The reality is that plenty of foods contain natural probiotics. Yogurt, kefir, onions, bananas, garlic, honey, leeks, kimchi and Jerusalem artichokes all appear regularly on lists of probiotic foods. Some of these items are not ideal for dogs; for example, onions and large quantities of garlic are dangerous and should be avoided. Kimchi is too spicy. The jury is out on dairy products, yogurt included. Some literature contends that dairy causes digestive upset in dogs, but a better part of the homefeeding community includes yogurt in their dogs’ diets to great effect. Some dog guardians, including C.J. Puotinen, author of The Encyclopedia of NaturalPet Care, are so adventurous that they feed things like lacto-fermented vegetables, such as mild homemade sauerkraut or shredded carrots with ginger. (For the brave souls who wish to try offering fermented veggies, note that fennel seed is a natural remedy for flatulence.)
Ultimately, you can work in any number of ways with a supportive veterinarian to come up with a safe, nutritious regime that takes gut health, and therefore probiotics, into account. The best takeaway in your DIY probiotic diet handbook, the number-one answer that most experts agree on — in part because it has many other benefits and is easily digested — is green tripe. Sticking with foods that are easily digested by your dog (like green tripe) makes the addition of probiotics to your dog’s mealtime routine incredibly safe. That’s the good news.
3. Find a balance.
So, you mindfully begin supplementing your dog’s diet, but her coat remains dull and her energy, sluggish. What could be going on? No matter how thoughtfully we supplement, the detrimental effects of kibble riddled with carbohydrates and fillers can ruin our best auxiliary efforts. The sugars in these foods not only fail to protect your dog from harmful bacteria, they nourish the very bacteria we wish to discourage. Dr. Jeannie Thomason, cofounder (with Dr. Kim Bloomer of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy, suggests that with yeast and other harmful bacteria thriving in the gut, it’s no wonder veterinarians are seeing a rise in inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes and pancreatitis. The preservatives and synthetic chemicals in low-quality food damage the tissues of the digestive tract and flood the body with toxins.
Thomason reminds us that a healthy, species-appropriate diet is the first line of defense against illness, and will often balance the gut naturally. “In nature, animals know to seek out those foods that satisfy their nutritional needs.” Shepoints to the eating patterns of free-roaming wolves. “Before eating muscle or bone, wolves feast on stomach contents, the liver, pancreas and intestines — in other words, they are gorging on enzyme-laden tissues. Wolf pups are weaned and maintained on regurgitated food, also heavily laced with digestive enzymes.”
4. Monitor your dog’s daily life.
Just as diet has a profound effect on a dog’s wellness, several factors can radically affect the extent to which probiotics are able to win the war in the dog’s GI system. For example, a dog who’s undergone antibiotic therapy needs support to recover at the microbiotic level. These therapies make no distinction between beneficial and harmful microorganisms; they destroy them all. Many experts suggest that the harmful strains, being more opportunistic, are quicker to re-colonize and exploit the body’s vulnerabilities. Travel and other environmental changes can be overwhelming, literally altering an animal’s body chemistry. Everyday stresses and the effects of a sedentary lifestyle throw off balance as well. Aging, while inevitable, can also influence the normal balance of microflora in the intestinal tract. Your dog depends on you to protect him from undue stress and thus improve his chances of long-term wellness.