Why we don’t use probiotics in any of our supplements

Probiotics are all the rage. Whether you’re in a pet store or a grocery store, it seems like everything from fruit juice to cat litter is touting their probiotic content.

If probiotics are so “hot,” why doesn’t In Clover include them in our products? Although many pet parents say they notice improvement in their animals’ health, there currently exists no scientific method to substantiate these subjective observations.

In Clover’s core philosophy revolves around mindful product developing using evidence-based research. We refuse to take shortcuts or create products based on trends. Our standards for scientific research are head and shoulders above what some other companies will accept as “proof.” Research must include a statistically significant population, utilize standard scientific practices and be species-specific (conducted in dogs and cats). Alternatively, some products are developed by making assumptions using in vitro (completed in a test tube; no animals involved), mice or human studies. Our purposeful formulation not only allows us to substantiate any claims, but it also results in supplements with a high probability of real, tangible results.

In contrast to probiotic supplements, prebiotics have been been well researched. In fact, In Clover’s president was a pioneer in prebiotic clinical studies, and her published works have inspired product developers across industries and around the world.

In Clover’s OptaGest® digestive aid contains clinically tested levels of organic prebiotics and vital digestive enzymes.


Further reading: Assessment of commercial probiotic bacterial contents and label accuracy

“Probiotics are widely available for use in animals but quality control of veterinary probiotics has been shown to be poor. The objective of this study was to evaluate the labels and bacterial contents of commercial probiotics marketed for use in animals. … Only 4/15 (27%) products that had specific claims of viable organisms met or exceeded their label claim. Only 2 of these also had an acceptable label, which properly described the contents. Deficiencies in veterinary probiotic quality remain. Veterinarians and owners should scrutinize commercial probiotics and demand evidence of quality control and efficacy.”

What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Probiotics are “good” or “friendly” bacteria that reside within the gut (intestines) of mammals, including humans, dogs and cats. Probiotics are living organisms that act as little “factories” that produce essential nutrients the body needs to function.

Each animal has his or her own unique, preferred strain of probiotics. The preferred strain is the one that will be at the highest level when the animal is healthy. If there are three dogs playing in a park, it’s unlikely that any of them will have the same preferred strain of probiotics.

Think of our animals’ digestive systems like vehicles. While they all take fuel to run, there are certain types of fuel that work best for particular vehicles, whether that’s high-grade gasoline, diesel, coal or electricity. To help that vehicle run, you need to give it the fuel its “body” prefers.

Probiotic supplements contain living bacteria, generally sourced from cows, goats or sheep in a dairy form. When you give a probiotic supplement to your pet, you are introducing a foreign strain of bacteria into the system. In our fuel example, this is like putting a low-grade gasoline into a high-performance car. Sure, it’ll get the car moving, but it won’t allow the vehicle to perform at its best.

Prebiotics are an ideal food source for your pet’s native, preferred strain of probiotics. Prebiotics cannot feed (penetrate the cell walls) unwanted bacteria.

Prebiotic supplements work to quickly shift the balance of beneficial bacteria to a healthy, natural state. Prebiotics will double your pet’s friendly bacteria every 20 minutes. So, in just three hours, 1,000 bacteria become over 5 million! This targeted feeding allows the beneficial bacteria to multiply, thrive and line the intestinal walls, while undesirable bacteria starves, has nowhere to attach and flush right through the system.

How do antibiotics interact with prebiotics and probiotics?
Antibiotics are intended to kill harmful bacteria in the pet’s system. Unfortunately, they often kill the beneficial microbes as well, including any introduced through a probiotic supplement. However, because prebiotics are not living, they are well-suited to support the digestive tract even during antibiotic use.

Why are enzymes important?

Enzymes are the building blocks of life. The functions of enzymes are the same in humans as in animals. These little proteins control essential chemical reactions inside our pets’ (and our) bodies, such as building bones, developing red blood cells, healing wounds, driving heart beats, thinking, breathing and digestion. Without enzymes, life couldn’t exist.

There are three types of enzymes: metabolic enzymes, digestive enzymes, and food enzymes. Metabolic enzymes are responsible for operating the body’s organs, tissues and cells. Digestive enzymes break down foods, allowing their nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream and used in body functions. Digestive enzymes ensure our pets get the greatest possible nutritional value from their diets. Lastly, food enzymes are those supplied directly from food.

When our dog or cat is born, he or she has an ample supply of enzymes, but stress, environmental factors, processed foods and aging all reduce the body’s ability to replenish the enzyme supply. Think of enzymes as a bank account. The body is constantly pulling from this account to maintain functions critical to life, and it’s essential to make deposits into this account to ensure the body has what it needs to “pay the bills” (stay healthy).

Digestion trumps all other functions. Think of digestion as the mortgage. This bill has to be paid before anything else, and if there aren’t enough funds to meet the need, the body will pull enzymes from other “accounts” to ensure digestion is completed.

How do we make deposits into this enzyme bank account? One way is to feed our pets raw foods. When foods are heated over 118 degrees Fahrenheit, their enzymes are destroyed. However, even raw foods only contain enough enzymes to digest that food. When considering our bank account metaphor, raw foods make a deposit that is instantly withdrawn. They don’t have any surplus to help replenish the account.

