Digestive supplements for our canine companions

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Most of a dog's immune system is in the stomach and intestines. Whether we're talking about food and environmental allergies, general health or specific conditions, it is about the food your dog eats.

Eating a high quality food containing ingredients that are natural to canines builds a stronger immune system for a healthier dog.

Foods that have high quality proteins, fruits, vegetables, fiber and limited grains often are best.

Prebiotics: They are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of one of a limited number of beneficial bacteria in the colon.

These bacteria include Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, which have the potential to improve health and inhibit the growth of disease-producing microorganisms. It is not broken down by the stomach or absorbed into the intestines.

Instead, prebiotics are fermented by the flora in the stomach and intestines. Prebiotics primarily come in the form of sugars (fructo-oligosaccharides or FOS) that are resistant to being digested in the upper digestive tract and stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine.

Prebiotics might have other benefits, including: anti-carcinogenic, antibiotic, decreasing fats in the bloodstream, helping maintain normal blood glucose levels, controlling inflammatory bowel disease and allergic dermatitis among other things.

Probiotics: Dogs need probiotics to make sure the intestines function properly. The most common occur naturally in the body, lactic acid bacteria (LAB). However, a balance of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are needed to keep the intestines healthy.

Probiotics are live and beneficial bacteria and are necessary to: reduce cholesterol levels, make B-vitamins, biotin and folic acid, produce natural antibiotics which help to fight Salmonella and E. Coli, improve anti-oxidant activity, inhibit yeast growth, detoxify the intestines from harmful chemicals and carcinogens, increase energy, improve lactose intolerance, regulate hormones, remove toxins ingested through foods and better absorb nutrients.

Good bacteria help counteract harmful bacteria and promote the production of natural antibodies, helping to protect against disease.

Intestinal balance can be upset by antibiotics, stress, poor diet, pollutants, environmental changes, fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals in water and prescription drugs. These can also place demands on the liver and kidneys.

Probiotics help food digestion and can prevent diarrhea, bloating, indigestion and gas.

Sometimes, these intestinal issues can also be the cause of other conditions such as, allergies, itchy skin and ear infections.

If your dog has been on lots of antibiotics, has digestive problems or other chronic health problems, try supplementing with a high quality probiotic.

Yogurt products and cheese are some foods that contain probiotics and can be mixed with dog food, but they generally don't have enough to fight off medical conditions.

Check your dog food bag to see if they are already included. If they are, it will also be in a very small quantity and probably ineffective for anything other than general maintenance.

If you need to fix an issue use a supplement.

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. ajbird@hargray.com

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