We have all seen the yogurt commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis sitting on a green couch talking about the benefits of probiotics. Maybe you have even laughed at the SNL spoof of just that. But what do you really know about probiotics? More than just an incentive to buy yogurt, probiotics are a vital key to promoting and regulating healthy “good” bacterias in your gut. Furthermore, probiotics are not just important to the health of your tummy, but your dogs as well. As with any canine product, the options are often endless and overwhelming. This leaves dog owners rushing to one of the most common canine probiotics: Fortiflora. However, we are here to offer some guidance as to why you should always avoid Fortiflora for your dog. In this article, we will discuss the facts, side-effects, and alternatives to Fortiflora for dogs.
What is Fortiflora?
Available only as a prescription, Fortiflora is a probiotic for felines and canines. Fortiflora is used to help regulate dogs and cats suffering diarrhea. Furthermore, Fortliflora is the most commonly recommended probiotic amongst veterinarians. However, with research surfacing regarding the unsavory ingredients of Fortiflora, are the benefits worth the cost?
Fortiflora for Dogs: Is it Safe?
A healthy dog starts from the inside out, so a healthy diet and curated supplements can work wonders. As with any new food or vitamin, the conscious dog owner should always read the ingredients. If there is anything unfamiliar or hiding behind a long incomprehensible scientific name, some further research is likely needed. In the case of canine Fortiflora, the criminal ingredient is right there listed first, front and center: “animal digest”.
What is Animal Digest?
You may infer from the name that animal digest is made from contents of the digestive tract. However, that is not the case at all. In fact, the term “animal digest” actually refers to the process by which it is made, not what it is made from. That is to say, animal digest is the result of heating up and breaking down (aka hydrolyzing) a protein into amino acids in the form of a liquid or powder. While that sounds like a standard scientific procedure, the process of hydrolyzation typically strips a protein of any nutritional value.
What is Animal Digest Made Of?
So now it is time for the truth about the mystery ingredient “animal digest”. Legally speaking, popular pet food ingredient “animal digest” is not required to be sourced from a slaughtered animal. Translation: animal digest legally can, and often is, sourced from animals categorized as “4D”. The four D’s are: dying, dead, diseased, and downed. The most common type of 4D in facilities are euthanized animals. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that these facilities get their so-called “meat” from supermarkets, fast-food chains, animal shelters, and restaurants. That means these facilities are either using food not fit for human consumption, or worse, dead, diseased, or discarded animals of all kinds.
Purina Fortiflora for Dogs
With the rise of holistic pet wellness, companies everywhere are having to debunk some of the cryptic ingredients in their products. Chief amongst them: “animal digest”. Commonly found in several dry foods and treats for pets, animal digest is also the main ingredient of Purina Canine Fortiflora probiotic for dogs. With the growing backlash against the ingredient, Purina has provided a “Pet Myth’s and Facts” page on their site. They provide a vague explanation of the ingredient saying it is derived from animal proteins “such as muscle and soft tissue”. They do not clarify what other proteins are used, or even what animals they are coming from.
Purina states openly that it’s animal proteins used to make animal digest are supplied by USDA-inspected facilities. While the facilities themselves meet USDA regulations, the animals used to make the products within the facilities are not actually USDA-approved.
Fortiflora for Cats: Is it Safe?
Considering feline Fortiflora is also formulated using animal digest, we recommend staying away from it. With the vague description from companies that use the ingredient, it is impossible to know if the ingredient was sourced from a diseased animal.
Synthetic Ingredients: The Problems
“Whole foods” is not just a trendy health foods store where you can buy expensive fair trade coffee and organic vegetables. In fact, the term “whole food” refers to food that has been minimally processed and is free of additives or artificial ingredients. In the case of canine and feline health, a whole foods diet is always best. Unfortunately, countless pet products on the market cut corners or use unsavory ingredients and Fortiflora is no exception. There are thirteen ingredients in Purina Fortiflora, and nine of them are made from synthetic vitamins and minerals. While some of these ingredients may not be exactly detrimental to your dog’s health, they certainly are not helping. They are harder for the body to process, and often carry no real nutritional value. We already debunked the terrors of “animal digest”, so what else is lurking in the ingredients of Fortiflora?
