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Probiotics and Their Benefits

So that was a really interesting winter we just had… It almost feels too soon to be talking about spring, with how short our snowy, freezing temperatures actually ended up being this year. Nonetheless, c'est la vie! On to the next chapter and for all of you off leash goers, you know what this season brings: the Buena Vista Great Lake puddle! The nasty slew of all of the winter runoff, which unfortunately contains some waste from pet parents who don’t scoop poop while at the park!

Spring is often the time of year that pet parents end up making unplanned trips to see their vet and dramatic changes to their pets diet. Dogs bathroom breaks are maybe a little questionable, perhaps they are a bit nauseous and that could be turning them off of their food. Maybe they are showing signs of being sensitive or itchy in their paws or their back end? I want to say this part once, before we get into the meat of it: if your dog is vomiting excessively, having a hard time keeping food down or is experiencing diarrhea for 24 hours or more, go see your vet. Dehydration due to the loss of fluids in either of these cases can lead to significant health concerns. Now that that’s out of the way, what I’m really here to talk with you about!

An absolutely essential tool that I believe all pet parents should be using to proactively take charge of their animals' health are probiotics. I know this is a buzzword right now, but it comes from some very important science. Probiotics are microorganisms which, in healthy colonies, exist in the billions. Think of your dog's gut as a city; the beneficial and contributing members of society are the probiotics and they move in, set up residence in all the little houses and apartment buildings, have important jobs that work in synchronicity and keep repopulating to keep the city running smoothly and at peak performance. Then the mafia that is bad bacteria come to town. They try to take up residence anywhere they can so they can start doing damage, but they find that there is nowhere in town for them to move in. Everywhere is full. And as they only have a short window of time to settle in, if they have nowhere to go, they get sent packing. Probiotics do an amazing job at keeping our animals' digestive tract and therefore their immune system operating to the best of its capabilities. The important thing for us to remember is that this is a proactive measure. A healthy gut flora needs to be developed before our animals are introduced to the bacterial overload that is spring at the dog park. Personally, I believe all animals should go through a course of probiotics once every season, and always after the use of antibiotics. 

Along with probiotics, you should always have prebiotics present. These are the foods that probiotics require in the initial period of moving into the gut and getting settled. Prebiotics are fiber based and highly digestible by probiotics, giving them the best chance of success to start repopulating. Once your animal's gut flora is established, you no longer need to provide prebiotics; the fiber you animal consumes in their food will sustain the gut flora. When you are buying a probiotic for your animal, the product should already have a prebiotic present. If the brand you are buying does not, I would question its legitimacy. One of the top recommended brands on the market is sold exclusively as a probiotic and is lacking in this very important addition to their supplement. Our absolute favorite brand here at the store is the Adored Beast Apothecary; they have prebiotic/probiotic blends that are tailored specifically to canines or felines, with incredibly high standards when it comes to the sourcing of their ingredients. 

A final statement I would like to make on this topic; antibiotics are not always the answer! Yes, they absolutely serve their purpose and yes, they should be given in severe cases, however, I do not believe they should be a first line of defense when it comes to your animal's digestive health. Antibiotics do not discriminate and they will destroy your animals entire healthy gut flora, along with any bad bacteria, essentially leveling the city so it has to be rebuilt and repopulated all over again. Also, antibiotic resistance is a very real concern and if we rely on a yearly antibiotic course to get our animals through the spring, imagine the havoc being caused to the gut. Hence the importance of being proactive, providing our animals with the best chances of not being overwhelmed by a bacteria overload in the first place. If an animal is dealing with gastro-intestinal distress, probiotics can also be used to assist in the natural healing process but it is always better if they are established early on. 

Anyone who takes their animals outside in the spring knows that things are going to get a bit messy; there’s rain, mud, sand and even poop sometimes. There will be more toweling off and baths in this one season then the entire rest of the year. Do yourself this favor and save some time and money by taking the initiative to prevent also coming home to a dog with gurgle guts.


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