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Using Probiotics to Treat Anxiety in Dogs

Probiotics are a wonderful tool to have in our Veterinary Toolbox.  Why do we love them so much?  They are easy to administer, highly palatable, inexpensive, and incredibly safe! We often will use Purina’s Fortiflora as our first choice for a safe and effective veterinary-approved product.  It can be frequently used as an adjunctive treatment for diarrhea in both cats and dogs as well as an appetite stimulant (yes, your furry companion will love the taste)!  So, when Purina announced that they were coming out with a new probiotic to treat anxiety in dogs, we knew we had to find out more!  We recently learned about the product "Calming Care" at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas this spring and were instantly intrigued. Not only is it an innovative idea to use a probiotic to treat anxietey, but there was actually the science to back it up.  Here's a breakdown…

There is a physiological relationship between the gut and the central nervous system through what is known as the gut-brain axis.  This means that the gut’s microbiome (bacterial inhabitants) can have a direct effect on the nervous system and can therefore contribute to behavioural issues.  Have you ever had an upset stomach when you were stressed or nervous?  This is because your gut and nervous system are physiologically connected.  The way that Calming Care works, is that it uses a very specific strain of bacteria that has been shown to help maintain calm behaviour in dogs and reduce anxiety by altering the gut flora.  The study done with this strain of bacteria demonstrated improvement in 24 dogs after 6 weeks of therapy.   Furthermore, clinical signs returned when the product was stopped in this blinded cross-over study. Not only did the trial measure observational changes in the dogs (with a defined set of anxious behaviours through a formal anxiety test), but it also tracked and measured quantitative parameters such as salivary cortisol, heart rate, and heart rate variability for more objective measurements.  

One of veterinarians Dr. Sims, has a dog Scarlet who suffers from severe separation anxiety.  She has been on Calming Care for 4 weeks now and she is happy to report that she has already noticed a decrease in her anxious behaviours, particularly with pacing.  She looks forward to continuing to use this product and witness its full potential.  Dogs who respond to Calming Care should remain on the probiotic long term for its full benefits.  If your dog has anxiety, consider Calming Care as an alternative option to behaviour-modifying medications or as an adjunctive therapy to the medications and other modalities you are already implementing.  Be sure to ask our team for more details next time you are in!

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