One of the nine synthetic ingredients in Fortiflora is “beta-carotene”. It has been found that synthetic beta-carotene blocks healthy antioxidant activity from healthy, whole foods in your pet’s system. That means that Fortiflora is keeping your dog from absorbing important vitamins and nutrients it needs.
Three of the thirteen ingredients in Fortiflora (zinc proteinate, manganese proteinate, and copper proteinate) are “chelated” minerals. It is thought that chelated minerals are easier for the body to digest. However, the quality of this type of mineral varies immensely. In fact, certain cheaper chelates are derived from crushed industrial rock. Doesn’t that sound yummy?
How many times have you heard the term “genetically modified” recently? With the ever-growing demand for food, manufacturers are coming up with more and more ways to get grow and distribute food quickly. However, this usually means the quality suffers greatly. For example, genetically modified “Monsanto” seeds are responsible for growing nearly 95% of the soy crops here in the United States. These seeds are designed to resist glyphosate-based weed killers (such as Roundup). It has been found that the beneficial bacteria vital to effective probiotics are still killed by glyphosate, meanwhile, unsavory bacterias like salmonella are resistant to the weed killer.
What Causes Dog Diarrhea
As previously mentioned, Fortiflora is most commonly prescribed for dogs and cats suffering from diarrhea. In fact, tummy issues are a leading cause of vet visits nationwide. While sometimes canine diarrhea is a swift, isolated instance, other times it can be a sign of a bigger issue. In order to treat any ailment, it is important to know what causes it.
Believe it or not, allergies can actually cause diarrhea in dogs. Dogs with diarrhea may have eaten a food they are allergic to. Interestingly enough, dogs and cats can form an allergy to a food they have been eating for months. To avoid this, you should switch up your pets primary food source every three months or so. However, it is imperative that you gradually switch their food over the course of a few days. Simply start by mixing a small amount of the new food into the old food, and gradually increase the amount of new food until there is no old food left.
Worms and Parasites
Hookworms and roundworms and tapeworms, oh my! Dogs and cats alike are commonly the hosts of a myriad of uninvited intestinal guests. These parasites can vary in severity, but almost all of them will cause a gastrointestinal upset like vomiting and diarrhea. Seek veterinary guidance if you suspect your pet is dealing with worms or parasites. Certain medication may be prescribed, but is not always necessary. Furthermore, be sure to clean up and dispose of all feces and treat your yard appropriately to kill any lingering worm eggs.
Additionally, animals can contract a number of unsavory bacteria that can cause diarrhea. For example, salmonella, a common bacteria found in raw or undercooked chicken. In that case, it is always best to take extreme care when cooking and pick up any rogue food immediately if dropped. Furthermore, it is best to limit your dog’s intake of table scraps, especially if you have a smaller dog.
Ingesting Unsavory Food or Items
Arguably the leading cause of stomach upset in cats and dogs is eating something that doesn’t agree with them. This can be anything from the food they are allergic to, as previously mentioned, to eating spoiled food or household poisons. Dogs and cats are both naturally curious creatures that are born scavengers. Therefore, it is vital that you dispose of any food products or trash properly and our of paw’s reach. Furthermore, be sure to carefully store any and all household cleaners, bleaches, and chemicals high up and safely locked away.
Canine Diarrhea: A Sign of Something Bigger?
Finally, diarrhea in both cats and dogs can be a symptom of a bigger disease or ailment. This list includes, but is not limited to issues such as:
- Liver disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Kidney disease
- Gastrointestinal Cancers
If your beloved pet is suffering from frequent diarrhea that lasts more than 48 hours we urge you to seek veterinary council. In the event that their stomach issues are a sign of something more vicious, early diagnosis is the key to a speedy recovery.
