/Prebiotics for Dogs — A Dog Parent’s Primer

Prebiotics for Dogs — A Dog Parent’s Primer

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It’s now well known that probiotics are friendly forms of bacteria that live in the intestines and can improve our health in several ways — and now, they’re not just for humans. Many veterinarians recommend probiotics for dogs for everything from treating digestive conditions to boosting the immune system. But in order to fully reap the benefits of probiotics for dogs, experts say prebiotics for dogs may be equally important.
First, What Are Prebiotics?
What are prebiotics for dogs and how are they beneficial to your pup? Photography ©UserGI15966731 | Getty Images.
According to Dr. JoAnn Morrison, DVM, veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital in Oregon, prebiotics are types of fiber — such as beet pulp, pumpkin and sweet potato — that can help to support that good, beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. “The potential benefits for dogs may include improved bacterial populations in the GI tract, improved GI health and fecal consistency,” Dr. Morrison says. “Potential benefits outside of the GI tract may include reduced inflammation and improved behavior and cognition.”
Prebiotics for Dogs — the Health Benefits
According to Dr. Lisa Brienen, DVM, a certified veterinary homeopath practicing at Mercy Vet on Mercer Island, Washington, prebiotics are fibers that feed good bacteria in the gut. “Prebiotics improve intestinal health,” she agrees. “While probiotics are known to help introduce good bacteria into the dog’s gut, it’s the prebiotics that will act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria that’s there.”
Dr. Brienen uses gut supportive therapy regularly in her practice to promote overall health, particularly in young dogs and cats, and even to treat allergic or autoimmune disease and digestive disease. “When the intestines are leaky, proteins that wouldn’t normally move through the intestinal wall can get through … and the body sees these as foreign invaders,” she explains, noting that a dog’s body will naturally create antibodies to fight off these proteins, which can lead to skin, eye, ear, digestive and neurologic problems. “If you heal the leaky gut, you can solve these problems … which is why prebiotics (and probiotics) can be helpful for the immune system and support health in all systems of the body,” she adds. 
What Foods Can Act as Prebiotics for Dogs?
Dr. Brienen notes that many fiber-rich foods can act as prebiotics for dogs. One of the first ones she uses in her practice is pumpkin or pumpkin powder, and she also recommends cooked yams as a fiber-rich source of prebiotics for dogs.
“Pumpkin helps with intestinal health, whether the dog is dealing with diarrhea or constipation,” she