Gut Health: Probiotics (Part 3)

by Sarah Griffiths, DCH in Raw Basics, Dogs, Cats
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Written by Sarah Griffiths, DCH and Inna Shekhtman

March 8, 2018

We believe that probiotics play an incredibly important in our pets health and wellness! Last two posts we discussed the Role of Microbes in the environment and body and their Role in Food SafetyWe believe that understanding and supporting the probiotic balance for your pet is the most impactful thing you can do for your pet’s health. So this week we are going talk about what foods and supplements you can use to support your pets' microflora!!!

There are thousands of different strains of immune-building bacteria living in your pets’ gut and we are just starting to understand the basics of this important system. Each one is unique in its role inside the body so the best approach to supporting your pets gut health is to provide him with a variety of probiotic sources to ensure a balance and diversity of the microbiome.  The well-studied ones include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria and even some strains of E. coli! There are also many sources that are of probiotics that that you can give your pet and we suggest you take advantage of as many as you can – you can do this by rotating different supplements and foods on different weeks to ensure you are providing a diverse range of microbes to your pet.

Probiotic Sources for Pets:

1. Plain Cow and Goat Kefir

Kefir contains dozens of lactobacilli strains (19) (20) (21) and more beneficial microbiota too including: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens, Lactococcus lactis, and Leuconostoc species.

2. Coconut Kefir

For those pets with intolerance to lactose, coconut kefir is a suitable alternative. It uses the same cultures but in a coconut milk or water base instead of dairy.

3. Probiotic Supplements

There are thousands of supplements to choose from. So how do know which ones contain the most viable microorganisms? Some key things to look for when choosing  probiotics supplements for your pet:

  • Ensure that they include a variety of strains and list them on the ingredient panel.
  • Ensure that they include a nutrient source for the good bacteria to eat. This can be achieved in a powdered or liquid format.
  • Ensure that the delivery system of the product is effective. Remember that we are dealing with living things here so ensuring that they get to their destination (the gut) alive is critical! It doesn’t matter what count and which strains a supplement contains – if it doesn’t enable the bacteria to remain alive and healthy until it gets to your gut, it's a waste of money! Probiotics that are living are most effective, but some freeze-dried strains that are equipped to survive in acid can also be effective. Look for information on the packaging to verify this or ask the manufacturer directly about how their delivery system works. Some manufacturers deal with this by including really high counts of bacteria in their product – while this is a good start, if none of those probiotics survive the gut, you are just getting more dead bacteria!

Our top 3 favorites:

Olie Naturals New Beginnings. This probiotic is very special because it produced in a fermented liquid format which promotes healthy and viable microbiota and ensures that the culture remains viable and functional as it travels through the gastrointestinal tract. It contains a blend of active bacterial cultures, organic sugar cane molasses and herbs to support the culture. Contains: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium animalis, and Lactobacillus paracasei.

Adored Beast Love Bugs. A 14-strain probiotic that offers a wide range of beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic source. Contains:  Lactobacillus Casei, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Salivarius, Lactobacillus Helveticus, Lactobacillus Paracasei, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Lactobacillus Lactis, Bifidobacterium Breve, Bifidobacterium Bifidum, Bifidobacterium Longum, Bifidobacterium Infantis, Streptococcus thermophiles

Dr. Mercola Complete Probiotics for Dogs and Cats. A high quality 14-strain probiotic. Contains: Bifidobacterium lactis, Sacchromyces boulardii, Bifidobacterium animalis, Enterococcus faeceum, Lactobacillus sporogenes, Lactobacillus Casei, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium Breve, Bifidobacterium Bifidum, Bifidobacterium Longum, Streptococcus thermophiles

4. Raw Green Tripe

In nature, canines will eat the stomach contents before consuming any other part of their prey which indicates that the stomach is a highly valuable food resource in their eyes. (22) Tripe is cow, buffalo or other ruminant stomach. “Green” tripe is raw, unbleached and still contains the ingested food content. That’s where the good stuff is! Sounds gross but dogs love it and some cats do too. Though there are no scientific studies that show the presence of beneficial bacteria in raw green tripe (as sold for pets), there are hundreds of studied bacterial strains existing in the rumen of cattle including many lactobacillus strains (23) (24).  By adding this food to your dogs’ diet, you are likely aiding in the diversification of the gut microbiome.

5. Vegetables!

Did you know that they were a source of probiotics? Because they live near or inside the ground, they harbour their own special group of microbes that are a completely natural and ancient way of taking in healthy bacteria. The more variety in your vegetable choices, the more variation there will be in the microbes that inhabit them. Vegetables also double-up as a great prebiotic source (our topic for next week) and as they are broken down in the fermentation process, they actually provide food for the microbes to thrive on. Nature at it's finest! Check out our Vegetable Blog for information on how to choose your veggies.

6. Plain Cow or Goat Yogurt

It’s important to note that yogurt is a source of probiotics but that it shouldn’t be the only source in the diet. In order to provide enough diversity and bacterial counts high enough to be considered beneficial, other probiotic sources should be given too. That being said, yogurt contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium which are highly beneficial for gut health. Dogs and cats LOVE yogurt but due to the fact that dairy can be hard for animals to digest, it’s best given in small quantities. Stick to plain yogurts with no sugar added.

If you really want to geek out, here is some of the best-known probiotic species in more detail:

Lactobacillus acidophilus

Known Functions:

-keeping a healthy equilibrium of “good” and “bad” bacteria (1) (2) (3)

-increasing immune function (4) (5)

-maintaining normal cholesterol levels (6) (7)

-producing folic acid (8)

-producing the enzyme lactase which aids in the digestion of dairy products


Raw green tripe, yogurts, kefir, raw vinegars (eg. Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar) and probiotic supplements


Lactobacillus paracasei

Known Functions:

-keeping a healthy equilibrium of “good” and “bad” bacteria (1) (2) (3)

-increasing immune function (4) (5)

-maintaining normal cholesterol levels (6) (7)

-producing folic acid (8)

-producing the enzyme lactase which aids in the digestion of dairy products


Raw green tripe, yogurts, kefir, raw vinegars (eg. Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar) and probiotic supplements


Bifidobacterium animalis

Known Functions:

-mucosal membrane health and function (12)

-pathogen inhibition (12)

-bowel health (12)

-periodontal health (13)



Fermented vegetables, raw green tripe, kefir, fermented probiotic supplements.

Enterococcus faecium

Known Functions:

- increased growth performance in young animals (14)

-increased immunity against viruses and reduced viral shedding (15)


Raw fermented cheese, kefir, kombucha, probiotic supplements.

Lactobacillus Plantarum

Known Functions:

-antimicrobial and antifungal properties (16) (17)

-anxiety reduction (18)



Kefir, fermented vegetables (particularly fermented cucumber), probiotic supplements.


We could go on but there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of studied strains! Each has its own unique benefits. And we only know SOME of the studied benefits. That’s why we recommend rotating your probiotics and offering as many probiotic-rich foods as possible.

Next week, we’re delving into the world of PRE-biotics: foods that enhance the health and wellness of your pet’s microbiome. Stay tuned!