You cannot turn on the television without seeing a commercial for probiotic enhanced yogurt touting relief from bloating, or fiber supplements promoting regularity. Dogs and cats alike can suffer from gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation; these symptoms can be avoided with the addition of supportive products designed to aid digestion.
What are Probiotics? Meaning “for-life”, probiotics are good bacteria which maintain the population of helpful intestinal flora. Since probiotics are already found in your pet’s digestive tract, additional supplementation acts as further support for existing flora, which boost the immune system, ferment otherwise indigestible material, make vitamins K and B, and prevent overpopulation of harmful bacteria. Adequate levels of these beneficial bacteria promote healthy stool formation and reduce or eliminate gas and bloating. And, for your feline companion, probiotics reduce the occurrence of vomiting and hairballs.
What are Prebiotics? Prebiotics are non-digestible sugars that act as food for probiotics. Fermented dairy products such as yogurt contain both the sugars that the probiotics need to thrive and the probiotics themselves, providing a double dose of digestive support. Honey, garlic, and artichokes contain naturally occurring prebiotics as well.
What about fiber? Fiber is non-digestible but edible plant matter. After digestion, fiber is what remains of plant cells. There are soluble and insoluble types of fiber, which is why fiber is useful in preventing and treating both constipation and diarrhea. Because insoluble fiber absorbs water, if there is not enough water inside of the colon (constipation) it absorbs moisture from outside of the colon. If there is too much water inside of the colon (diarrhea) it absorbs it, removing it from the stool. Probiotics ferment dietary fiber into short chain fatty acids which help repair the colon walls, which prevents colon cancer.
So, how do you incorporate these into your pet’s diet? Probiotics and prebiotics are usually a package deal. Fermented raw goats milk, Doggy frozen yogurt and supplemental powders are excellent additional sources of these super digestive aids. Many premium foods add probiotics and prebiotics after cooking to ensure optimum efficacy. Fiber is easy to supplement as well. Canned or dehydrated pumpkin or sweet potatoes make palatable options that can be mixed into your pet’s regular meal daily, or as a treat. While none of these products are essential to your pet’s diet they are invaluable in maintaining optimum digestive health.
Article by Jenny Cournoyer
Jenny is an employee at Maggie’s and a graduate of UMASS Amherst, she has studied Pre-vet and Animal Science and is very knowledgeable about pet care and nutrition