Taking care of our beloved family doggos is always at the top of the pet-owning responsibility list. Some dogs suffer from chronic digestive problems, and others suffer when something changes in their diet or lifestyle. When digestive issues occur, owners and veterinarians alike turn to probiotics (aka gut-friendly bacteria), to alleviate symptoms and discomfort.
Perhaps your vet has suggested introducing probiotics to your dog’s diet to improve specific symptoms. Or maybe you’re wondering what all the fuss is about. Or perhaps you are looking for the best canine-friendly probiotics on the market. Whatever your reason for being here, this guide on probiotics for dogs is a must-read for anyone looking to introduce them to Fido’s diet.
Knowledge is key to making the best decision for your dog, so let’s dive in.
At a Glance
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- 1 What Are Probiotics?
- 2 Probiotic Benefits
- 3 Types Of Probiotics
- 4 Do Probiotics Work?
- 5 Probiotics Vs. Prebiotics
- 6 Are There Any Risks?
- 7 Best Probiotics For Dogs
- 8 How To Care For A Probiotic Product
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions
- 10 Final Thoughts
What Are Probiotics?
Essentially, probiotics are live, friendly bacteria. The word “probiotic” comes from the Latin word “for” (pro) and the Greek word “life” (bio). A microbiome consists of friendly and harmful bacteria. When this balance is upset, reserves of the friendly bacteria become depleted, and the harmful bacteria take over.
Some dogs have a well-balanced and robust microbiome that does not need much assistance to thrive and stay healthy. But some dogs struggle to maintain a healthy balance and need a little extra help with probiotics. The following can cause an upset microbiome:
- Change in diet and weaning
- Infections, disease, and parasites
- Eating spoiled food
- High carbohydrate diet
Although many high-quality diets already contain doggy probiotics, some dog foods do not. And some dogs simply need extra help despite having a well-balanced diet. Probiotics are a nutritional tool that acts as a top-up to your dog’s diet as and when they need it.
Friendly bacteria assist with smooth digestion, fighting infections, keeping the immune system strong, effectively absorbing and making nutrients, and more. A healthy dog is a happy dog, so probiotics come with a wide selection of benefits. By giving your dog the right probiotics, you can improve many of the following problems:
- Upset stomach
- Excess gas
- Bad breath
If your dog experiences any of these symptoms regularly, it’s essential to speak to your vet. It could be due to of an imbalanced microbiome or perhaps something else altogether. Either way, it needs checking out. An upset tummy can also be caused by other more serious conditions, so be sure to check with your vet before proceeding with any course of treatment on your own.
Types Of Probiotics
There are many different types and strains of probiotics. The most common ones found in doggy digestive systems and products are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium breve, Enterococcus faecium, and Bifidobacterium lactis. Each strain targets a different part of the gut and has various benefits. So you must speak to your vet about which type of probiotic your dog needs to get the most out of them.
Probiotic products come in different forms too, and some dogs have preferences. In addition to those found in dog food, probiotic forms include yogurts with live cultures, powders, capsules, and dog chews. Some dogs find it easier to eat powder sprinkled over their food rather than swallowing tablets or capsules. And some owners find that their dogs are only fooled by probiotics masked as yummy dog chews or treats.
Do Probiotics Work?
There is not as much research on the effects and benefits of probiotics on dogs compared to human probiotics. But the evidence available suggests that they are effective for many dogs and alleviate the symptoms listed above. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that probiotics are effective during the developmental puppy stage by enhancing immunity responses.
Increasingly, veterinarians swear by probiotics and the overall health benefits they bring dogs. In an Irish study on puppy Beagles, veterinarians found that probiotic supplementation, specifically Bifidobacterium animalis, reduced the duration of diarrhea from seven to four days. It also reduced the need for antibiotic treatment in some cases. Although experts agree more research needs to take place, probiotics are proving to be beneficial.
Probiotics Vs. Prebiotics
To keep probiotic bacteria happy, dogs also need prebiotics. Prebiotics essentially feed the probiotic bacteria and help them successfully manage your dog’s gastrointestinal system. Prebiotics are fiber and other nutrients found in food. So for probiotics to be successful, dogs need prebiotic fiber. Foods rich in prebiotic fiber include pumpkin, chicory root, beet pulp, bananas, apple, barley, oats, and flaxseed, to name just a few.
High-quality foods should list some of these ingredients in their formulas and provide sufficient levels of prebiotics for your dog. Alternatively, feeding your pup bananas or apples as a healthy treat is a great way to get a little prebiotic fiber into their system. But the best way to ensure a well-balanced diet full of prebiotics and probiotics is to choose a high-quality diet.
Are There Any Risks?
Not all dogs are the same, meaning dogs react differently to probiotics. Some dogs do not reap any benefits, which could signify that their microbiome isn’t causing the problems. Some dogs may experience diarrhea, bloating, digestive discomfort, gas, nausea, or constipation when introduced to probiotics for the first time. All the symptoms you are trying to improve.
Sometimes the symptoms can become worse before they start improving. So you need to give the probiotics time to take effect on your dog’s symptoms. But like any dietary change or introduction of nutritional products, working with your veterinarian to manage potential risks is essential.
Best Probiotics For Dogs
In no particular order, let’s take a look at a few of the best probiotic products available for your pup. Each product is highly rated by other doggy owners and from well-known and trusted brands.
Zesty Paws Probiotic Soft Chews
Zesty Paws is a highly rated product that comes in chewable treat form, making it appealing to most doggos. Not only might they feel spoiled by the extra treats, but you can improve their gut health at the same time. The base is pumpkin and papaya, which are both tasty and nutritionally rich in enzymes and prebiotics, making sure everyone is a winner with these soft chews.