Should I use Canine Probiotics?
Understandably so, you may be a little timid about using probiotics for your dog. Rest assured, the issues with fortiflora are not true of all pet probiotics. The benefits of probiotics for pet use can be amazing. Naturally, you simply have to find a healthy, well-made option that is a right fit for your dog’s needs. Benefits of probiotics in dogs include:
- Promoting and regulate overall healthy gut flora
- Reducing the duration and frequency of tummy issues like diarrhea
- Relieving irritable bowel syndrome and constipation
- Encouraging healthy skin and coat
- Strengthening the immune system
- Improving digestive function and removal of toxins
- Enhancing bone density and stability by improving mineral metabolism
- Decreasing unhealthy enzymes in the colon
Cleary, probiotics are popular amongst pet owners for a reason. So, what are some healthy, natural ways to incorporate probiotics into your dog’s diet?
Stopping Dog Diarrhea: A Holistic Approach
With the ever-growing popularity of homeopathic pet wellness, you know have more natural options than ever. We are pleased to tell you there are healthy, natural alternatives to the harsh medical-grade probiotics on the market. With the right combination of diet and nutritional supplements, your dog’s tummy health will be better than ever!
Not only is cheese a delicious addition to almost any of your favorite foods, but it can actually help regulate your dog’s digestion. Gouda, cheddar, and swiss cheeses are full of lactic acid bacteria. While that doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, it is a “good” bacteria that relieves constipation and helps the body absorb nutrients from food.
Interestingly enough, some probiotic bacterias cannot withstand the acidity within the canine GI tract. The bacterias are burned off before making it to the intestines and working their “magic”. The aforementioned cheeses are filled with bacteria strong enough to pass through the perilous gastric juices safely and into the intestines.
As it turns out, Jamie Lee Curtis and every other yogurt spokesperson out there are onto something when it comes to probiotics and yogurt. Arguably the most well-known dietary probiotic, plain yogurt is full of beneficial bacteria, or “live active cultures” as they are often referred to as. Like with soft cheese, yogurt contains probiotic lactic acid.
With several “good” bacterias in its arsenal, yogurt can help people and dogs alike with many gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Including, preventing fungal infections and a variety of chronic GI diseases. Furthermore, yogurt has been known to ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, and vomiting.
Veterinarians recommend adding one to two tablespoons of plain yogurt daily to your dog’s regular food to promote healthy gut function.
While yogurt has a sour cream-like texture, kefir is more liquid in nature. Kefir is a cultured, fermented milk that is derived from goat, rice, coconut, or cow milk. Like yogurt, kefir is full of “good” probiotic bacteria, yeast, protein, and vitamins.
Experts recommend providing one tablespoon per twenty-five pounds of weight in your dog.
Similar to yogurt and the aforementioned cheeses, buttermilk contains healthy lactic acid bacteria. It is important to note, you should avoid and cooking or heating of buttermilk when giving it to your dog. Heating buttermilk kills the beneficial bacteria it possesses, thus voiding the potential boost to their tummy health. Furthermore, some stores even carry powdered buttermilk. In that case, simply add the powder directly to your dog’s food.
Better still, buttermilk has been known to help reduce tear stains that plague certain breeds. Poodles, boxers, bulldogs, and cocker spaniels can all benefit from clearer eyes with the help of buttermilk.
Dogs and cats are natural born hunters. Naturally, many breeds have long since been domesticated. However, wild wolves and jungle cats still get their nutrients from hunting and eating other animals. When they eat their “free-range” diet, they absorb good bacteria from the guts of their prey. Fortunately, you don’t need to release your dog into the wild to get these much-needed nutrients. Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi contain similar benefits.
With fermented veggies, a little goes a long way. Pets only need one teaspoon per thirty pounds of body weight. You can purchase several healthy fermented vegetables pre-made, or even make your own at home!
