
- Supporting healthy immune function.
- Promoting healthy blood sugar levels and normal glucose tolerance.
- Supporting liver health.
- Promoting a normal, healthy inflammatory response.
- Supporting skin health.
- Promoting a normal response to allergens.
- Supporting healthy, normal blood lipid levels.
- Promoting a healthy growth rate in puppies.
- Helping to reduce stress and support a calm, relaxed mood.
Dogs and cats need the beneficial bacteria found in probiotics to help maintain healthy levels of friendly bacteria in their guts. When you supplement your pet’s diet with probiotics that flood his system with the right strains of beneficial bacteria, you’re supporting his total-body health.
In a study to evaluate the effects of probiotics on feline gut health, researchers selected 10 healthy adult Maine Coon cats and gave half of them Lactobacillus acidophilus.
During the five-week trial, fecal firmness and moisture levels were evaluated – assessments considered a good measure of an animal’s gut health. The cats in the probiotic group showed higher quality stools with greater levels of L. acidophilus, an indication that the probiotic supplement was having the desired effect.
Probiotics can help support your pet’s digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function, overall health and possibly, even his emotional well-being.
Probiotics: A Powerful Ally for a Healthy Immune System
When bacteria eat fiber, they produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Acetate, butyrate and propionate are the three key SCFAs in your pet’s body.
SCFAs can remain in your pet’s large intestine, or they can travel throughout the body, where they play important roles in immune and overall health, including:
- Feeding beneficial bacteria and promoting their growth.
- Helping with the absorption of nutrients.
- Promoting metabolic health and healthy, normal glucose levels.
- Supporting the formation of the protective mucus layer in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Promoting healthy cells in the gut lining.
- Supporting the growth of T cells in the immune system.
A full 80% of your pet’s immune system resides in her gut, so a bacteria population that is both diverse and rich in beneficial organisms is of prime importance for not only her immune health but also her total body health.
Plentiful diverse bacteria in your pet’s gut can act almost like a security blanket against insults from stress, poor diet, aging and environmental toxins. The more beneficial bacteria she has, and of many different strains, the better for your pet.
How Probiotics Can Help Stressed-Out Pets
Just like humans, your pet encounters emotional and physiological stresses every day – and every one of these stresses can potentially affect her GI tract.
Your pet’s GI tract is the largest immune organ in her body and is home to an extremely large population of bacteria. In fact, these microorganisms greatly outnumber the other cells in your pet’s body.
Because your pet’s gut, or microbiome, is your pet’s largest immune barrier, it also bears the brunt of all the stress she encounters, whether real or perceived.
It doesn’t take much to upset the delicate balance of good bacteria in your pet’s microbiome. Stress and emotional upset certainly affects it. Plus, everything from eating sticks and grass to changes in diet when you’re apart can, too.
Add to that highly processed pet food diets and you can quickly understand why supporting your pet's immune system, healthy digestion and overall good health is so important.
In one study, researchers evaluated the value of probiotic supplements for stress-related digestive and bowel issues in 134 healthy dogs who were moved from their homes to a kennel. Relocation and kenneling are both very stressful events for dogs and can affect a dog’s physiology and behavior.
Groups of dogs received either a placebo containing no probiotic or varying levels of an oral probiotic supplement containing Bifidobacterium animalis once a day for five weeks prior to relocation to the kennel and then, for the first three weeks following relocation.
Researchers looked at fecal scores, number of stools per day, microbial populations in the stool and serum cortisol levels, which measure the impact of stress on the body.
With the groups receiving Bifidobacterium animalis, there were positive effects seen with all variables, including optimal stool production and improved quality of stools. The higher the dose of probiotic, the better the results.
Can Probiotics Help Emotional and Behavioral Issues?
Another study of 24 Labrador Retrievers looked at how beneficial bacteria can help with emotional and behavioral changes. Healthy dogs exhibiting stressed and anxious behaviors were divided into two groups: a placebo group and a study group that received the supplemental probiotic strain Bifidobacterium longum.
For the first six weeks of the study, half of the dogs received the probiotic supplement and the other half received the placebo with no probiotics. During weeks seven through nine, none of the dogs received probiotics. Then the original group receiving Bifidobacterium longum resumed supplementation for the final six weeks of the study.
Researchers evaluated behaviors such as barking, spinning, pacing, panting and trembling, as well as the dogs’ cortisol levels and heart rate to determine stress levels.
An astonishing 90% of the dogs receiving the probiotic supplement showed a reduction in the troubling behaviors and other signs of stress.
I believe the results from this study and others confirms the value of probiotics for pets, especially those coming from a shelter or rescue.
This probiotic strain may also be particularly helpful for animals who experience or are overly sensitive to stressful events in their lives and display behaviors related to noise phobias, separation anxiety, excessive vocalization and house soiling.
How can probiotics help make such a difference in psychological well-being and behavior, you might wonder?
