You are probably familiar with the probiotics – the benefits and health claims, but what about prebiotics? Do not be confused – prebiotics and probiotics are not the same.
Defined as soluble and indigestible fiber, studies show that prebiotics act as standalone health benefactors. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about prebiotics for dogs. Let’s get started.
What are Prebiotics for Dogs?
According to the official definition, prebiotics are “undigestible food ingredients that selectively stimulate the growth and activities of specific bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and exert beneficial effects on the host.”
In simpler terms, prebiotics are fibers that pass through the GI tract undigested. The healthy flora in the intestine uses them as food, and once they reach the colon, they are fermented and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which promote a healthy gut.
There are different types of fibers, and not all of them serve as prebiotics. Namely, fibers can be classified into two groups:
- Soluble fiber
- Insoluble fiber
Gut bacteria can ferment only the soluble fibers. Therefore, common soluble fibers with prebiotic properties include:
- Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) – extracted from the fructose molecules found in many fruits, roots, and whole grains (bananas, blue agave, yacon root, chicory root, beet pulp, oats, flaxseed).
- Inulin – an indigestible starch found in many fruits and vegetables (bananas, apples, asparagus, artichokes, chicory, dandelion, raw garlic, artichokes).
- Mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) – derived from the cell walls of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast.
- Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) – made from dairy products, beans, legumes, and root vegetables.
It should be noted that many probiotic supplements use maltodextrin as a prebiotic source. Although maltodextrin shows prebiotic activity, it should be avoided in dog products. This is because it is usually derived from GMO corn and affects blood sugar levels. On some pet products, it can be listed under the names – soluble corn fiber or resistant starch.
What does Prebiotics for Dogs do?
Prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria in the dog’s gut, or in other terms, they serve as a food source for the probiotics. Interestingly prebiotics can selectively nourish only the healthy flora, thus preventing the growth of bad microorganisms.
In addition to providing nutrients for the good bacteria, once metabolized in the colon, the probiotics create short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that promote the host health through several mechanisms:
- Supporting gut health and proper digestion
- Serving as a source of energy for the colon cells
- Inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria
- Maintaining normal intestinal electrolyte and fluid balance
- Managing or reduce inflammatory processes
- Decreasing the risk of digestive tract disease
Considering that 80% of the dog’s immune system is located in the GI tract, maintaining a healthy digestive system is closely related to supporting a strong immune response.
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: What’s the Difference?
With the prebiotics topic covered and explained, it is time we say a word or two about probiotics.
Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) definition, probiotics are “living microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.”
Definitions aside, probiotics are the billions of live and beneficial microorganisms (mostly bacteria but sometimes yeasts) that inhabit the dog’s gut. They have several roles, including “help digest food, maintain intestinal mucosal integrity, participate in metabolism, and stimulate systemic immune function.”
In a nutshell, probiotics are live cultures that introduce new and good microorganisms in the gut while prebiotics serve as food sources for the already present beneficial microbiome.
Health Benefits of Prebiotics for Dogs
Prebiotics do more than just feed the good bacteria in the gut. They are a standalone health booster and provide the following benefits:
- Support Fermentation and Healthy Digestion. Prebiotics support the fermentation processes in the colon and have a direct impact on stool quality. When used regularly and in combination with probiotics, prebiotics can prevent and manage loose stool and diarrhea. Overall speaking, prebiotics are critical for normal and regular digestion.
- Increase the Nutrient Absorption. Prebiotics can change the pH in the intestines and modulate the composition of the gut microorganisms. As a result, they make the intestines more conducive to nutrient absorption. Namely, instead of just passing through the intestines, prebiotics make the nutrients more likely to get absorbed and utilized by the dog’s body.
- Prevent and Manage Intestinal Disorders. A healthy gut is the brick and mortar of a healthy digestive tract. Keeping the good and bad bacteria balanced and supporting the normal digestion and absorption processes is a good starting point for both preventing and managing disorders affecting the different parts of the dog’s GI tract.
- Control Blood Sugar Spikes. As fibers, prebiotics slow down digestion and modulate the absorption processes, thus leading to thorough nutrient breakdown and constant blood sugar levels. This is particularly beneficial for patients with diabetes in which sudden blood sugar spikes and changes can have serious consequences.
- Improve Bone Density and Robustness. In many animal models, gut health and its microbiome can affect bone density and strength. This is believed to be a result of improved nutrient absorption. Namely, the more calcium the dog absorbs in the intestines, the less likely it is to develop osteoporosis or other issues related to poor bone quality.
