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Probiotics for Dogs: Should I Give Them to My Healthy Dog?

Dog Nutrition Dogs
You have probably heard the term probiotic from TV yogurt commercials. But did you know that recent research has shown probiotics to have positive effects on dog digestion? Probiotic supplements are widely available on the market for dogs, with brands like Thorne Research, Purina and Nusentia. Vets will sometimes prescribe these to fight off specific digestion problems - but you can also use probiotics as prevention. Let’s take a close look at whether you should give your healthy dog probiotics.

"Did you know that probiotics can be a great addition to my diet?"

What Are Probiotics Anyway?

Let’s get to the basics first. Your pet’s gut (and ours for that matter) has a mix of healthy bacteria that’s good for them, and some not so healthy bacteria floating around causing trouble. Although the idea of bacteria in your gut sounds off-putting, it’s actually normal and necessary for optimal functioning. The key here is that the good and bad bacteria must be in balance. If your dog has too much bad bacteria in their gut, they’re likely to experience upset stomach and digestive issues. On the flip-side, you don’t want to kill off all the good bacteria by getting rid of all bacteria completely. That’s where probiotics come in. Probiotics are strains of healthy bacteria and yeast that help restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. Essentially, when your dog ingests them, they work to keep the healthy bacteria flourishing and the bad bacteria in check (instead of multiplying out of control).

"Ugh, I feel bloated again. Maybe I need me some probiotics..."

What About Probiotics for Dogs?

When it comes to your dog’s health, vets have realized that probiotics may provide relief for issues such as diarrhea and gastrointestinal upsets. A recent study, examined 31 dogs with diarrhea and 13 of them were given probiotics as the course of treatment. As a result, researchers noticed that dogs recovered 40% faster with probiotics; recovery time only took four days instead of seven days. Researchers also connected upset stomach and an out-of-balance bacteria count (too much bad bacteria). So probiotics restored the healthy balance of both good and bad bacteria. 

Why Should I Give My Healthy Dog Probiotics

While your dog’s overall health may be good, there are factors that can still lead to stomach issues. For example, stress often causes diarrhea in dogs, especially puppies. Old age is another reason for dogs to suffer from additional tummy problems. If your dog is prone to stomach problems then a probiotic supplement may be ideal for them. When dogs take probiotics daily, they’re less likely to experience stomach issues since the probiotics maintain a constant balance of healthy and bad bacteria. Essentially, the bad bacteria never have a fighting chance to thrive to the point of making your dog sick.

"So what if I am old? Doesn't mean I can't eat what I feel like - just give me some probiotics to help out!"

How Do I Feed My Dog Probiotics?

Before you start feeding your dog probiotic yogurt, you should know that although these options are safe for humans, they’re not always the best for dogs. Yogurts tend to be high in sugar and flavorings - neither are good for your pet's diet. While it's not necessarily dangerous, feeding your dog human probiotics probably won't have any positive effects either.  Your best bet is to find a canine-specific probiotic. These are safer for dogs and usually contain the exact strains that have been studied to have the most positive effects on dogs. You’ll want to look for the following strands in your dog’s probiotic:
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium animalis
  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Bacillus coagulans
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus (effective in both humans and pets!)
You should choose a probiotic that contains at least 10 different strains of bacteria and a large number of live organisms to be effective for your dog’s health. Also, look out for GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) ISO certification on the product label for the safest options.

"10 or more strains of bacteria please, otherwise it won't do much for me!"

If you're thinking of giving probiotics to your dog (and you should be!), speak with your vet for the best recommendations for your dog’s diet, just in case. You may be surprised to see a noticeable difference in the health of your dog while on probiotics; from healthier stools to higher energy levels. Unfortunately, the same results have not been found in cats so you’ll want to avoid this route altogether for your feline companions.

Craig Davis

Craig is a lifelong pet owner and dog advocate with a special interest in animal and human longevity. He founded Vet Organics to develop an affordable, all-natural, safe and effective ear infection remedy for his dog, Lucy, whose chronic ear problems could not be solved by the vet.

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*Results may vary based on factors such as age, size and physical condition of your pet.