Before getting into prebiotics and probiotics, let’s discuss how digestion works in your dog. Because our intention is to get to the microbiome, we’ll skip over some of the lesser steps (mouth, esophagus, pancreas, gallbladder) to get to the good stuff.
Many people assume that the stomach is the most important part in digestion and where the nutrients from the food are distributed to the body, but in fact, all that the stomach does is break foodstuff down into a liquid. The outer part of the stomach grinds food on the way to the inner part of the stomach where acids and enzymes go to work. Once everything is broken down, this enables it to be sorted and processed in the next stages of digestion.
Food reaches the small intestine in liquid form. The walls of the small intestine draw out nutrients from the food and send them into the bloodstream where they make their way to the appropriate cells.
If your dog is on medication, this is the stage that drugs will absorb into the bloodstream, ready to be utilized by the body.
The large intestine dissolves the harder to digest matter with the help of gut bacteria. Most of the bacteria in the gut microbiome are in the large intestine, where they help digest food your dog can’t break down alone. It also retrieves any water and minerals that have made their way through the digestive process thus far. Feces are then formed and stored within this organ awaiting exit via the rectum.
So that’s the basics on doggy digestion!
Lately, the gut microbiome has become a much discussed topic! When gut bacteria are out of balance, your dog could experience digestive disorders (minor things like bad breath to serious afflictions like inflammatory bowel & kidney disease). Beyond digestion, gut bacteria impact many aspects of your dog’s overall health. In humans and animals, they have been shown to have important roles in developing allergies, diabetes, and even depression and anxiety.
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PROBIOTICS & PREBIOTICS
Probiotics and prebiotics both play a role in maintaining your dog’s healthy gut microbiome, but when pressed, most pet parents couldn’t tell you the difference between a prebiotic and a probiotic. And, it certainly doesn’t help that the two terms are so similar! There’s bound to be confusion.
Simply put, probiotics “seed” good bacteria into your dog’s gut and prebiotics “feed” the good bacteria that is already in your dog’s gut microbiome.
Probiotics contain living, gut-friendly bacteria found naturally in the digestive tract and other areas of the body. The goal of ingesting probiotics is to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria. Just like in people, probiotics are typically used after an illness or antibiotic treatment to reintroduce these beneficial bacteria into the dog’s gut. However, many dogs with chronic problems need probiotics on a more regular basis. An interesting dilemma with probiotics is that they aren’t that easy to include in the diet, mostly because it’s live bacteria, and it needs cold temperatures to survive.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, support or “feed” the beneficial bacteria that is already there in the gut. Prebiotics are fiber. The fiber travels undigested to the dog’s colon where it ferments and is converted to short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and promote and support healthy digestive flora in dogs. It also acts as a source of energy for colon cells and preserves the electrolyte and fluid balance that allows your dog’s intestine to work properly.
CRICKET PROTEIN IS PREBIOTIC FOR DOGS
So finally, here’s why we’ve taken you down this path! Crickets, like other insects, contain fibers, such as chitin, that are different from the dietary fiber found in foods like fruits and vegetables. Fiber serves as a microbial food source and some fiber types promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics.
Jiminy’s had a hypothesis that cricket protein would be prebiotic in dogs (there is a University of Wisconsin study that identified the benefit for people). So, Jiminy’s partnered with Animal-Biome to study the impact of cricket protein on the dog’s gut. And great news – cricket protein supports a healthy, balanced level of gut bacteria diversity (gut microbiome) in dogs. It’s pre-biotic!