probioticsSupplements, nutritional products and probiotics have become a huge business for us humans, but now it’s an industry that is taking off for our pets. They are many companies rushing to push pet probiotics onto the market, but in an unregulated industry some products aren’t living up to their claims.

We are currently spending more than $750 million on pet supplements and that number is projected to reach $1 billion by 2017 according to market research firm Packaged Facts. As medicine advances for us humans, there is usually lag time to when it catches up with our animals.

“The pet-supplement industry follows very closely – somewhat lagging – the human industry,” said Bill Bookout, president of the National Supplement Council. The time between human medical advancement and animal used to be around seven years, but that gap is now much closer to a year or two. “Probiotics are certainly a growth are for animals,” Bookout said.

Probiotics are being used to help animals, especially dogs, regulate their digestive system and help lessen the need for and use of antibiotics. May Piro is an animal owner and lover that has begun giving probiotics to her horses and to the dogs she fosters from rescue groups.

“They’ve been at shelters, their food has been changed several times, transporting them too stresses them, these are all different aspects that are gonna wreak havoc on their digestive system,” said Piro.

Probiotics were recently tested on shelter dogs with digestive issues by Dr. Korinn Saker, a clinical veterinary nutritionist. “The dogs that were put on the probiotic actually resolved faster and improved to a more significant and greater degree than those animals that were put on a traditional antibiotic,” Saker said.

Probitoics are most helpful for dogs because they are opportunistic omnivores while cats are obligate carnivores. This means dog gut microbes are similar to ours so it has been easier to use “human-like” probiotics on them. Cats however, have evolved with a special collection of microbes that produce the right enzymes to specifically break down meat.

But with the rush to get these products to market, many are coming out with overstated or ingredient claims that don’t hold up. A recent study or 15 probiotic supplements found only four met or exceeded the product’s label claim for the amount of “viable organisms,” or good bacteria.

Experts are urging anyone thinking about using probiotics to check with their veterinarian first. “I think running to the store and purchasing probiotics is probably not the best use of your dollar,” Saker said.