The most effective way to maintain a healthy enzyme level is through supplementation of high quality digestive enzymes.

Unlike hormone replacement therapy, the body does not become dependent on enzyme supplementation. Enzymes are already being produced in the body in response to food intake. The problem lies in the inadequate production of enzymes to meet the demands of stress factors, including denatured food, environmental toxins, physical exercise and emotional stress. Therefore, enzyme supplements help the body to simply catch up to its demands.

In Clover’s digestive aids, OptaGest and Fresh Digest, contain clinically tested levels of digestive enzymes. Just 1/4 teaspoon contains 45 mg of human-quality, plant-based enzymes in addition to 700 mg of organic prebiotic to support a healthy intestinal balance. Just sprinkle over or mix into daily meals to help maintain your pet’s enzyme bank account.

Interested in learning more about enzymes? We recommend The Healing Power of Enzymes by Dr. DicQie Fuller, PH.D., D.Sc.

Help! My pet is eating poop!

By: Rebecca Rose

The name for this is coprophagia. It is a common problem and there are ways to make it stop!

Sometimes the cause of coprophagia is behavioral. The dog must be trained that eating his feces, or the feces of other animals, is not okay. This can be accomplished by spraying bitter apple over the feces.

Another common reason for coprophagia is that the animal is not adequately digesting the nutrients in the food, leaving partially digested food in the feces. This can be stopped with an enzyme supplement such as OptaGest. Use a product with plant-based enzymes as they will work fast and be most complete. The enzymes will allow the dog or cat to digest all of the nutrients in the food and absorb them into the bloodstream. You will even notice the size and color of the stool changing. In cases like these, stool eating should cease in a few days after starting the supplement regimen.

Help for Hairballs

By: Rebecca Rose, In Clover founder and product developer

If you have ever watched your cat wrenching to expel a hairball, or if you have stepped on a hairball in the middle of the night, you have experienced the discomfort of hairballs. Hairballs are known in scientific circles as trichobezoar and are very common in cats, especially in long-haired cats (although they occur with any length of hair). They are more common during warmer seasons and climates.

Studies have shown that cats normally spend as much as one-third of their waking hours cleaning and grooming themselves. Because of the structure of their tongue, a majority of this hair becomes consumed during grooming.

Cat hair is made up of keratin, a type of protein. When the cat is unable to break down and digest the hair, it forms into a hairball in the digestive tract. It is this hairball that causes the discomfort.

OptaGest gets to the root of hairballs with protease, the enzyme that digests proteins. OptaGest works to break down the hair so it can easily pass through the system. With daily use of OptaGest, hairballs will be a thing of the past.

Watch the active enzymes in OptaGest digesting a cup of oatmeal: In Clover Enzyme Test.

Traveling with your pet

By: Rebecca Rose, In Clover founder and product developer

Ahhh, summertime, and a pet parent’s thoughts turn to “who is going to take care of my fur baby while I am on vacation?” Or, if you are the lucky sort who can travel with your pet, “how will I deal with the stress that goes along with travel?”

Travel, separation and kenneling can be stressful on you and your pet and that stress often affects your pet’s digestive system. Having an upset stomach away from home can lead to a messy situation. But there is help.

A dog and cat’s digestive tract is shorter than a person’s. Food moves quickly through and is often not completely digested. There are many things that complicate digestion and the stress of summer is one of them. Here is where a complete digestive supplement will make for a healthier pet and help avoid a messy and uncomfortable situation. Complete digestive supplements provide the enzymes necessary to absorb the nutrients in the food and feed the good bacteria in the digestive tract, which gets rid of the toxin making organisms that can live in a dog or cat’s intestine.

Here are some cues that your dog or cat could use a digestive supplement:

  • We are going through a stressful time, such as travel, kenneling, separation.
  • I have made a food change.
  • My pet is on antibiotics.
  • Gas, diarrhea or constipation are problems.
  • My cat has hairballs.
  • My pet is over 6 years old.
  • I feed kibble or wet food.

If you answered yes to one or more of these, it is time to consider a digestive supplement. As a scientist and dog and cat mom, I look at just three important parameters:

  1.  Plant based digestive enzymes.
    • Plant based enzymes work from the tongue to the tail
    • The key enzymes include Protease to break down the protein in the diet, Amylase breaks down starch, Lipase breaks down fats, such as Omega-3s, and Cellulase breaks down plant fibers.
  2. Clinically tested levels of prebiotics.
    • Prebiotics are the food for the good bacterial that are NATURALLY in your pet’s digestive system. Clinically tested levels of prebiotic (700 mg per cup of food) will selectively feed the good bacteria. It is more specific to healing than feeding a probiotic which is an actual, often dairy strain, bacteria.
  3. No dairy, sugars, grains.
    • These are extras that are not part of what the supplement does to help the digestive process and may even cause unwanted complications.

Sounds pretty simple but what a powerful wellness tool you are giving your pet when you think about the fact that at least 70% of the immune system is housed in the digestive tract.  A pet with a healthy digestive tract will be able to face the car, hotel, kennel or pet sitter with a happy, comfortable tummy and a healthier system over all. Watch how digestive enzymes work in this fun oatmeal test video.