Understanding Probiotics For Pets

Did you know that more than 70% of an animal’s immune defense mechanisms are in their digestive system?

“The gut is the largest immune organ in the body,” says Susan G. Wynn, DVM, a veterinary nutritionist in Atlanta, Georgia. The healthy bacteria in your pet’s gut keeps them healthy and strong—but sometimes they can get weakened or out of whack, which is why probiotics are so important.

What Are Probiotics?

The word probiotic comes from two Greek phrases: pro, meaning “promoting,” and biotic, which translated to “life.” In other words: probiotics are the healthy bacteria our bodies need to function optimally.

While healthy bacteria have existed for billions of years, their benefits have only recently begun to be studied. In the early twentieth century, scientist Elie Metchnikoff observed that rural Bulgarian families were living to exceptionally old ages in very good health, despite harsh climates, dietary limitations, and extreme poverty. After studying these Bulgarian elders, he theorized that their traditional home-fermented sour milk contained host-friendly bacteria that was actually delaying senility and enhancing health.

Since then, research has continued to support his findings, proving these and many other benefits of ingesting probiotics. Now, according to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), the official definition of a probiotic is a “live microorganism that, when administered in adequate amounts, confers a health benefit to the host.”

Why Your Pet Needs Them

Probiotics for pets are live enzymes, yeasts, and microorganisms, including the healthy bacteria Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. These healthy bacteria are found in all kinds of things: yogurt, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, kombucha, sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar, etc. But while most humans are getting healthy doses of good bacteria in our daily meals, pups aren’t eating Yoplait for their midmorning snack—or eating a diet that’s as varied as their wild wolf ancestors.


Vets encourage probiotics for most pets, particularly those whose normal digestion might be upset by food change, travel, stress, separation anxiety, or aging. In low doses, they’re great for puppies, too, whose digestive systems are still forming. Owners often report noticing firming stools, brighter eyes, more settled tummies, and less gas. New studies also suggest that probiotics for may reduce the need for antibiotics, treat kidney stones, prevent cavities and gum disease, battle cancer, and help animals lose weight.

Instant Goat’s Milk

The Honest Kitchen’s Instant Goat’s Milk is an all-natural goat’s milk probiotic formula that’s great for both dogs and cats. With a whopping 5 billion active probiotics and digestive enzymes, it can be mixed with The Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated food or served alone as a nutritious liquid snack. With no pesticides, chemicals, or growth hormones, it’s the perfect bedtime beverage.

Meet the Author: Charlotte Austin

Charlotte Austin is a Seattle-based writer and mountain guide. She has climbed, explored, and led expeditions in North and South America, Nepal, Europe, Alaska, and Patagonia. Her writing has been featured in Women's Adventure, Alpinist, Stay Wild, and other national and international publications. When she's not guiding in the Himalayas, she's exploring her hometown (Seattle, Washington), trying new recipes, and hanging out with Huckleberry, her giant black Great Dane-Lab mix. Read more about their adventures at www.charlotteaustin.com.

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