December 19, 2016
Humans undergoing stress can experience gastrointestinal disturbances, such as upset stomach and loose stool. Many people now find relief from stress-related digestive problems by taking probiotics. Anxiety can also cause the same types of digestive upsets in dogs as it does in humans. Now scientists are looking into whether probiotics can help anxious dogs in the same way it helps anxious people.
Stress and anxiety can cause a variety of health and behavioral problems that can significantly affect the well-being of your pet. Stress can cause diarrhea, for example, and anxiety can cause your furry friend to exhibit undesirable behavior changes.
Now scientists think that supplementing a dog’s diet with probiotics can relieve gastric upset and digestive problems resulting from stress. Probiotic supplementation may even help your pet feel less anxious.
Probiotics are live bacteria that provide beneficial effects to their host. The probiotics living in the digestive tract keep harmful bacteria in check, aid digestion, improve absorption of nutrients, and contribute to immune function.
Modern life can be very stressful for dogs, especially those belonging to humans with families that are especially large, busy, loud, own multiple pets, or that move frequently. Perhaps the most stressful experience for dogs is leaving home to enter a kennel. Signs of canine stress include barking, trembling, panting, hiding, and aggressive behavior. Gastrointestinal problems, including loose stools and diarrhea, can also occur in stressed-out pets.
Stress affects the digestive tract because of the gut-brain axis, which is a two-way line of communication between the brain and the gastrointestinal system, which exists in both humans and other animals. Research confirms the existence of the gut-brain axis, showing that the flora present in the digestive tract can affect moods and vice versa. Studies also show that probiotic supplementation can alter bacteria in the gut to relieve gastrointestinal problems and improve mood.
In one study, scientists wanted to assess the benefits of probiotic supplements for reducing stress-related gastrointestinal problems in dogs that had moved from a home environment to a kennel. The researchers assigned 134 healthy, recently relocated dogs into one of four groups. Dogs in three tests groups received different therapeutic doses of probiotic bacteria, while the dogs in the control group received no probiotic bacteria. All 3 test group dogs received a probiotic supplement once a day for five weeks before relocation, and for 20 days after the move to a kennel. Prior to the study, all dogs were gradually changed over to the same study diet so that the diet was the same for all of the dogs participating in the study.
The researchers kept track of fecal scores assessing the appearance of the feces, the number of defecations per day, the bacterial population in the stool, and serum cortisol levels to determine stress levels. The scientists found higher probiotic bacteria populations in the three test groups than in the control group. The concentration of the bacteria suggested a dose-response effect, with the dogs receiving the strongest doses having greater populations of beneficial bacteria in their stool as compared to those receiving weak doses.
Furthermore, fewer dogs receiving probiotic supplementation passed unacceptable stools, which were too runny or too dry, during the first week of relocation.
Vancouver Sun reports on another study that was presented at a recent veterinary nutrition conference regarding the emotional and behavioral changes dogs undergo after receiving certain probiotics. In that study, researchers fed 24 anxious Labradors the same balanced diet for 15 weeks. For the first six weeks, half of the dogs received probiotic supplements. During weeks 7 through 9, all dogs went through a washout period where they received no probiotic supplementation. The dogs receiving probiotics for the first six weeks received the same supplements for the final six weeks of the trial.
The researchers assessed various behaviors associated with anxiety, such as barking, spinning, and pacing. The scientists also monitored the dogs’ cortisol levels and heart rate to determine stress. They found that the dogs receiving probiotics showed a reduction in their anxious behaviors and signs of stress improved; heart rate and cortisol levels also improved. Specifically, 90 percent of treated dogs appeared to be less anxious overall and 83 percent had lower salivary measures of the stress hormone cortisol, 83 percent also had improved heart rate variability and the average heart rates were also lower in 75 percent of the test dogs.
These promising canine studies suggest that probiotic supplementation can improve the health and well-being of dogs as it does in humans. Scientists will continue to investigate the benefits of probiotics in humans and in their animal companions and we look forward to learning more about how probiotics can help our furry friends. To learn more about probiotics for your pets visit the Petbiotic section of Natren’s website here:
https://www.natren.com/probiotics-pets.html where you can find multiple easy-to-give formats designed specifically for cats, dogs, horses and more!
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