Experts believe the all-important gut-brain axis may be involved – the two-way connection between your pet’s GI tract and brain. When you nourish your pet’s microbiota, or gut flora, with beneficial bacteria, that can also support his mood.
All of these studies looked at the effects of only one strain of beneficial bacteria. What if you combined them and offered multiple strains of dog- and cat-friendly probiotics – at the same time?
Why 10 or More Probiotic Strains Are Preferred
If you're like other pet owners, you may have wondered how many different probiotic strains does your pet really need?
Research suggests that 10 or more strains are recommended for promoting optimal health.
Why is that? The more beneficial strains the probiotic contains, the better able the formula can help your pet handle the wide variety of stressors that can affect your pet's gastrointestinal system.
In the studies I talked about, certain strains worked better than others for specific circumstances. So, by combining them, your pet can receive all the potential benefits of probiotics.
The potency of the probiotic – or the CFU (Colony Forming Units) – is very important, too. Knowing how many viable organisms per scoop provides a useful guide as to its potential.
So, even if your probiotic contains numerous strains of beneficial bacteria, you need to make sure it also contains a sufficient number of bacteria, or CFU, per scoop.
It’s not uncommon for products today to contain between one and three million beneficial bacteria per scoop. Any amount of probiotics can be helpful, but if you really want to make sure you're promoting optimal health and well-being, I recommend much higher levels.
Ideally, I believe you’ll want to find a probiotic formula with more than 30 billion CFU per scoop.
An Inside Look at the Top-Selling Pet Probiotic Supplements
Some commercial pet foods claim that they contain probiotics. But do they really?
The bacteria in a probiotic supplement must be live and able to reproduce in your pet’s gut to be effective.
Commercial pet foods are processed using high heat, so it only makes sense that most, if not all, of the probiotic bacteria added to a food will be killed off during processing.
So, what about probiotic supplements? Are they worth your money? It depends...
Let’s take a look at five of the top-selling pet probiotic products online:
||# Probiotic Strains
||3 Billion CFU
||3 Billion CFU
||1 Billion CFU
||6 Billion CFU
As you can see, only one product contained the recommended number of 10 strains. The most CFU of any product listed was 6 Billion – and one didn’t even disclose theirs.
If a product manufacturer doesn’t tell you how many CFUs their product provides, be very suspicious. And if they do make a CFU claim, ask if it is guaranteed – and for how long. Anyone can make a claim, but they must be able to back it up.
Indeed, a recent study revealed that probiotics don’t always live up to their claims. Testing more than 20 types of probiotics, researchers found numerous instances of inconsistencies:
- Presence of microorganisms not included on the product label
- Contamination with mold or other foreign substances
- Did not contain any live bacteria organisms (therefore, not a probiotic)
- Misspelled the names of bacteria strains on the label
- Misidentified the bacteria with outdated names and/or "nonexistent" strains
- Did not include the number of live bacteria that could be expected to be contained based on the expiration date
While some of the above issues are clearly more serious than others, they all indicate a problem with the manufacture’s quality control.
With something as important as probiotics, you want to make sure you are getting the real thing – and not contaminated with something you don’t want. You need to be able to trust what's inside the bottle. For that, you must be able to trust the manufacturer.
5 Criteria for Choosing a Pet Probiotic Supplement
I recommend the following five criteria when selecting a probiotic product for your cat of dog. It should:
- Be guaranteed to contain enough live organisms to colonize your pet’s GI tract.
- Be able to survive the acidic environment of your pet’s stomach and the bile salts present in the upper intestine to reach the lower, or large, intestine.
- Contain bacteria strains beneficial for pets, not people.
- Be stable under normal storage conditions as levels of oxygen, moisture and storage temperatures can affect the viability of the bacteria.
- Be palatable and easy to give to your dog or cat.
Because researchers have identified the microbial makeup of a healthy dog’s intestinal tract, we know exactly what’s needed in a probiotic product – and where it provides optimal benefits. Total microbial load is low in the stomach and increases along the path of the GI tract.
The greatest diversity and number of bacteria are found in the small and large intestines, especially your pet’s colon. This is why it’s so important for a probiotic supplement to be able to pass through your pet’s stomach and upper intestine, unharmed by harsh stomach and bile acids or salts.
If the strains used in a formula aren’t resistant to low pH conditions and bile salts, your pet may not receive the benefits you’re hoping for.
Bark & Whiskers™ Complete Probiotics Exceeds All 5 Criteria
Bark & Whiskers™ Complete Probiotics meets all five criteria – and more.
Each scoop of our formula provides a minimum of 38 billion beneficial bacteria from 14 powerful dog- and cat-friendly probiotic strains when used by the expiration date printed on the package.
In fact, we even guarantee it.
That’s a far cry from the top five selling pet probiotic products I just told you about that contained 6 Billion CFU or less from only a handful of strains. And not necessarily guaranteed, either.
