Acidophilus, also known as lactobacillus acidophilus, is a probiotic. Probiotics are helpful in maintaining optimal intestinal health; they're common human supplements. Your dog can benefit from them, too: His intestinal tract is a haven of bacteria, and acidophilus provides good bacteria to counteract the bad. You'll want your veterinarian's approval before giving acidophilus or any other supplement to your pet. A vet might recommend acidophilus if your dog is suffering from a gastrointestinal condition or to prevent infections caused by yeast.
Two Sides in the Bacteria War
Your dog’s intestinal tract is a battlefield for two opposing microorganisms. Good bacteria aid in your dog’s digestion, and bad bacteria that can pose health problems, particularly gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea. An optimal balance of these bacteria dwells in your healthy dog's gut. If this bacterial balance is disrupted, such as through stress, illness or medications, the good bacteria begin to decrease and the bad bacteria thrive and take over, increasing vulnerability to illness. When this happens, supplementing your dog's diet with acidophilus helps to restore a balance of the two.
Acidophilus to the Rescue
Acidophilus is good bacteria, so you are basically sending in new troops to combat the bad bacteria. Acidophilus also plays a role in the production of lactic acid, which renders the intestine acidic and inhospitable to the bad bacteria, thus inhibiting their growth and colonization. This provides the window of opportunity for the good bacteria to get the upper hand, replenish and restore proper balance in your your dog's gut. Once this occurs, your dog's digestion and immune function will improve, fostering balance.
Causes of Imbalance
The balance of your dog’s intestinal bacteria can be disrupted by medical conditions including inflammatory bowel disease or food allergies. Stressful situations such as travel, weaning, a boarding or hospitalization event, and dramatic changes to his routine can also result in imbalance. Antibiotic drugs, which target all bacteria in your dog’s system, also cause imbalance. Other medications, including some corticosteroids, can also disturb the balance. Sudden changes in diet, ingestion of toxic substances and coprophagia can lead to a decrease of good bacteria.
Puppies are more prone to yeast infections, as their developing intestinal tracts are establishing their communities of healthy bacteria. Supplementing their diets with acidophilus can be helpful in maintaining balance during this time. Healthy adults with an established balance of the intestinal microflora will reap fewer benefits from regular acidophilus supplementation. If your dog is placed on antibiotic therapy for any infection, has been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease or is exhibiting diarrhea in response to a stressful situation, you veterinarian may recommend acidophilus supplementation.
Acidophilus Supplementation Products
Your veterinarian may recommend an acidophilus supplement from his own clinic's pharmacy, such as capsules or a loose powdered form packaged in individual packets ready to sprinkle on or mix into your dog’s food. Alternately, human drug stores and vitamin shops stock acidophilus supplements. Have a conversation with your veterinarian before initiating any supplementation so he can recommend the safest and most effective dose of the specific product. If you happen to have an acidophilus supplement on hand already, bring the package and accompanying label for your veterinarian to inspect. He will want to determine the concentration of acidophilus in the product to calculate the right therapeutic dose for your dog, to determine whether the strain of microorganisms can survive the voyage through your dog’s acidic gastrointestinal tract and to determine whether additional ingredients will counteract any other medications he may prescribe to treat your dog.
Consider Yogurt With Caution
Lactobacillus acidophilus is found as an active, or live, culture in yogurt. While some dogs can enjoy a spoonful of yogurt as a treat without issue, others are lactose intolerant and will suffer symptoms of abdominal discomfort and diarrhea if they consume yogurt, milk, cheese and other dairy products. If your dog does not exhibit any symptoms of lactose intolerance, then there is no harm in offering him plain, unsweetened, nonfat yogurt on occasion, but the treat will not contain the therapeutic level of acidophilus that his system requires. Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog's diet.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images