An increase in the awareness of preventative healthcare in the human sector the last few years, combined with a growing humanization of pets has increased the demand for premium pet care products. Pet owners are evolving into “pet parents”, thus focusing more on the nutritional requirements of their pets and providing high-quality healthy nutrition. Combined with the growing focus on preventative health care this creates a new market for Super Premium pet foods providing extra health benefits.
But how is it possible to provide your pet with everyday wellness through food? One way to do it is by providing probiotics on a daily basis. Probiotics have several proven health benefits, and is very helpful in providing both preventative and supporting care for both humans and pets.
Probiotics are live microorganisms already present in the intestinal system of all animals and humans. They are necessary for the digestion of nutrients and balance of the intestinal microflora. They exert their effect in several ways:
- Competition for nutrients: both probiotics and pathogens utilize the same nutrients, so the more beneficial bacteria present the less nutrients will be available for the pathogens.
- Competition for adhesion sites: many intestinal pathogens rely on adhesion to the gut wall to prevent them from removal by peristaltic movements along the intestinal tract. There are only a limited number of adhesion sites available, so an increased number of beneficial bacteria or probiotics will result in decreased adhesion of pathogenic bacteria.
- Stimulation of the immune system: 70 % of the immune response originates in the digestive tract, and probiotics stimulate the production of antibodies and several other components necessary for a normal and well-functioning immune system.
- Direct antimicrobial effect: production of lactic acid bacteria provides non-favorable conditions for the intestinal pathogens.
All of these mechanisms lead to the improvement of digestion and intestinal balance ultimately leading to everyday wellness.
Is it possible to use yoghurt?
Traditionally yoghurt has been used as probiotic supplements. However, the concentration of live microorganisms present in yoghurt is usually unknown and often correlates with the freshness of the product. In addition, the actual strains of microorganisms contained within yoghurt are often chosen for taste and textural properties rather than actual probiotic benefits.
When choosing a probiotic product for you or your pet, there are some things to keep in mind regarding the quality of the product. Of course, the probiotic strain should be non-toxic and non-pathogenic, but you should also chose a species-specific formulation, in order to ensure optimal effect. Another thing to keep in mind is that the probiotic strain in the product should remain viable throughout the whole period of storage and production. Therefore, the product must contain adequate amounts of probiotics, which can vary from species to species. When it comes to dogs there must be 1 x 109 CFU/kg of product whereas for cats the concentration should be 7 x 109 CFU/kg. If you want to ensure best possible effect, you should make sure the product you choose fulfill these basic demands, and not many yoghurt products do that.
After all this talk about probiotics, where does the prebiotics come in? Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates, which acts as a selective nutritional source for the probiotics, thus promoting the growth and activity of the good bacteria. These complex carbohydrates are able to resist the stomach acid and therefore reach the intestines intact, where probiotic bacteria ferment them. Prebiotics also reduce pH in the large intestine because of production of SCFA, again promoting the growth of probiotics, as they prefer a more acidic environment. So actually, the prebiotics are needed in a probiotic product, to ensure the viability of the probiotics during storage.
Pet food containing pre- and probiotics
As mentioned earlier probiotics have several beneficial effects. They help to maintain a normal and healthy function of the intestinal system, ensures a balanced microflora and prevents colonization of pathogens in the GI-tract. Other than these benefits related to the intestinal system probiotics can also reduce symptoms of stress, support a healthy and shiny coat and stimulate the immune response thereby improving resistance towards diseases. There are several good reasons as to why you should give your best friend probiotics on a daily basis, and as oppose to antibiotics, animals cannot develop resistance towards probiotics.
Because of the awareness of probiotics and their health benefits, a new group of pet foods has emerged – so-called functional pet foods. These are feeds enriched with beneficial substances often referring to health-promoting aspects. In this case, that substance would be probiotics. If you want to give your pet probiotics on a daily basis, it is often easier to choose a pet food containing it. That way you do not have to remember to sprinkle a powder over the kibble, give a capsule or a tablet. Your best friend will get all the benefits of probiotic supplements just by eating its dinner.
The focus on preventative healthcare and probiotics in general will continue to grow, which means more and more products will emerge. However, as mentioned above it is important to be aware of the quality of the product. Adding probiotics to a low-quality pet food does not transform it a Premium functional food. In order to make the best choice for your pet be critical about quality. This is the best way to ensure a happy and healthy life for your furry family member.