Prebiotics and probiotics work hand in hand to help animals achieve optimal health.  The best and simplest way to understand the difference between prebiotics and probiotics is to simply think of probiotics as beneficial bacteria for the health of the animal and  prebiotics simply as food ingredients for the probiotics.  Prebiotics typically are made from various categories of long sugar chains. Examples of prebiotics categories include fructooliosaccharides (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS).  A commonly used prebiotic member of the FOS category is an ingredient called inulin that commonly comes from chicory roots.  While the animal can’t digest these long sugar chain prebiotics, the probiotics can easily digest them and turn them into energy.  That helps the probiotics grow even better in the gut of the animal.  Prebiotics can also discourage the growth of certain pathogens in the gut of animals, such as E. coli.  By having dual roles, prebiotics help the probiotics grow better and that provides even more health benefits to the animal while concurrently, both the prebiotics and probiotics help limit pathogens.

Three criteria are required by prebiotics in order to be effective.

  1. The prebiotic has to be resistant to degradation by stomach acid, mammalian enzymes or hydrolysis
  2. The prebiotic actually has to be able to be used as food by the probiotics
  3. The prebiotic should also be selective to stimulating the growth and/or activity only of beneficial microorganisms in the gut.

Good prebiotics are stable under heat and when dried, and can be stored at room temperature for months or years. The prebiotic inulin is particularly good at meeting these criteria.  This is why it is found in many excellent probiotic products including Pets Prefer Digestion Support for Dogs, Horses Prefer DFM Eq-Paste, Probios Max Oral Gel, and others.  By including a prebiotic such as inulin in these formulations, the probiotics will be kept around a lot longer in the gut of the animal and that will, in turn, provide continued health benefits to the animal.

Dr. Dan DuBourdieu

Dr. Dan holds a Ph.D. and M.S. degree from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. from Macalester College.  He has been involved in basic cell biology, biochemistry and immunology research at Hoffmann La Roche Inc., ImmuCell Inc. and other research companies.  He has worked with Bomac Vet-Plus Inc for a number of years doing animal nutrition product research and development.