Supplementing your dog’s diet with probiotics is an important part of boosting her immune system and overall health. It can also help manage inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal upset…
… But not all probiotics are equal.
FortiFlora is a probiotic supplement for dogs that many conventional veterinarians recommend. In fact, Purina claims that it’s the #1 probiotic that vets recommend…
… So what if I told you I’d never give it to my dogs or cats?
Let me tell you why.
Ingredients In FortiFlora For Dogs
The ingredients in FortiFlora are:
- Animal Digest
- Enterococcus Faecium
- L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C)
- Brewers Dried Yeast
- Vitamin E Supplement
- Zinc Proteinate
- Manganese Proteinate
- Ferrous Sulfate
- Copper Proteinate
- Calcium Iodate
- Sodium Selenite
That’s a long list of things, so let’s just look at the ones with the most issues, like animal digest.
What The Heck Is Animal Digest?
Animal Digest is one of the ingredients found in FortiFlora for dogs. It’s a concentrated flavoring agent made up of hydrolyzed animal protein. But it’s not actually the contents of the digestive tract. It’s a reference to the way the manufacturer processes the animal protein.
It means the manufacturer hydrolyzed the protein with heat, enzymes and acids to break it down into amino acids. But this changes the chemical structure of a protein. And that can void or reduce its nutritional value.
And the wording is intentionally vague. We’re not told what type of animal is in this component of the supplement.
Purina claims that the digest uses animal protein supplied by a USDA-inspected facility. But they don’t state that the animal protein itself is USDA-inspected and that’s a problem. Why? Because this includes USDA-inspected facilities that process euthanized animals. Some facilities also use 4-D livestock (livestock that’s dead, dying, diseased and downed).
According to the EPA, these facilities can get “meat” from all kinds of places. This includes:
- Butcher shops
- Fast-food chains
- Animal shelters
Fast-food chains? Animal shelters? … It’s pretty easy to understand why the company chooses to keep its wording ill-defined.
To make matters worse, before these ingredients get rendered they’re denatured. This means they get a coating of carbolic acid or cresylic disinfectant. These are both known toxins that will cause chemical burns and can even be fatal.
RELATED: Your dog’s FortiFlora isn’t the only product for dogs that contains toxins …
Does FortiFlora Have Enough Probiotics?
In the case of probiotics, more is better.
Your dog needs probiotics to defend the gut. When there are more good bacteria, the gut can fight off anything it sees as a threat. That’s why you want more probiotics.
The second ingredient in FortiFlora for dogs is Enterococcus Faecium. It’s the only bacteria strain in the entire ingredient panel.
But having only one bacteria strain in a probiotic supplement is a problem. That’s because the digestive tract is home to hundreds of different types of bacteria. And each one thrives in different sections of the digestive system.
Your dog’s stomach only houses two primary bacteria strains. But there are more strains farther along the digestive tract in the small intestine. In fact, one study found 6 different phyla of bacteria in the first part of the small intestine.
Another study found 4 bacteria strains in the second part of the small intestine. Before the study, nobody knew those strains lived there.
A supplement with only one bacteria strain will likely not serve the whole GI tract.
How To Spot A Quality Probiotic
An easy way to spot a quality probiotic is to look at its Colony-Forming Unit (CFU) count. CFU count refers to the number of viable bacteria cells in a sample amount. And we measure the CFU count in probiotics per gram.
A higher CFU is better since some of the bacteria won’t survive the digestive process.
FortiFlora has a moderate CFU count of 100 million CFU per gram. In comparison, my probiotic supplement of choice has a CFU count of 30 billion per gram.
FortiFlora For Dogs Uses Synthetic Vitamins And Minerals
The majority of the ingredients in FortiFlora are synthetic vitamins and minerals … 9 of the 13 ingredients to be exact. But the body can’t use these inorganic mineral forms as well as whole foods.
So FortiFlora can limit your dog’s ability to absorb the nutrients she really needs.
Just look at the beta-carotene listed in FortiFlora’s ingredients. This is a synthetic antioxidant that can block the activity of other antioxidants supplied from whole food sources.
Some claim that chelated minerals (those ending in proteinate) are easier for the body to digest. But their quality can vary greatly. Cheaper chelates often come from extracting a mineral from crushed industrial rock with one or more acids. This is then attached to a hydrolyzed soy protein.
Glyphosate is another problem. In fact, over 90% of the soy crop grown in the US is from genetically modified seed from Monsanto. Monsanto creates seeds that are resistant to glyphosate weed killers like Roundup.
One study found that good bacteria are negatively affected by glyphosate. But “bad” bacteria like Salmonella are highly resistant.
And the chelated minerals that use hydrolyzed soy particles may also contain glyphosate. That’s because at least 90% of the soy crop grown in the US is from that modified Monsanto seeds.
Plants from these seeds don’t die when sprayed with glyphosate-based weed killers. But after it’s sprayed there are traces of glyphosate in the plant … and that means it could be present in the supplement.
Related: What’s the big deal about GMOs?
So, what’s the alternative? Natural probiotics.
Natural Alternatives To FortiFlora For Dogs
So don’t rely on synthetic supplements like FortiFlora for your dog. Instead add some natural probiotics to your dog’s diet.
Here are some good ones to try:
Tripe is from the lining of a ruminant’s stomach. And it’s full of the same digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria that help dogs break down food.
Start your pet off with a few tablespoons and work your way up to a ¼ cup per 50 lbs of your dog’s weight.
Kefir is a cultured, fermented liquid that’s made from dairy milk, goat’s milk, coconut milk or water. It’s full of healthy bacteria and protein. If you buy kefir, make sure it’s unsweetened.
Give about 1 tbsp per 25 lbs of your dog’s body weight.
Fermented vegetables are foods like sauerkraut or kimchi. You can buy them or make your own. They mimic the gut contents of prey animals, have beneficial bacteria and serve as a prebiotic.
Feed 1 tsp per 30 lbs.
And remember, if you do want to give your pet a probiotic supplement look for one with a high CFU count and no fillers. If your probiotic doesn’t already include a prebiotic, it’s a good idea to add one to make your probiotic more effective.
RELATED: Why your dog needs prebiotics with his probiotics …
Probiotic foods or supplements can work wonders for your dog’s gut health. And because nearly 90% of your dog’s immune system is in her gut, probiotics boost her overall health too. So skip the FortiFlora and go natural.
Shehata AA et al. The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro. Curr Microbiol. 2012 Nov 15.
Suchodolski JS et al. Analysis of bacterial diversity in the canine duodenum, jejunum, ileum, and colon by comparative 16S rRNA gene analysis. FEMS Microbiology Ecology. 2008 Nov 12.
Xenoulis PG et al. Molecular‐phylogenetic characterization of microbial communities imbalances in the small intestine of dogs with inflammatory bowel disease. FEMS Microbiology Ecology. 2008 Nov 12.