We’ve always used probiotics in our formulations until recent research has started to show how much more effective prebiotics for dogs, such as Fructo-Oligosaccharides (FOS), can be.
The difference between prebiotics and probiotics
Probiotics are live bacteria, the kind that you find in yoghurt, etc.
Prebiotics are sort of like food for the bacteria. But not for just any bacteria, they only benefit the good bacteria.
This is probably a good time to tell you about the secret life of your pet’s digestive system. The entire gut is colonised by a mixture of ‘good’ bacteria (probiotics) and ‘bad’ disease-causing bacteria (pathobiotics). In a healthy pet, the good guys should outnumber the bad guys. We can help to influence this by supplementing with good bacteria (probiotics) or prebiotics.
Supplementing with probitics
The problem with supplementing with probiotics is twofold:
- Firstly, probiotics are very fragile things. They die easily and often, by the time you buy the product, most of the bacteria will be dead and completely useless.
- Secondly, every pet’s digestive tract is a delicate and finely balanced environment. It is also completely unique to each pet and we can’t be 100% sure about which probiotic to supplement in order to get a good effect (there are hundreds of different species in the gut).
How Fructo-Oligosaccharides can help
The way that Fructo-Oligosaccharides (the prebiotic we use) work is that your pet’s body can’t digest them. So they travel down the digestive system undigested until they are fermented in the large intestine. The molecules that are produced by this fermentation create an environment that is very healthy for most good bacteria and not so healthy for most bad ones. So in other words, they act to selectively increase the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria.
I should just mention that Fructo-Oligosaccharides are completely natural and found in a large variety of plants. Dogs and cats fed mostly meat or kibble based diets might have difficulty getting enough of these molecules in their diet however.
Fructo-Oligosaccharides, besides helping to optimise the gut flora also:
- increase the digestibility of various foods, including essential minerals
- help to support the immune system
- even help to improve the smelliness of faeces
- help to decrease inflammation in the digestive tract
- decreases insulin resistance in obese dogs
I also found a couple of claims for anti-cancer activity using prebiotics for dogs, but couldn’t find a published paper verifying this. It might be someone extrapolating the anti-inflammatory effect a bit extravagantly, I think.
So, I think you can see why we decided to put FOS into Everypet Formula. This isn’t the only addition to the product – there are quite a few other things we have added. I will explain our reasoning on each one separately in later articles.
- Flickinger, Elizabeth A., et al. “Glucose-based oligosaccharides exhibit different in vitro fermentation patterns and affect in vivo apparent nutrient digestibility and microbial populations in dogs.” The Journal of nutrition 130.5 (2000): 1267-1273.
- Swanson, Kelly S., et al. “Fructooligosaccharides and Lactobacillus acidophilus modify gut microbial populations, total tract nutrient digestibilities and fecal protein catabolite concentrations in healthy adult dogs.” The Journal of nutrition 132.12 (2002): 3721-3731.
- Swanson, Kelly S., et al. “Supplemental fructooligosaccharides and mannanoligosaccharides influence immune function, ileal and total tract nutrient digestibilities, microbial populations and concentrations of protein catabolites in the large bowel of dogs.” The Journal of nutrition 132.5 (2002): 980-989.
- Swanson, Kelly S., et al. “Effects of supplemental fructooligosaccharides and mannanoligosaccharides on colonic microbial populations, immune function and fecal odor components in the canine.” The Journal of nutrition 132.6 (2002): 1717S-1719S.
- German, A. J., et al. “Improvement in insulin resistance and reduction in plasma inflammatory adipokines after weight loss in obese dogs.” Domestic animal endocrinology 37.4 (2009): 214-226.