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We want our dogs to stay healthy for as long as possible, which is why pet parents are always looking for products that can support their dog's health. Many things that allow humans to stay healthy can help your dog remain in good health as well. For example, you need physical exercise and mental stimulation, like your dog. Another way humans and dogs are similar is their need for proper gut microbiome balance.
The gut plays a massive role in the overall health and wellness of your pup. If you're interested in improving your dog's gut health, this article will discuss probiotics for dogs, the benefits, the types of probiotics available, and when to give them probiotics to support their health.
- What Are Canine Probiotics?
- Dog Probiotics vs. Prebiotics
- Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs
- Types of Canine Probiotics
- When to Give a Dog Probiotics
- Probiotics for Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Notes
What Are Canine Probiotics?
Dog probiotics are microorganisms that are beneficial for gut health.1 These microorganisms live in the digestive tract along with other types of good bacteria. While bacteria may sound unhealthy, living animals need a healthy balance of good gut bacteria to promote a healthy digestive system. Probiotics are responsible for:
- Helping the digestion of food
- Fighting off pathogens
- Making nutrients and vitamins
- Supporting the immune system1
Probiotics for dogs typically contain the same healthy bacteria already found in their guts, including:
Ultimately, probiotics promote the balance of gut bacteria for a dog's overall health and wellness.2 They can alter the acidity of the digestive tract while releasing fatty acids that can help dogs stay healthy even if they've ingested harmful bacteria.3 Probiotics can also prevent the growth of harmful bacteria by limiting the nutrients available for the bacteria to thrive on and reducing the amount of bad bacteria in your dog's gut.3
Remember, your dog's immune system relies heavily on the gut, making it the first line of defense for preventing pathogens and illnesses.1
Dog Probiotics vs. Prebiotics
When shopping for probiotics for your dog, you may also come across another supplement that sounds similar: Prebiotics. Prebiotics can help sustain probiotics. While probiotics are living bacteria, prebiotics are considered the food source. Prebiotics are designed to nourish good bacteria in your dog's gut.1
Meanwhile, probiotics are the living organisms that live in your dog's gut that feed on prebiotics.3 Probiotics and prebiotics for dogs are both naturally found in their digestive system, but they are also great supplements to give your dog to promote better health.
Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs
If you’re asking yourself, “are probiotics good for dogs?”, the good news is that there are many benefits to supplementing your dog's diet with probiotics. We’ve outlined some of the top benefits below.
Probiotics can help alleviate digestive issues in dogs, including diarrhea, gas, cramping, and stomach bloating. If your dog has diarrhea, probiotics can reduce the duration to help them feel better faster. Stressed or sick dogs may face digestion problems because they don't feel well. However, probiotics can help keep their immune system healthy while regulating their digestive tract.1 Probiotics can also be used to treat constipation in dogs by acting as a natural dog laxative.
When your dog feels better, they're happier. Dogs with unhealthy guts and digestive problems can easily change their behavior and become anxious because they don't feel well. While probiotics support better digestive health, they can also help your dog feel their best. Ultimately, no one likes having an upset stomach or diarrhea, and your dog does not enjoy having accidents in the house.
Healthy Coat & Skin
Probiotics can support a dog's overall health, so they can have healthier skin and fur. Because probiotics make it easier for your dog's body to produce and absorb essential vitamins and minerals, their fur and skin will become less dry and dull, which can relieve dandruff and dry skin.
Alleviate Gut-Related Illnesses
Probiotics can help your pet digest their food better. They can also counter problems caused by poor gut balance, including immune system disorders and anxiety. Dogs with stress colitis, for example, can benefit from taking probiotics to help combat anxiety and relieve any digestive system problems caused by colitis, such as diarrhea.
Combat Antibiotic Usage
Antibiotics are great for treating illnesses, but they also eliminate good and bad bacteria.1 Since your dog needs good gut bacteria to thrive, giving your dog probiotics can help replace the bacteria they lost due to long-term antibiotic use.
Types of Canine Probiotics
Your dog can get probiotics in several ways, including:
- Yogurt or kefir: Yogurt contains live probiotic cultures, but you should only give your dog unsweetened plain yogurt and avoid any artificial sweeteners like xylitol.1
- Powders: Powders are a great option for dogs because you can add probiotics directly to their food and know that your dog will eat it.
- Capsules: If you've mastered the art of giving your dog pills, capsules are another great way to ensure your dog gets the necessary probiotics for their gut health. You can give your dog a pill wrapped in boiled chicken or put it in a treat pill pouch and let your dog swallow it without ever knowing there was a supplement inside.
- Chews: Perhaps the easiest way to give your dog probiotics is to get them a probiotic chew that they'll believe is nothing more than a delicious treat. Probiotics are a great option for any dog, especially those that don't take pills well.
- Dog food: Some dog foods contain probiotics, which can be a great way to ensure your dog is getting the proper nutrition and probiotics they need to thrive. You can also find food with prebiotics to feed the probiotics and balance your dog's gut microbiome.
To find the right probiotic product for your dog, look for a probiotic that contains live bacteria and identifies the strain on the packaging. You can also ensure you're getting enough live bacteria by checking the guaranteed analysis on dog food and treats.1 Additionally, don't give your dog probiotics that have expired. While expired probiotics likely won't harm your pet, there's no reason to give them something that’s no longer effective.
When to Give a Dog Probiotics
Dogs can take probiotics regularly to promote digestive health. However, dogs that benefit the most from probiotics are those suffering from digestive problems, such as:
- Bacterial imbalance
- Bacterial infection
- Internal parasites1
Additionally, some lifestyle changes can affect your dog's digestive system, including stressful situations, change in food, and even allergies.1
Dogs prone to diarrhea in stressful situations can be given a probiotic to help manage the symptoms associated with anxiety. For example, if you're going to have company over, you may give your dog a probiotic in advance to keep their gut healthy and minimize the risk of diarrhea.
Of course, it's important to speak to your vet before giving your dog anything new, especially if they're currently taking medication or suffering from a medical illness. For example, immunocompromised dogs should not be given probiotics unless under veterinary supervision.3
Probiotics for Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best probiotic for dogs?
A good source of probiotics for dogs is yogurt, but you can find supplements in many forms, including treats, capsules, and powders. The best probiotic for your dog depends on their preferences. For example, many dogs will happily take a probiotic treat but may not be able to swallow a pill. When looking for a probiotic, look for a product that contains multiple strains to offer your pet the most benefits.
Can I give my dog human probiotics?
Technically, dogs can take human probiotics as they're not considered hazardous to pets. However, they don't provide the same benefits as probiotics designed specifically for dogs. If you want to give probiotics to dogs, consider giving them plain, unsweetened yogurt or a probiotic supplement designed for their species.
When should I give my dog probiotics?
You can give your dog probiotics regularly to help support a healthy gut. Probiotics can also be given before stressful situations to minimize the risk of diarrhea. It’s a good idea to talk to your vet about when you should give your dog probiotics.
Probiotics for dogs offer many health benefits by balancing their gut microbiome, which is responsible for a healthy immune and digestive system. Probiotics support your dog's overall health and minimize the risk of long bouts of diarrhea or constipation that can make them feel sluggish or sick. There are many ways to give your dog probiotics, including using a powder in their food, giving them a capsule, or getting probiotic treats. You can also share plain yogurt with them as long as it doesn't contain any artificial sweeteners.
Probiotics can be a great pet-safe remedy for constipation and diarrhea. If you can predict when your dog may have diarrhea, such as after stressful events, you may be able to prevent diarrhea before it begins. Of course, always check with your vet before giving your dog anything other than their regular food and medication. While probiotics are considered safe for most dogs, some should not take probiotics.
Not sure if your pet should take probiotics? Talk to an online vet today. With Dutch, you can connect with a vet who can help you find the solutions for your pet's health problems from the comfort of your own home. Instead of taking your stressed dog to the vet, our vets can help you determine which probiotics are best for their unique situation.A licensed veterinarian can also help you manage your pet's anxiety and get your dog a prescription online to help prevent diarrhea caused by stressful situations.
Staff, AKC. "Probiotics for Dogs." American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 27 Aug. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/probiotics-for-dogs/.
Smith, Zachary K. "Probiotics for Animals - Pharmacology." Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Apr. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/pharmacology/growth-promotants-and-production-enhancers/probiotics-for-animals.
"The Power of Probiotics." Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 25 Feb. 2022, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/canine-health-center/health-info/power-probiotics.