They are made of six strains of essential probiotics to support gut health. These live bacteria help the gut against diarrhea, bloating, and gas, improving their immunity against disease and illness. These chews are suitable for all life stages, and they are free from corn, wheat, soy, and grains.
We love that these probiotics come in soft chew form, making them straightforward for many dogs to eat compared to swallowing capsules. Plus, they double up as treats that all dogs love, and they taste yummy pumpkins.
VetriScience Probiotic Capsules
- All-natural, non-dairy product.
- Capsules can be split if your dog refuses to ingest them.
- It contains prebiotics too to ensure effectiveness.
- Multiple package sizes are available.
- Suitable for cats too.
This is an all-natural product that provides eight strains of probiotics for your dog’s digestive tract. It aims to normalize digestion, improve immunity, and improve diet. This product is suitable for all life stages and breed sizes, ideal for almost every dog. It contains prebiotics and probiotics, ensuring that the probiotics have what they need to do their job.
Compared to other capsules, these can be split and sprinkled if your dog decides that consuming pills isn’t for them. It’s a versatile product that you don’t have to throw away should Fido turn his nose up at them. It also comes in two sizes, one with 120 capsules and the other 240, ideal for larger dogs or big multi-pet households.
We love that these probiotics are non-dairy. This is an important feature for lactose intolerant dogs, which is quite common amongst dogs with sensitive stomachs. This option is also suitable for felines which is ideal if you are in a multi-pet household.
Purina Pro Plan FortiFlora Probiotic Sachets
- Crafted by vets, canine nutritionists, and researchers.
- Each probiotic dosage is individually wrapped.
- Made using a stabilizing microencapsulation process.
- Great-tasting liver flavor.
- Number one vet-recommended brand.
Purina Pro Plan has created these probiotic sachets for their Veterinary selection. It is crafted by veterinarians, canine nutritionists, and researchers. Each serving is individually packaged. Plus, it is developed using a proprietary microencapsulation process to stabilize the probiotic properties, which coats the particles to ensure their viability.
The powder is described as great-tasting, and the reviews agree with this statement in that their dog enjoyed it, which makes this a top choice for fussy pups. It is suitable for all life stages and sizes too. This product also comes in various sizes, making it ideal for every household’s needs. From 30 to 180 sachets, there are several choices. Research shows that this product is the number one recommended brand by veterinarians.
We love that this probiotic powder is individually packaged. Meaning that each daily dose is kept as fresh as possible, and the probiotics are guaranteed to be viable every time. This is what makes this our top probiotic option for dogs.
How To Care For A Probiotic Product
Probiotics are live microorganisms that need to be stored appropriately. Otherwise, they degrade and become obsolete very quickly. Although you need to follow the specific package instructions on the particular product you purchase, most probiotics need to be stored in a cool, dry place, in a container, or sealed appropriately. You also need to ensure that the use-before date has not already passed.
The problem with probiotics is that they are living microorganisms that live in the digestive tract, meaning they require certain conditions to survive. Exposure to temperature extremes, moisture, and air damage their viability. For example, leaving them in a hot car for a few hours means that they probably will not survive. And they certainly won’t be as effective as they should be.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I give probiotics to my puppy?
Yes, you can, and most of the products available are suitable for all life stages, including the products recommended above. Studies show that feeding probiotics to puppies help improve their digestion system and immunity response. It’s still important to discuss an introduction of probiotics with your vet to any diet. This is particularly important if your puppy or adult dog is currently on medication for something else.
Can I give my dog human probiotics?
Technically, dogs can take many human probiotics as long as they do not contain harmful ingredients. But they do not provide the same benefits as species-specific supplements do. So you are much better off purchasing supplements designed for dogs to reap the desired effects and get better value for your money.
Some human probiotic products, such as yogurt or kefir, contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol which are toxic to dogs. Yogurt should always be natural and unsweetened. Plus, humans are much bigger than dogs, so the doses may be too high. Overall, we do not recommend giving your pooch human probiotics.
How many probiotics should I feed my dog per day?
All of the probiotic products listed above and others on the market provide feeding instructions. For example, dogs over a certain weight may need more than one capsule or chew in some cases. But it’s essential to follow the feeding instructions for every individual product. Always feed supplements after a meal, unless otherwise specified. The digestion of food encourages better absorption of probiotics. Plus, it limits any stomach irritation that may occur in some dogs.
My dog’s symptoms are not improving. Now what?
Unfortunately, some dogs’ symptoms might become worse before they get better. If your dog’s symptoms are ongoing, or they get worse, you need to make an appointment with your vet. It’s also worth remembering that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. And there isn’t a probiotic product out there that cures all digestive problems in every dog.
My dog only experiences digestive problems during occasional times of stress. Do I have to use probiotics all of the time?
Many dog owners choose to give their dogs probiotics every day for ongoing digestive issues. But for some dogs, digestive problems only occur at certain times. Common examples include being boarded for vacation, vet visits, and training classes. If this is similar to your dog, you might choose to give them probiotics a few days before the event to avoid stress-induced digestive issues.
Like us humans, doggy digestive systems can be fickle, and it doesn’t take a lot to upset them or put them out of whack for a few days. And for some pups, their digestive tract simply struggles to regulate itself, meaning they need constant support to maintain a healthy microbiome. Whatever your reason for giving Fido probiotics, as you can see, they have many benefits.
To make sure that probiotics are the right option for your dog, you need to speak to your vet and discuss any probiotic supplements with them. Remember, all dogs are different, and there may be some trial and error involved when finding the right product for your dog. By trying the recommended products above, you, like many other doggy parents, should find the solution to your dog’s sickness or decrease the dreaded doggo gas.