- Strengthen the Immune System. Prebiotics are directly linked with stronger immunity and a more robust immune function. What is more, when fed to pregnant and lactating females, prebiotics can “increase the immune power of the colostrum.” Consequently, the puppies are more likely to develop a healthier response to regular vaccinations.
Natural Prebiotics For Dogs
Many human foods serve as natural prebiotic sources. However, not all of them are safe for regular use in dogs. Here are some of the dog-friendly, prebiotic-rich human foods:
- Mushrooms. Rich in various carbohydrates with prebiotic properties like chitin, hemicellulose, xylans, beta-glucans, and mannans. The best prebioticmushrooms are:
- Turkey Tail Mushrooms
- Chaga Mushrooms
- Maitake Mushrooms
- Reishi Mushrooms
- Chicory Root. Improves digestion, manages inflammation, provides anti-oxidant support, and alleviates constipation. Its semi-sweet taste makes it well-accepted by dogs.
- Burdock Root. Contains the same inulin levels as the chicory root. Plus, it is readily available and easy to add to the dog’s menu.
- Larch Arabinogalactan. Called “the good sugar” arabinogalactan is a soluble fiber abundantly present in carrots, pears, coconut, corn, shiitake mushrooms, and plants like echinacea and astragalus.
How to Incorporate Prebiotics into Your Dog’s Diet
Prebiotics are one of the latest trends in pet health care. Therefore, some dog food brands add probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes to their diet formulas. Before talking to your veterinarian about prebiotic supplements, check the dog food label.
If the dog food is not enriched with prebiotics or they are present in low amounts, you can proceed and start incorporating prebiotics in two ways:
- Naturally with human foods rich in prebiotics.
- With prebiotic supplements designed for dogs.
We have already explained which foods serve as natural sources of prebiotics. However, we should note that some of the need to be used with caution. For example, raw garlic has toxic potential when used excessively, and beet pulp can irritate the dog’s sensitive stomach.
Bottom line, sticking to probiotic supplements for dogs is the best way of adding this nutraceutical to your pet’s menu. We recommend using the Honest Paws Wellness Pre + Probiotic for dogs.
The supplement is a blend of various prebiotics and probiotic strains and features only natural high-quality ingredients. The pre and probiotic mixture has a natural chicken flavor, and it is powdered and packed in individual sachets making the dosing and administration simple and easy.
Our Final Thoughts on Prebiotics for Dogs
Adding prebiotics to your dog’s menu can do wonders about its general health and wellbeing. Luckily, there are different ways of supplementing your pup with prebiotics – from natural foods to specifically formulated products.
If looking into supplements, we recommend the Honest Paws Wellness Pre+Probiotics for dogs. Sourced and manufactured in the USA, this supplement is the perfect way of starting your dog on the road to natural health.
Prebiotics for Dogs Frequently Asked Questions
Are Prebiotics Better than Probiotics for Dogs?
It is impossible to compare prebiotics to probiotics. Both nutraceuticals have distinct but equally important roles and have an entourage effect. Therefore, for maximum results and health benefits, we recommend using prebiotics and probiotics together.
How Long does it take for Prebiotics to Work in Dogs?
Prebiotics go through most GI tract intact but start working as soon as they reach the colon, where fermentation occurs. How long will it take to see an improvement in the dog’s condition depends on why you are using the supplement in the first place – they can help with diarrhea in a matter of days, but for immune boosts, it may take several weeks of use.
Are Prebiotics Good for Dogs?
Yes, prebiotics have several health benefits for dogs. In addition to feeding the healthy gut bacteria and supporting the digestion tract, prebiotics can help boost the dog’s immune system, manage blood sugar levels, and enhance bone strength.
Is Pumpkin a Prebiotic?
Yes, pumpkin is a good prebiotic source for dogs. Rich in fiber, pumpkin support gut health, improves the stool quality, and keeps dogs satiated for longer. From a nutritional standpoint, butternut squash has a similar profile as the pumpkin.
What Prebiotics should I Give my Dog?
When giving your dog prebiotics, make sure the food or supplement contains one or more of the following probiotic types – fructooligosaccharides (FOS), mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS), inulin, and galactooligosaccharides (GOS).
How can I add prebiotics to my dog’s diet?
You can rely on the prebiotics blended in your dog’s commercial pet food. Alternatively, you can use dog-friendly human foods rich in prebiotics (mushrooms, pumpkin, chicory root, burdock root) or supplement your pup with prebiotics products formulated specifically for dogs (Honest Paws Wellness Pre+Probiotics).
Effects of Supplemental Fructooligosaccharides and Mannanoligosaccharides on Colonic Microbial Populations, Immune Function and Fecal Odor Components in the Canine | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic (oup.com)