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Do your pets need probiotics?

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At Mary Piro's house, probiotics are a staple in the diet's of her dogs and horses with finicky stomachs.    

"Feeding probiotics has helped in a lot of different ways," she said.

Piro just puts these probiotic tablets or powder in their food. She says they help gastrointestinal ailments in her animals and also relieve stress related stomach problems in the dogs she fosters for rescue groups.    

"They've been in shelters, their food has been changed several times, transporting them too stresses them, these are all different aspects that are gonna wreak havoc on their digestive system," Piro explained.

From helping with digestive problems, to assisting with bad breath and allergies, hundreds of pet probiotic products are for sale offering to help your pet's problems.                   

"I strongly believe its the next big thing," Piro added.

But can feeding a live bacterial probiotic supplement to your pet really help? So far, the research is promising.   

 "We are starting to understand how probiotics actually work, so we are discovering now a days that certain types of probiotics can be useful for certain conditions," said veterinarian Dr. Jan Suchodolski.

Experts tell us so far studies have shown probiotics seem to help pets who have stressed out stomach problems. Dr. Korinn Saker, a clinical veterinary nutritionist, ran studies on dogs in animal shelters who had GI upset.   

"We found was that the animals, the dogs that were put on the probiotic, actually resolved faster and improved to a more significant and greater degree than those animals that were put on a traditional antibiotic," Saker explained.

Studies to uncover what other animal ailments probiotics may help are ongoing.  But researchers have learned that not all pet probiotic products measure up to their ingredient claims. One study tested 15 probiotic supplements, and only four met or exceeded the product's label claim for the amount of "viable organisms" or good bacteria.    

"In order to have probiotic effect we need to have a product that contains live microorganisms and also should probably have in a very high amount of bacteria industrially its very challenging to manufacturer it," said Suchodolski.

Experts say you if you're considering using probiotics for your pet, talk to your vet about which brands and kinds may be beneficial.  But, do your otherwise happy and healthy pets really need them?

"I think running to the store and purchasing probiotics is probably not the best use of your dollar," said Saker.

Piro however says the money she's spent has been worth every dollar.

"I think now we're giving pets the same advantage that we've used in humans for years," she added.

Experts say side effects from pets taking probiotics are very rare, but as always, ask your veterinarian if they may be helpful.

Helpful Links

Examples of paste, powder & pill probiotics for pets: