How a Healthy Gut Can Reduce Your Pet’s Stress

Sometimes, all you have to do to is glance across the room at your furry friend for evidence of a stressed-out pet.

Loose bowels, excessive barking, clinginess, and aggression: these are all signs that your treasured companion is suffering from physical or psychological triggers that are affecting their overall health and well-being.

And while socialization and training are important, did you know that your companion's gut health could be the key to low-stress life?

Stress and the Pet Microbiome

We all, humans and animals alike, have what’s called a microbiome—a vast ecosystem of both good and undesirable bacteria living in our body. The good guy bacteria in our microbiome are responsible for a wide array of functions that support our health, like optimizing digestion, regulating our immune system, and helping to ease temporary stress and anxiety.

But, when it comes to this vital “organ,” balance is crucial—and not always easy to come by.

In a healthy, balanced microbiome the good guy microbes (aka probiotics) outnumber the bad guys by more than six times! Unfortunately, your pet’s beneficial bacteria can quickly shift in the wrong direction due to things like antibiotics and other medications, over sanitizing, processed foods, dietary indiscretion (like eating garbage…literally), chemicals and contaminants in water, and stress.

And once your pet’s microbiome has tipped its scales in favor of the bad guys, a range of health and behavioral issues can come to the surface, like temporary diarrhea, erratic behavior, impaired digestion, and less-than-optimal immunity.

A classic example of this is the temporary diarrhea that many animals in unstable—and stressful—living situations can experience. Or even in pets who are normally fine, until they need to be boarded or stay with a pet sitter while their owner goes on holiday. The good news is that a healthy gut can ameliorate some of these physical reactions to stress. In one study of 217 cats living in a shelter, just four weeks of probiotic supplementation led to a 13% reduced risk of digestive issues1.

A Healthy Gut Improves Stress Management

The gut includes the stomach, small intestine, and colon. It has the largest number of immune cells in the entire body and houses 80% of your pet’s immune system. Probiotics in the gut environment work to protect the intestinal barrier and keep harmful microbes out of the bloodstream, enhancing immunity along the way.

But, the probiotics in your pet’s digestive tract aren’t just working locally; they are also able to communicate with the brain to influence emotions and the stress response. By producing important brain chemicals like serotonin (the “happy” chemical) and GABA (the “calming” chemical), probiotics can help to improve your pet’s mood regulation2,3. Probiotics also work to reduce levels of cortisol, the “stress” hormone that can become prominent in times of stress2.

You see, stress depletes the good flora in the gut environment, and when this delicate balance of bacteria in the gut is disturbed, cortisol, serotonin, and GABA levels can become out of whack, possibly leading to a vicious cycle of more stress, anxiousness, and fear-induced behavior problems. The good news is that replenishing your pet’s gut with good bacteria can help break this cycle and reduce the physical and psychological symptoms our dear companions may face.

Probiotics for Pets

Giving probiotics to pets may sound like a new concept, but years of research have already proven that friendly flora can greatly benefit our fuzzy friends:

Puppies given Enterococcus faecium up to one year of age showed enhanced immunity4.
Supplementation with Bifidobacterium animalis in dogs with temporary diarrhea reduced both the healing time by nearly three days and the need for antibiotics5.
Bifidobacterium animalis increased white blood cell activity in dogs after just 14 days of supplementation, and the effects lasted for several weeks beyond the trial period6.

Fortunately, keeping your pet healthy and happy is much easier when you take the time to focus on their microbiome.

You’d do anything to keep your pet feeling his best—like feeding him high-quality food and giving him plenty of love and affection—but providing an effective, multi-strain probiotic supplement like Hyperbiotics PRO-Pets could be the key to your pet’s long-term health and vigor.

With six strains of targeted bacteria in a patented time-released (and beef flavored) pearl tablet, PRO-Pets delivers beneficial bacteria deep into your pet’s gut, where they can get to work improving digestion, boosting immunity, promoting joint and bone health, increasing nutrient absorption, promoting optimal body weight, and helping him adjust to any and every stressful situation that comes his way.

Our pets give us so much unconditional love, acceptance, and joy each and every day. It’s up to us to make sure we proactively support their gut health so they can live their happiest, healthiest, stress-free days.

References:
1. Bybee, S., Scorza, A., & Lappin, M. (2011). Effect of the Probiotic Enterococcus faecium SF68 on Presence of Diarrhea in Cats and Dogs Housed in an Animal Shelter. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 25(4), 856-860.
2. Kato-Kataoka, A., Nishida, K., Takada, M., Kawai, M., Kikuchi-Hayakawa, H., Suda, K., . . . Rokutan, K. (2016). Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota preserves the diversity of the gut microbiota and relieves abdominal dysfunction in healthy medical students exposed to academic stress. Applied and Environmental Microbiology doi:10.1128/aem.04134-15
3. Bravo, J. A., Forsythe, P., Chew, M. V., Escaravage, E., Savignac, H. M., Dinan, T. G., . . . Cryan, J. F. (2011). Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(38), 16050-16055.
4. Benyacoub J., Czarnecki-Maulden G.L., Cavadini C., Sauthier T., Anderson R.E., Schiffrin E.J., von der Weid T. (2003). Supplementation of food with Enterococcus faecium (SF68) stimulates immune functions in young dogs. The Journal of Nutrition, 133(4), 1158-1162.
5. Kelley, R.L., Minikhiem, D., Kiely, B., O'Mahony, L., O'Sullivan, D., Boileau, T., Park, J.S. (2009). Clinical benefits of probiotic canine-derived Bifidobacterium animalis strain AHC7 in dogs with acute idiopathic diarrhea. Veterinary Therapeutics: Research in Applied Veterinary Medicine, 10(3), 120-130.
6. Strompfová, V., Simonová, M. P., Gancarčíková, S., Mudroňová, D., Farbáková, J., Mad'ari, A., & Lauková, A. (2014). Effect of Bifidobacterium animalis B/12 administration in healthy dogs. Anaerobe, 28, 37-43.

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Julie Hays is the Communications Director here at Hyperbiotics. Health writer and mama of three little girls, Julie's on a mission to empower others to live lives free of the microbial depletion many of us face today. For more ideas on how you can maximize wellness and benefit from the power of probiotics, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

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