H Lyndall Pinchen from canine vitality back again with todays quick question- can probiotics help my anxious dog? When it comes to stressed or anxious and nervy dogs, there are many many factors you need to consider. This will include their general personality, environment and home life, diet, chemical load, nutrient deficiencies and more. But in todays quick question lets look at the role that probiotics can play when it comes to helping calm your anxious dog so stay tuned.
Do you have a dog that suffers from anxiety, nervy behaviour and maybe even depression? These types of emotional patterns are becoming more common and problematic in our dogs and anxiety as a condition is definitely on the rise. As I mentioned earlier getting on top of anxious behaviour patterns requires a multifaceted approach. But something that is often not looked at is the link between anxiety and the use and benefit of probiotics. So can probiotics actually help??
The good news is , yes they can help.
But firstly lets look at the link between your dogs gut and brain and how this influences your dogs mood and behaviour. All of your dogs gut functions, including the secretion of digestive juices, the movement of the intestinal tract, the health of the intestinal lining barrier and general gut immunity are controlled by what is known as the enteric nervous system (ENS). This system also communicates information from your dogs gut to their brain (which is part of the central nervous system), and it does this by way of using the large vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the stem of the your dogs brain down the throat, chest and into the stomach area and it acts a bit like a highway between these the gut and the brain – it is often referred to as the gut brain axis). This gut brain axis helps maintain balance in your dogs gut as well as keeping inflammation and immune function under control. It also provides a link between the emotional centres of the brain and the gut itself and helps maintain and normal and healthy stress response.
Its been found that the bacteria in your dogs gut or their microbiome can have a direct impact on the nerve endings of this large vagus nerve, therefore altering certain outcomes and while we are not exactly sure of all the mechanisms, certain bacteria strains can benefit here in terms of helping to improve mood and reduce anxiety and associated behaviours. In general you would look to give a multistrain probiotic as this is most likely to cover all the specific strains that can be helpful here.
But lets look at the specific strains which now are often referred to as psychobiotics due to their ability to influence mood and behaviour. These include Lactobacillus rhamnosus, lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum, lactobacillus reuteri and lactobacillus casei. Some of the benefits noted by using these specific strains include the reduction of stress hormones, increase in serotonin levels that help your dog feel good, reduce obsessive compulsive behaviour and this was particularly when the lactobacillus rhamnosus strain was given. Also a reduction in depression and an overall calming of the animal in question. In addition probiotics help reduce inflammation and have other benefits for the gut and health in general that can just help your dog feel better.
I usually would recommend usually trying a multi train dairy free probiotic that contains the above strains (and most brands do) for 4-8 weeks to see if it helps your dog. IN addition, you might look at adding in a prebiotic as all probiotics need a prebiotic food source and here I like using partially hydrolysed guar gum as it is gentle of the stomach and has been found to also reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. Start with just a small amount of this pure powder (from ¼ to 1 tpsn daily depending on the weight of your dog) added into food daily along with your chosen probiotic and do this over 4-8 weeks to see if this helps reduce those symptoms of anxiety.
So while we know that probiotics can have a real positive effect on anxious behaviour, please remember when it comes to anxiety or any gut related symptom you must look to heal the gut too and there is never just one solution to the problem.