What If a Probiotic Could Help Dogs Stay Calm?

A Purina Veterinarian Discusses the Relationship between the Gut and the Brain

Dr. Kurt Venator
Apr 1, 2019 · 4 min read

As pet owners, our dogs are woven into the fabric of our families and lives. Do you ever skip happy hour after work to rush home to your dog, or plan your Saturday morning routine around a visit to the dog park? I know I am not alone in living a life that fully embraces the unconditional love and companionship of a dog.

Having a dog has many benefits, but if your dog displays anxious behaviors, it can be stressful. For some pet owners simple events like taking their dog for a walk in the park, or having a new person visit your home, become troublesome experiences.

What Are Anxious Behaviors?

As a veterinarian, I have been trained to look for signs of stress in dogs. What you may think are just characteristics of a particular breed or part of your dog’s unique personality, could actually be an anxious behavior that needs attention.

Behaviors such as excessive barking, pacing and panting, and compulsive licking or trembling can all be indicators of stress in dogs. Every day, science is teaching us more about what influences our pet’s behavior. Sure, we know that the cause for anxious behaviors may be related to genetics or environmental stress, but at Nestlé Purina we are also learning there can be a connection between these behaviors and an imbalance of bacteria in the gut.

The Gut-Brain Relationship

In the past, we have studied how bacteria in the gut influences our pet’s immune system, and in 2006 we launched Forti Flora, a probiotic supplement for the dietary management of diarrhea. It contains a safe and effective strain of beneficial bacteria proven to promote intestinal health and balance.

Now, we are expanding our probiotic expertise even further, reviewing research on how the gut and brain talk to each other to determine how anxious behavior can be positively influenced with probiotics.

To find new ways to help dogs maintain calm behavior, we examined how a particular probiotic strain, BL999, could help dogs who displayed anxious behaviors. 24 Labrador retrievers who displayed anxious behaviors such as excessive barking, jumping, pacing and spinning, were given the probiotic and observed. After 15 weeks, 90% of the dogs showed improvement in displaying anxious behavior. The dogs also showed improvement in physiological factors, such as positive cardiac activity during stressful events.

A New Way to Help

Based on what we learned, we created a new option for owners of dogs with anxious behaviors with the launch of Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements Calming Care, which contains a beneficial bacteria shown to help dogs maintain calm behavior. Available through veterinarians, Calming Care is an innovative new way for vets to help dog owners and their pets.

I thoroughly enjoy working with pets and improving their quality of life whenever possible. It is very exciting that through a probiotic supplement, we can help dogs with anxious behaviors cope with things like separation, unfamiliar visitors, novel sounds, or changes in their routine.

It is this type of cutting-edge innovation that makes me proud to work at Nestlé Purina. I am excited that we can offer these types of tools to veterinarians so they may help owners and their dogs live happy, healthy lives.

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