Prebiotics for Dogs

Prebiotics represent dietary supplements that are able to improve the GI (gastrointestinal) health of dogs and cats. Fructooligosaccharide, one of the most popular prebiotics, is a variety of fiber that can reestablish the balance of enteric bacteria in the GI tract. When this balance is disrupted, the number of pathogenic bacteria, which are able to cause diseases, exceeds the number of beneficial bacteria.

Importance of Gastrointestinal Microflora

The bacteria found in the GI tract of the dog are involved in the following processes:

  • Digestion and assimilation of nutrients
  • Elimination of waste products
  • Production of hormones such as cholecystokinin and gastrin
  • Stopping disease-causing organisms from entering the lymphatic system and bloodstream

As observed, these processes do not influence only the GI health of the dog, but its overall condition. The microflora of the GI tract includes over 1,000 varieties of bacteria. Any abnormality in the numbers or varieties of bacteria may help a health condition to develop. In optimal situations, the numbers of beneficial bacteria, which are also known as probiotic bacteria, is greater than the ones of harmful bacteria. In this situation, both the development and the functionality of the latter are inhibited by probiotic bacteria. Some of the pathogenic enteric bacteria that pose a threat to the GI and overall health of the dog include:

  • Clostridium difficile
  • Escherichia coli
  • Eubacterium
  • Salmonella

Fortunately, prebiotics can stimulate the growth and the functionality of probiotic bacteria. Dietary fiber represents the most popular prebiotic, so it should be always included in the diet of your dog.

Role of Prebiotic Fiber in Dogs

Prebiotic fiber gets through the stomach and small intestine undigested, but it undergoes fermentation in the large intestine. The bacteria found here turn prebiotics into SCFA (short-chain fatty acids), among other compounds. The SCFAs do not only inhibit the growth and activity of pathogenic enteric bacteria, but they also assure a source of energy for the colonocytes, which are cells found in the large intestine. Besides that, SCFAs preserve the electrolyte and fluid balance and allow the intestines to move properly. The normal morphology of the large intestine is also preserved with the help of SCFAs.

Distinguishing Prebiotics from Normal Fiber

Fibers that can be used as prebiotics in dogs must respect several criteria. First of all, the fiber must not get digested when in contact with enzymes, hydrolysis or stomach acid. Next, prebiotics are fermented by probiotic bacteria in the intestines, so dietary fiber needs to respect this criterion, too. Not at last, dietary fiber must be able to stimulate the development and activity of probiotic bacteria, in order to qualify as a prebiotic.

Reliable Prebiotic Fiber Sources for Dogs

As mentioned before, Fructooligosaccharides are among the best prebiotics that can be used in dogs. One of the main roles of this dietary fiber is to stimulate Lactobacillus bacteria, which are probiotic bacteria. More than that, Fructooligosaccharides inhibit the following types of pathogenic bacteria:

  • Bacteroids
  • Escherichia coli
  • Eubacterium

Besides this type of dietary fiber, beet pulp and cellulose also qualify as good prebiotics. Beet pulp is known to provide better results than the latter, despite the fact that both are able to stimulate the growth of Bifidobacterium animalis AHC7 strain bacteria. For best results, you are recommended to combine prebiotics with probiotic bacterial products in the diet of your dog.