Probiotics may help gut-brain axis to boost pet wellness

Scientists observed that probiotics seemed to have an anxiety-reducing influence on dogs.

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(Stephan Kapl, Fotolia)
(Stephan Kapl, Fotolia)

A growing body of research suggests that the health of an animal’s digestive system correlates to their psychological and physical well-being. During his presentation at Petfood Forum 2018, Bart Dunsford, PhD, business development manager with Lallemand Animal Nutrition, discussed the gut-brain axis. He also examined how probiotics, such as those supplied by his employer, can facilitate pet wellness.

While most research focus on the effects of probiotics on human’s gut-brain axis, there have been 49 studies on that relationship in pets, he said. Of these, 34 were conducted with living animals, although most of these were rodents. However, some scientists have studied probiotics in dogs and cats.

For example, researchers studied the effects on dogs of diet supplementation with probiotic bacteria, Bifidobacterium longum. The scientists observed that the probiotic seemed to have an anxiolytic, or anxiety reducing, influence on the dogs. Following probiotic supplementation, 90 percent of dogs improved their day-to-day anxious behavior, including a reduction in barking, jumping, spinning and pacing when compared a placebo supplement.

Probiotic microorganisms in the pet food industry

Probiotics used in the pet food industry primarily are either bacteria from the Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium species or yeast, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii. These same species appear in human probiotic supplements, which have grown in popularity over the past few decades.

“I think it’s obviously a very strong trend and we understand the value that it brings,” Dunsford told Petfood Industry. “Consumers are doing it for themselves and are realizing it’s okay. So, they need them for their pets as well. It’s a bridge between themselves, what they eat and helping the overall wellbeing of their animal.”

Lallemand’s sales people have seen growing interest in some of the company’s specialty strains of probiotics, beyond conventional varieties.

“They have very good functions above and beyond some of the traditional strains, and when put together, it actually gives some really nice synergy with the bacterial and the yeast probiotics,” he said.

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