Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Healthy Guts: Examining the Importance of Probiotics in Pet Food

By Basel Nassar//July 1, 2024//

Healthy Guts: Examining the Importance of Probiotics in Pet Food

By: Basel Nassar//July 1, 2024//

Listen to this article

We see advertisements everywhere, for both pets and humans, to make sure we’re getting enough probiotics in our diet. So as humans we take pills and eat lots of yogurt with live cultures. But what about our pets? Should cats and dogs have probiotics as a supplement to their diet?

Probiotics are gut dwelling microbes such as bacteria and yeast that have been proven to help a dog or cat’s gastrointestinal system. There are billions of them in our furry friends. Did you know an animal’s immune system is based in their gut? Probiotics aid in digestion of food, fight off pathogens and help make nutrients and vitamins to support the immune system. Probiotics are nutritional tools that every pet owner should consider for the health of their friend, in consultation with a veterinarian.

Animals that suffer from illnesses, stress or side effects from medication like antibiotics and steroids, can suffer from the good bacteria in their stomach being destroyed. That’s when you see all the issues like diarrhea, gas, cramping and bad breath. Probiotics has been shown to help with digestive issues, can modulate the immune system, produce short term fatty acids that fight bad bacteria, improve diarrhea, irritable bowel and intestinal inflammation, prevent urinary tract infections and reduce allergic reactions and help dogs remain calm.

This is what happened to my Rhodesian Ridgeback Kelby, who had difficulty eating many of the pet food brands on the market. He would throw up constantly. After developing human yogurt for many years, that’s when I realized there were not that many pet food options for probiotic supplementation, and I needed to make him something to stop his symptoms. I started Boss Dog in 2018 where I worked to infuse both probiotics and prebiotics into pet food products, like our goat’s milk, frozen yogurt and raw freeze-dried meats and frozen meals.

Now, there are more and more probiotics sold as a single supplement or additive in pet foods. Today, pet food with probiotics is easier to find and has become more competitive than when I started seven years ago, but they are not created the same. Animals need millions of probiotics and prebiotics in their guts.

Some of the common ways pet probiotics are sold are in yogurt or kefir with live cultures, powders, capsules, chews and dog and cat food. I make sure to add millions of probiotics in my line of products. When looking at pet food with probiotics, make sure to look in the guaranteed analysis section on the packaging so you can see exactly what kind of bacteria is added to the product and at what levels they guarantee survivability. Some of the common probiotic strains added by manufacturers are bifidobacteria, enterococcus and lactobacillus.

Introducing cats to probiotics is a newer concept than dogs and is starting to catch on amongst cat owners. Many veterinarians use them as a supplement for overall health just like dogs. If your cat gets loose stools, gas or belly pain and there’s no underlying health issues, consider adding probiotics to your cat’s diet. Of course, always consult with your veterinarian first.

Prebiotics are also important to both cats and dogs. Many people don’t know what the difference is. Prebiotics are fibers that promote the growth of good bacteria and nourish the colon. All animals need prebiotics because they feed the probiotics in your pet’s digestive system. You can find prebiotics in a lot of high fiber foods like inulin, and psyllium husk; both can be found in our formulas.

What about side effects? There have been reports of some dogs having side effects when starting probiotics, particularly if you start at too high a dose or your pet has never had probiotics or prebiotics added to its food or treats. It’s important to start probiotics gradually with the consultation of your veterinarian. If serving your pet probiotic-infused food like Boss Cat or Boss Dog, you need to transition the product gradually with your current food. Never just put a bowl of the new food out right away.

Although scientific studies are still being done on the value of probiotics and prebiotics, the anecdotal results of pets eating good bacteria have been phenomenal and veterinarians are reporting excellent results. With the humanization of pets, probiotics have become even more popular as humans are seeing excellent results on themselves and want the same for their pets.

I started Boss Nation Brands because of Kelby’s digestive issues clearing up. It took a lot of time, thought, energy and research to realize what he needed. I was so pleased with his success that I wanted to share it with other dogs and cats, their owners and pet retailers. I am passionate about spreading the word when it comes to probiotics and prebiotics in pet food. But ultimately, it’s up to pet parents to do what’s best for their pets and it’s up to pet retailers to do their research on finding the best high-quality products to keep their customers and their animals healthy and happy.

 

Basel Nassar is a serial entrepreneur who specializes in gut nutrition for pets. His Boss Cat and Boss Dog products are found across the nation and Canada in specialty retailers.