Raw Goat’s Milk
Despite the mainstream popularity of cow milk, goat milk is actually much easier to digest. Furthermore, acts as an all-natural probiotic. Simply add two ounces per twenty-five pounds of your dog’s weight to their daily food. Simpler yet, they may even drink it straight out of the bowl!
Raw Green Tripe
If you have ever been to Italy you have perhaps enjoyed the “Trippa Alla Romana”. Sounds yummy, right? Simply mix olive oil, fresh tomatoes and carrots, white wine, and the stomach lining of cattle. Your mouth may have been watering until you read “stomach lining”. While not as exotic as eating cow tongue or brains like in some countries, Italy makes several dishes featuring stomach lining (aka “tripe”). While you may not be racing off to Rome to try this famous dish, your dog can benefit from the probiotic nutrients of raw green tripe right here at home. Boasting tons of healthy digestive enzymes and bacteria, tripe helps dogs break down and absorb nutrients from food.
Start by introducing a few tablespoons into their food, and work your way up to a quarter of a cup per fifty pounds of your dog’s weight.
CBD for Dogs
If you have stayed in the loop of holistic wellness for pets, you have likely heard of CBD oil. Derived from the hemp plant, CBD oil has an impressive array of proven benefits. CBD oil has been known to relieve symptoms of IBS and optimize gastrointestinal tract health. Other benefits include:
- Calming anxiety
- Reducing seizures and epilepsy
- Decreasing pain and inflammation
- Preventing and fighting cancer
- Promoting overall homeostasis in the body
- Calming seasonal and environmental allergies
Where to get CBD Oil for Dogs
CBD oil can be a powerful tool in your pets overall holistic health plan. However, not all CBD oils are created equally. In fact, with the growing demand for CBD oil companies are popping up overnight and often churning out sub-par products. It is vital you only use organic, lab-tested, non-GMO CBD oil made specifically with dogs in mind. We recommend Honest Paws because all of their products meet those vital standards. Furthermore, if you have any more curiosities about this ever-popular supplement, Honest Paws has a very informative guide to CBD oil for dogs.
Talk to Your Vet First
First of all, before introducing any new food, supplement, or medicine into your pet’s diet, always be sure to consult your veterinarian first. Every dog and cat comes with a unique set of needs, pre-existing conditions, and possible food allergies. A good rule of thumb is to work any new food into your pet’s diet in small increments and work your way up. Also, be sure to only introduce one new food or supplement at a time. That way, if they have an adverse reaction you can know exactly what caused it.
Check the Ingredients
Furthermore, always thoroughly check the ingredients of any new food before giving it to your pet. Many ingredients that are safe for human consumption are incredibly toxic to animals. Chief amongst them: xylitol. A commonly utilize sugar substitute, xylitol is often found in “sugar-free” or low-fat foods. Therefore, be sure to stay away from “sugar-free” yogurts and milk when looking for probiotics. Check out this definitive guide to xylitol and dogs to learn what products to stay away from and how to spot xylitol poisoning.
How to Prevent Dog Diarrhea
In addition to proper nutrition and supplements, there are a number of simple things you can do to prevent digestive upsets in your dog-o’s tummy. Such as:
- Slowly introducing any dietary changes
- Using rubber dog chews as opposed to actual animal bones
- Not feeding your dog scraps
- Concealing trash and household cleaners to prevent ingestion of unsavory items
- Regularly visiting the vet for vaccinations and deworming
These simple actions combined right diet and supplements are sure to help your dog’s tummy maintain optimal gastrointestinal health.
Fortiflora: In Summary
Sadly, stomach issues are far too common among cats and dogs. Fortunately, there are natural, holistic ways to prevent any tummy issues from arising. While probiotics can be wildly beneficial for your pet, it is vital to make sure you make smart, educated decisions about the supplements you give your pet. For example, Fortiflora is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It may come recommended by some vets, but it is actually not the best choice when it comes to probiotics for your bet. Consult your vet today about what all-natural probiotics are best suited for your pets unique needs.