By Donat Koller and Jasmine Sieber
First I will compare the human and the dog’s digestive system. The greatest similarity is that we are both omnivores, and can eat pretty much anything.
But there are some significant differences when we start looking at the details:
1. Our jaw moves up and down, as well as sideways, which allows us to thoroughly chew, or pre-digest our food. The jaws of dogs can only go up and down, the jaw is meant to crush bones, and does not need to mush up the food.
2. Both, ours and the dogs saliva are meant to lubricate the food, but the dogs also has the ability to kill off harmful bacteria, which explains why they can eat things off the floor and not get sick.
3. Our food moves through our stomach in about an hour, which explains why we get hungry repeatedly during the day. The dog’s food stays in the stomach much longer. The stomach is also much more acidic than ours, and is designed to break down large pieces of food. That explains why dogs can do well with only one feeding per day.
4. Our intestines are much longer than that of a dog, and allow a lot of time to absorb nutrients. The dog’s intestines are shorter, and that is why they don’t do so well on high fiber foods, like plants or grains.
The word has a Greek origin, and means “live promoting “. Probiotics were discovered by a Scientist, who noticed that people who use sour milk as their main diet can get very old, despite their poverty. In the following years a lot of research has been done and there is a lot of literature available on the benefit, illness prevention, and overall wellbeing that probiotics can provide. We all heard of the saying “we are what we eat”, and introducing healthy microorganisms into our diet can be very beneficial to our health.
Probiotics for dogs
Due to the differences mentioned above, probiotics don’t act the same in humans as they do in dogs. The challenge in the dog’s digestive system is to keep the probiotics alive until they reach the intestines, since that is where their elixir properties come in to play. First they need to survive the aggressive saliva, then the low and long acting acidity in the stomach, before they can move on to the intestines. It is advised to do a bit of research before starting to feed your pet probiotics. In general we can say, that products pre-mixed into the feed are not suggested, because often these bacteria have a very short life span. It is also not suggested to use products that use 6 or more types of bacteria, because they will be in competition with each other for survival. Best is to use a probiotic product as a supplement to your regular dog food.
I have to mention at this point that dogs are not susceptible to the placebo effect. So, if you want to feed probiotics to get your dog to have better bowel movements, or have better breath, get rid of gas or a yeast infection, nice coat or good energy level, you should notice a difference. Long term benefits are of course hard to recognize, but the main reason here is to prevent diseases through the feeding of probiotics, and the more it is important that you choose a product that does the job. It is also highly recommended to feed probiotics when a dog (or human) is on an antibiotic treatment.
It is evident that there are two types of products which seem to work. First are refrigerated dried, powdered probiotic supplements. They get activated once they reach the stomach, and seem to survive the saliva quite well. But again there are low cost products on the market, and it is hard to tell if the bacteria you feed to your dog are still alive. It is definitely best to buy a product that needs to be refrigerated and make sure to watch the best before date. Shelve stable dried products are unlikely to have much live bacteria left. There is an interesting study from the University of Toronto, which questions the efficiency of many probiotics.
The other option is to feed a food that naturally contains probiotics, like yogurt, kefir, bananas or tripe and there are many more that are not necessarily good for dogs, like onion, garlic or honey.
Fermented dairy products can be very good for dogs, as long as they are used as a supplement only, (too much can cause diarrhea or can cause a dog to gain unwanted weight). Fermented dairy contains protein which is easy for the dog to digest, and due to the fermentation they don’t contain any lactose at all. The amount of live bacteria listed on the label is the guaranteed amount at the end of the shelve life so you know these micro organisms are active. Yogurt and kefir are naturally acidic, so the bacteria in it will have no problem accepting the low acidity of the stomach. Most dogs love dairy, and the products will pass quickly thru the mouth, and due to the high moisture level will not activate extra saliva production. And it is cost effective, because all you need is 1 to 3 tbsp per feeding depending on the size of the dog, and if the product gets close to shelve life, we can always eat is our selves, and it doesn’t need to go to waste. Fermented dairy products are also minimally processed, and often of a local source.
Goat Dairy Products
Goat Milk Products have gained huge on popularity in North America during the past 10 years. There are numerous reasons for that. It still is a small industry with no industrial production. In Canada, Family farms and local processors dominate the market.
The Pharmaceutical industry has no interest in smaller operations, and products like growth hormones are not even available for goats, as mentioned earlier.
Further, it needs to be mentioned that goat milk is very easy to digest. Both fat and protein are different than in cow milk, and cause less allergic reactions than regular dairy. Goat milk has high levels of Caprylic Acid which naturally fights yeast.
The literature often mentions that goat milk can relieve arthritis or arthritis like symptoms, which makes it a great additive for older dogs.
The Journal of American Medicine repeatedly quoted that goat milk is “The most complete food known”.
By combining goat milk with probiotic bacteria, we create a genuine super food, for both dogs and humans. The two most popular products are goat milk yogurt, and goat milk kefir.