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Probiotics and prebiotics – why they’re so important for your dog or cat

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probiotics and prebiotics

A balanced microbiome has a positive impact on your dog or cat’s health that goes well beyond digestive function. Probiotics and prebiotics can help achieve and maintain that balance.

The more we learn about the gut microbiome, the more we realize how vital it is to the health and well-being of our dogs and cats (and ourselves!). A balanced microbiome not only helps ensure a properly-functioning digestive tract, but is also connected to good immunity, skin and coat wellness, and even brain and cognitive health. A diet
supplemented with the right probiotics and prebiotic fibers is a key way of achieving and maintaining a normal, healthy microbial population in your dog or cat’s GI tract.

THE DIGESTIVE TRACT’S LINK TO IMMUNITY

“Research shows that at least 70% of the immune response resides in the digestive tract,” says Juan Gomez-Basauri, PhD. “The microbiota and the commensal bacteria present in the gut are responsible for several metabolic functions, including but not limited to, immune system maturation, appetite control, and energy metabolism.”

Dr. Gomez-Basauri goes on to add that disturbances of the gut microbiome (the microbiota) are associated with several chronic ailments and inflammatory processes, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and diabetes, to name just a few.

SUPPORTING THE MICROBIOME THROUGH DIET

A well-balanced and nutritionally adequate diet, supplemented with specific prebiotic fibers and viable probiotics, can help support and maintain a normal microbiome. Feeding the microbiome with prebiotic fibers in the diet helps the commensal bacteria perform their functions, while probiotics provide further reinforcement to that bacteria.

One example of such a diet is NutriSource and their Good 4 Life supplement pack. Dr. Gomez-Basauri (who is with Alltech, the company that makes Good 4 Life), states that
Lactobacillus acidophilus and Enterococcus faecium are the live probiotic strains used in Good 4 Life. Other microbiome-supporting ingredients in these products include selenium yeast, yeast fractions containing mannan oligosaccharides (MOS), dried
fermentation extracts of Aspergillus oryzae, Trichoderma longibrachiatum and Bacillus subtilis, among others.

MAINTAINING PROBIOTIC INTEGRITY

“Not all diets or foods will provide the necessary prebiotic fibers and probiotics,”
says Dr. Gomez-Basauri. “Therefore, it is important to make sure the probiotics and
prebiotics are present in the diet (see the label) in order to support a normal and
healthy microbiome.”

It’s important to note, however, that probiotics are killed when cooked, so adding them to pet food is only useful if the ingredients are not exposed to high heat during processing. “One way to maintain the integrity of specific probiotics is to add them once the cooking is finished,” says Dr. Gomez-Basauri. “It’s like adding the frosting to the top of the cake once it’s baked.”

Another way, of course, is to provide probiotics in the form of supplements. Supporting your dog or cat’s microbiome by adding high-quality probiotics and prebiotics to the diet will not only improve their digestion, but also support immunity and overall well-being.

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