Get to know the good guys of the bacteria world
If there were comics written about bacteria, Salmonella and E. coli would be villians and Kryptonite. Probiotics, the beneficial intestinal microflora, would be Superman and Spiderman, respectively.
A few years ago, I wrote an article reminding dog lovers that while there are pathogenic bacteria out there, their numbers are relatively low in comparison to the bacterial superheroes.
Most bacteria are tireless allies helping us in pretty much every aspect of life — from creating fertile soils to food production, digestion and even disease prevention. The reality is that without our bacteria superheroes, life on Earth would cease to exist.
Probiotic bacteria are an especially important group. In nature, all animals consume food in its raw form and such food carries a diverse population of probiotics. These probiotics have an important role in digestion and maintaining health, preventing infections, reducing inflammation, eliminating urinary crystals and preventing cancer.
Unfortunately, the influx of processed food and pesticides, chemicals and antibacterial agents used in growing and preparing food have led to a less varied population of bacteria in food, which, in some cases, leads to an increased spread of pathogens, infections, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease.
Our society has become obsessed with ultra-sanitary conditions that disturb the natural balance of bacteria in the environment and the body. This negatively affects digestion, nutrient absorption and general health. That is why the addition of the right, species-appropriate probiotics can make a huge difference in your dog's health.
Why human probiotics may not be the best for your dog
Healthy intestinal flora varies in every species. The main reasons for such variability are diet, lifestyle and the anatomy of the digestive tract. This is one of the main reasons why human probiotics may not be optimal for dogs and why a canine-specific probiotic should be used.
Why non-dairy probiotics may be better for dogs
In nature, no species consumes any dairy past the weaning stage. Dogs may have the ability to digest milk, but from nature's point of view, milk is not a species-appropriate diet for adult dogs. Thus, non-dairy probiotics are much more suitable.
The many jobs of our bacterial heroes
Recent research confirmed that each probiotic strain has a specific role. For example, the species Lactobacillus plantarum inhibits the growth of pathogenic E. coli and improves the intestinal transit of food.
Another probiotic strain I would like to mention is Lactobacillus fermentum, which has proven to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, the immune system function and the production of antioxidants.
Based on research, the probiotic strain Streptococcus thermophilus has a positive effect on reducing the incidence of dietary allergies and intolerance. In recent years, there has been a strong tendency to perform detailed allergy testing and put allergic dogs on limited protein diets. However, such an approach to allergies brings only limited improvement. Elimination diets usually cause further problems because they contradict natural principles of varied and balanced diet.
Instead, I would like to address the primary origin of allergies — the dysfunctional, overburdened and inefficient immune system itself. We need to focus on balancing the immune system and probiotic therapy should be a part of such treatment plan.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM