Not all bacteria is bad bacteria.
In fact, it’s REALLY important to make sure your dog gets adequate levels of “good” bacteria in his intestines to counteract the bad bacteria!
Well, because those bad guys (bacteria) can cause a whole lot of problems in your dog’s body like infections and serious illnesses.
Since the canine digestive tract is comparable to the functioning of a dog’s immune system, keeping intestines stocked with probiotic bacteria is essential to a dog’s lifelong health and wellbeing.
That being said, here are three probiotic foods to give your dog to keep his good bacteria in tip-top shape!
Three Non-Dairy Probiotic Foods for Dogs
The long list of benefits of kefir result from its 30 strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast, several of which are not found in other popular probiotic foods like yogurt. Some of those strains of good bacteria include Lactobacillus caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species and Streptococcus species; beneficial yeasts include Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir. Kefir is also high in B complex vitamins, as well as in vitamins A, D, K and biotin.
As a result of these good yeasts and bacteria and healthy nutrients, kefir offers everything from natural antibiotic and anti-fungal boosts, allergy prevention and healthy skin to reducing gas and heartburn, increasing energy and even possibly helping stop cancerous cells from increasing in number, just to name a few.
Learn more about kefir’s benefits, here.
You’ve probably heard of kefir made with cows milk or goats milk, but it’s possible to create a water kefir with plenty of its own beneficial bacteria and yeasts.
Water kefir is absolutely non-dairy AND gluten free.
To make it you need sugar-water (you can use all-natural sugar cane). Then let the sugar-water ferment at room temperature with kefir grains for about 24 to 48 hours. (You can also use coconut water. Check out this helpful video on how to make coconut kefir if you think you’re ready to give it a try.)
The best part is … the grains used to make water kefir are reusable, so you can make plenty of batches for your dog!
The term “microalgae” describes a class of ocean-based super food plants such as chlorella, blue-green algae and spirulina.
Probiotic microalgae introduce rich amounts of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria to a dog’s intestines to promote levels of “good” bacteria and prevent gastrointestinal infections. Blue-green algae are available in powdered form and contain vegetable protein, beta-carotene and over 60 different kinds of enzymes, vitamins, minerals. Dogs also benefit from the ten nonessential amino acids and eight essential amino acids found in blue-green algae that are easily absorbed in the intestines. Microalgae also exhibit strong antioxidant activity beneficial for relieving oxidative stress due to free radicals, or atoms composed of unpaired electrons thought to be responsible for aging, cell damage, cancer and heart disease.
Fresh sauerkraut is another great source of probiotics, and provides more variety to your dog’s good bacteria menu.
Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut can produce up to 10 trillion CFUs (colony-forming units), unlike probiotic supplements for humans that produce up to 10 billion CFUs.
Not only are fermented vegetables a great source of probiotics for your dog, they are also known:
- To get rid of toxins in the body
- To help protect against cancer
- To be high in vitamins A, C, B, E
- To be high in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, folate, iron, etc.
Sauerkraut can be added to your dog’s diet gradually until you reach 1 to 3 teaspoons for every 20 pounds of body weight daily.
Please note to make sure you are providing your dog with fresh plain sauerkraut that is not wine-based as alcohol can be harmful.
A Note on Lactose Intolerance in Dogs
Some dogs, like humans, suffer from lactose intolerance from dairy products. Symptoms include diarrhea, flatulence, nausea and stomach cramps. Lactose is a sugar found in milk that must be broken apart by an enzyme – lactase – before it can be digested properly. Dogs with enough lactase in their bodies may experience minimal to no signs of lactose intolerance while others exhibit more severe symptoms.
Milk, cheese and yogurt can affect dogs in different ways. For example, dogs lacking the lactase enzyme may become constipated if they eat cheese. Alternatively, milk and yogurt are more likely to induce loose stools in lactose intolerant dogs.
If you want to give dairy to your dog, try feeding him yogurt and cheeses made from unpasteurized, 100% grass-fed milk or supplementing his meals with non-dairy ingredients like coconut milk.
Beware of Dog Food Enhanced with Probiotics
Although dog foods purporting to contain probiotics are sold commercially, several studies targeting pet foods found that many of these foods actually contained low numbers of living probiotics or did not contain the bacteria species listed on the ingredients label. Whether the lack of probiotics in pet foods claiming to provide these bacteria was due to poor viability while the food was stored in warehouses or failure of the pet food company to ensure survival of bacteria during processing was unclear to researchers.