Why And How Probiotics Matter (Part 4)Larry Kay
This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small affiliate commission from sales made through this link, but there is no additional cost to you if you make a purchase through the link. That being said, we love using probiotics for our dogs and cats and our editor, Robbi Hess, has a poodle who has greatly benefited from her use of Probonix during the time she’s been on antibiotics.
Scroll to the bottom of the post to: Enter the GIVEAWAY and to find links to the other posts in the series.
Oscar & Felixx Give You the Straight Poop on Probiotics
Felixx: “What are you wearing?!”
Oscar: “This is my scientist outfit. I’m wearing it so we can talk about the science behind making probiotics.”
Felixx: “Probiotics aren’t made, they’re grown.”
Oscar: “Well, that’s just how they start out. There’s more to it than that, smarty-pants. And it’s pretty important when you’re choosing which probiotic to use.”
Felixx <rolling his eyes>: “Oh, I’m so sorry! Lead on, Oscar-wan Kenobi.”
Oscar: “Ooooo. Star Wars, right? That was pretty good.”
Felixx <yawning>: “I know.”
In our last post, we talked a little about what to look for when choosing a probiotic for your pet’s needs. In this post, we’ll talk about why it’s important to learn a little about how your probiotics are made so you know you’re getting the best product for your needs.
What’s in a Probiotic Supplement?
Probiotics vary widely – and wildly – from company to company. Each probiotic combination differs, as do the formulas, or “delivery methods” (meaning in what form it gets into your body). Some probiotics are in pill or capsule form, some are powdered, and still others are liquid. What this generally means is that you’re buying a mix of active and inactive ingredients that changes depending on how the probiotics are formulated and what it takes to keep them alive so they can do the good they were meant to do.
And, speaking of formulations…probiotics are grown from raw ingredients that come from a variety of sources. I found out the hard way that you need to be aware of where and how those ingredients are sourced, especially if your dog has food sensitivities (poor Oscar does). For example, some probiotic formulations include ingredients containing dairy, gluten, or sugar, as well as soy or nut products. Some are flavored with fish, some with pork, some with poultry. Some are organic; some aren’t. Some are derived from non-GMO (genetically-modified organism) sources, and some aren’t.
Reading the label might not be enough. If you can find more information, like a website or a customer service line, try to dig a little deeper and get your questions answered.
What to look for:
- Does the probiotic have the specific strains your pet needs?
- Are all the ingredients – including the inactive ingredients – organic, non-GMO, responsibly sourced?
- Is the probiotic flavored or sweetened with anything? (Some sweeteners, like xylitol, are safe for humans but poisonous to pets.)
- Is your dog sensitive or allergic to any of the inactive ingredients used?
- Can the company selling them tell you anything about how the raw ingredients are sourced?
Probiotic Production Processes
The bottom line here is GMP (or cGMP) processes. The acronym “GMP” stands for Good Manufacturing Practices. (If it has a “c” at the beginning, it stands for current Good Manufacturing Practices.) You’re probably wondering, “Aren’t they all good manufacturing practices?” Maybe, but GMP is a certification that ensures a company’s manufacturing processes are consistent, controlled, and held up to certain quality standards. That means the probiotic you give your pet has passed numerous check-points, and a lot of care has gone into its production. (Here’s a nice animation explaining how GMP guides how Probonix pet probiotics are manufactured.)
So, unless the manufacturer can show you certification, they aren’t GMP.
What to look for:
- Does the probiotic manufacturing company have GMP or cGMP certification?
- Can the company selling the product show you the manufacturer’s GMP certification if they’re a reseller?
Probiotics and Scientific Testing
Some companies manufacture their own probiotic products, while others resell products manufactured elsewhere. Sad to say, many companies – whether they’re the originator or a reseller – know very little about their products.
For instance, they can’t tell you much about how many CFUs (colony-forming units) are alive and well when you buy their probiotic or how long those CFUs are still effective (shelf life). They might be able to provide you with that information, but they don’t know how many of those little guys are likely to survive the acid in your pet’s stomach and sneak past the gall bladder and into his or her intestines, where they do all those immune-boosting, bad-bacteria-busting things they were cultivated, formulated, packaged, and marketed to do.
The reason they don’t know? Their products haven’t been tested by an independent, third-party company. Yeah, they sometimes do internal testing, but internal tests often validate what they expected to find. Independent testing is tougher – and sometimes products fail and need to go back for tweaking (or even a total redesign). Think of it this way: Would you believe a big company concerned about their own profitability saying, “Oh, yeah, we tested that and it’s GREAT!” Or would you find that message easier to trust if you heard it from a testing facility that had nothing to gain or lose from the outcome of their testing?
What to look for:
- Has the company had independent scientific testing done on their product?
- Are they willing to share scientific papers and citations validating the efficacy (effectiveness) of their product?
- Do they have data showing the shelf life of their product, as well as proper handling procedures (refrigeration vs. not needing it, etc.)?
- Do they have data about how many cultures will survive your pet’s stomach acid?
There’s a lot to think about, I know. But understanding a little bit about both the what and the how of your pet’s probiotics can help you make the best decision for your dog or cat and help them overcome a variety of issues – or simply maintain the good health they already enjoy.
Oscar: “And that’s the scientific story about probiotics. The End.”
Felixx <applauding>: “That was impressive, Oscar. You and Mom really did your homework.”
Oscar <wagging>: “Thanks, Felixx!”
Felixx: “Hokey marketing and ancient opinions are no match for good science at your side, kid.”
Oscar: “Wha-…oh, wait. More Star Wars, right? Han Solo!”
Felixx: “Yeah. We might need to quit binge-watching that stuff. Now, take the safety goggles and lab coat off and see if you can get Mom to get dinner going a little earlier tonight. I missed my afternoon snack.”