Our Bark & Whiskers™ Complete Probiotics is manufactured in a facility that has received the international certification for meeting or exceeding Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMP, requirements.
GMP regulations require that a manufacturer take proactive steps to help ensure their product is safe, potent, and pure, and that their manufacturing process is technologically adequate to avoid contaminations or errors.
And unlike other probiotics, Bark & Whiskers™ Complete Probiotics contains 14 different strains that are known to be useful for both cats and dogs, providing 6.6 Million CFU to 3.3 Billion CFU per scoop:
- Bifidobacterium lactis (3.3 Billion CFU) – Known to help support a healthy immune response, plus is resistant to low pH and bile acids.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus (3.3 Billon CFU) – Supports the health of your pet's digestive tract and immune system, and promotes the growth of immune cells.
- Bifidobacterium longum (3.3 Billion CFU) – Supports proper digestion and bowel health, along with supporting behavior and mood by working on the gut-brain axis.
- Bifidobacterium bifidum (3.3 Billion CFU) – Helps promote a healthy balance of flora in your pet's intestines and supports a normal immune response.
- Lactobacillus casei (3.3 Billion CFU) – Works with other helpful organisms to encourage the growth of other "good" bacteria. It lives in the mucus membrane in cats and dogs, and it’s a key part of the gut-brain axis for supporting mood.
- Lactobacillus plantarum (3.3 Billion CFU) – Helps ensure the delivery of nutrients to your pet's cells and supports the health of the colon walls.
- Bifidobacterium breve (3.3 Billion CFU) – As a vital colonizer of the GI tract, it helps restore the microbiome.
- Streptococcus thermophilus (3.3 Billion CFU) – One of the most potent and thoroughly researched probiotic strains that helps restore the microbiome and plays a key role in supporting a healthy colon, GI tract and immune system.
- Saccharomyces boulardii (3.3 Billion CFU) – This healthy, beneficial yeast acts as a very resistant probiotic that supports immune health, bowel health and digestion.
- Bifidobacterium animalis (3.3 Billion CFU) – Promotes optimal health and intestinal well-being. Plus, it is resistant to low pH and bile acids. May help prevent stress-related gastrointestinal upsets.
- Enterococcus faecium (3.3 Billion CFU) – Promotes healthy stools in cats and dogs, and helps calm the signs of stress. Supports healthy immune function and microfloral balance in the gut, and promotes the growth of other good bacteria.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus (660 Million CFU) – Assists your pet's elimination and occasional intestinal discomfort by working to stabilize and restore her intestinal microflora. Also supports mood and behavior in pets.
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus (660 Million CFU) – Works with other Lactobacillus strains to provide your pet with a potential source of dietary antioxidants.
- Bacillus coagulans (660 Million CFU) – Helps restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestine.
How Complete Probiotics Compares to All the Others
Bark & Whiskers™ Complete Probiotics provides 38 billion bacterial “helpers” ready to support your pet's microbiome and promote a natural, healthy balance of bacteria to help maintain total body health.
However, as you have seen, not all pet probiotics on the market meet the same stringent criteria.
Probiotic bacteria found in today's products vary significantly in composition, biological activity and portion. Plus, as you've learned, how a product is manufactured can have a huge impact on its potency and, therefore, effectiveness.
To summarize, here’s how Bark & Whiskers™ Complete Probiotics compares to other pet probiotic supplements on the market:
- Instead of just one or a small handful of probiotic strains, your pet receives 14 different strains with proven value for cats and dogs.
- You’re assured of getting a minimum of 38 Billion CFU in every scoop up until the expiration date printed on every package.
- The probiotic strains are acid- and bile-resistant for optimal benefits.
- It’s easy to store as the product does not require refrigeration or other special storage.
- The formula delivers live, viable organisms and is manufactured to prevent heat, air and moisture damage.
- It is manufactured in a facility certified to be in full compliance with GMP requirements.
- Our formula has little to no flavor so acceptance shouldn’t be an issue with cats and dogs.
On the Path to Optimal Health With Complete Probiotics
In my opinion, Bark & Whiskers™ Complete Probiotics is one of the most comprehensive probiotic supplements available today for pets.
Just to summarize all of its potential for your pet’s health, both physical and emotional, this unique formula can help support:
- A healthy balance of gut bacteria by promoting the optimal environment for the growth of beneficial bacteria.
- The production of enzymes and lactic acid for healthy digestive processes and colon pH balance.
- Healthy, normal immune system function.
- The production of important hormones that influence mood, such as serotonin, and B vitamins, especially folic acid, biotin and vitamin K.
- Healthy, normal metabolism and detoxification processes.
- Regularity and appropriate bowel transit time.
If your dog or cat isn’t already enjoying all the potential benefits that can come from a high-quality probiotic supplement, I invite you to try Bark & Whiskers™ Complete Probiotics, and see what a difference it can make in your pet’s well-being.
Order your supply today.