belly balancing act

Did you know that 70% of the body’s immune system — your pet’s and your own — is located in the gastrointestinal system? That means the health of the gut directly impacts whole-body health. Humans have long relied on probiotics to keep the GI system running smoothly — but they’re not just for two-leggers!

Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria, providing positive health benefits if ingested in sufficient amounts. Veterinarians have been advocating their use to help treat diarrhea in furry friends for years, understanding that the beneficial bacteria balances out detrimental bacteria in the stomach, helping restore natural balance.

But it turns out probiotics have much wider benefits to canine and feline friends than previously thought, benefiting pets with urinary tract infections, arthritis and chronic skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, all due to their ability to modulate immune responses and modify inflammation. Exactly how they do this is still being discovered, but along with balancing bacterial levels, it probably involves a combination of boosting the body’s immune system, changing the intestinal pH and reducing inflammation.

However, pet parents shouldn’t simply pop one of their own probiotic capsules into their pet’s dinner — it may not have the desired effect, because humans and pets have different bacterial populations in their intestinal tracts. Likewise, ignore the temptation to simply spoon out some probiotic yogurt, as the numbers of beneficial bacteria are too low to benefit your pet. If your four-legged family member is facing tummy troubles, ask your vet to recommend a probiotic — it could be the paw-fect ingredient for balancing out their belly!