What are dog probiotics?
In general probiotics are live bacteria and microbes that live in your gut and are very good for gut and digestive health. For years, humans have embraced the use of probiotics in both food and pill form to help regulate their digestive systems.
Did you know they can be good for your furry friends as well?
Like humans, dogs can benefit from having probiotics added to a balanced diet. Probiotics for dogs work really in the same way as they do for people by helping to regulate and fix imbalances in a dog’s digestive system. Understanding when and why to use probiotics for your dog is key for keeping them happy and healthy.
In this article, we will be exploring what exactly probiotics for dogs are, why they are so important, and where you can get a hold of them for your own dog. Plus, we will be covering the different types of probiotics you can choose from and even how to go about making your own DIY dog probiotics. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of probiotics for the dogs in your life.
What are Probiotics for Dogs?
When you are considering adding any sort of additional ingredient or item to your dog’s diet, it is important to have all the facts, including potential benefits and risks.
Probiotics are live bacteria which naturally in both human and animal bodies. Their main purpose is to help in digestion, but they also help to boost the immune system and provide vitamins and nutrients. External probiotics that come as food, pills, or another ingestible form. When the natural levels of probiotics in the body become imbalanced or damaged.
Like with any ingestible products for dogs, some probiotic options are better than others and not all probiotics work exactly the same. Plus, identifying a probiotic imbalance in your dog can sometimes be difficult.
It is always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian before introducing a probiotic product into your dog’s diet.
Why are Probiotics So Important
Probiotics serve a highly important role in a dog’s body.
So, ensuring your dog has the proper probiotic levels in their gut is often a necessary part of a strong care regimen. The most common use of probiotics for dogs is as a treatment for diarrhea. According to a 2019 clinical trial article, researchers have found probiotics to be effective in treating cases of diarrhea in dogs.
It is important to note, however, that different strains of probiotics have different levels of efficacy. As well as the fact that the effectiveness of probiotic treatment does depend on what leads to the dog’s diarrhea. There is currently ongoing debate and study of which strains are the most effective for use in canines.
The following probiotic strains are some of the more effective and commonly used types that dog-owners should look for when reading probiotic information labels:
Also, the following strains have been found to be naturally occurring and prominent in healthy canine digestive tracts:
What’s the Difference Between a Prebiotic and Probiotic for Dogs?
Prebiotics are another type of dietary addition to consider for your dog. Probiotics make up live bacteria that you can add to enhance your dog’s microbiome through digestible means.
Prebiotics are fiber-based foods that help to stimulate and maintain the growth of prebiotics. Prebiotics and probiotics work together to help maintain a healthy gut and digestive tract. While it is not entirely necessary to pair your dog’s probiotic with a complementary prebiotic, in many cases it can greatly affect the effectiveness of the live bacteria. Whether your dog needs both a prebiotic and probiotic, it ultimately comes down to their existing gut health and the state of their microbiome.
If you are unsure whether or not your dog is experiencing healthy levels of natural probiotics, it is best to consult with your veterinarian.
When Should You Use a Probiotic for Your Dog?
As we have covered, probiotics are naturally occurring within your dog’s body. Because of this, not every dog will need probiotics as a part of their diet.
Aside from getting the professional opinion of your veterinarian, the next best method for identifying potential probiotic level issues in your dog is by paying close attention to their bowel movements. Diarrhea or constipation are major symptoms of an unhealthy gut and can be used as an indicator for whether or not you should introduce a probiotic product into your dog’s diet.
There are a number of reasons why your dog’s gut health may be off balance, including:
Medications or antibiotics that hurt good bacteria
Dietary changes or imbalanced meals that upset a dog’s stomach
Stress and anxiety that disrupts the natural chemicals and probiotics in the gut
Bacterial imbalances caused by infections or parasites
Age is another major factor that can affect a dog’s digestive health. For each of these scenarios, probiotics can be useful for re-establishing a bacterial balance and combating irregular bowel movements.
Do Dog Probiotics Work?
The simple answer to whether or not dog probiotics work is: sometimes!
For major digestive issues such as infections, parasitic infestations, or potential disorders, your dog is likely to need a more intensive treatment than just probiotics alone. The best use for probiotics is for treating irregular bowel movements and gas not caused by a more serious medical condition, but rather by a non-life-threatening bacterial imbalance.
As we mentioned earlier, the strain of probiotic you are giving your dog will also impact how effective the dietary addition is. There are many types of strains of probiotics, and doing thorough research into which one is best for digestive and immune health in your dog is an absolute must. It is also highly important to remember that probiotics made for humans are not universally usable.
Human-grade probiotics may contain higher levels or ingredients that may not be healthy for use in dogs. So, using products specifically made for dogs is key.
The Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs
There are many benefits that can result from adding a probiotic to your dog’s diet. These benefits include:
More regular bowel movements
Less frequent occurrence of digestive issues, such as diarrhea or gas
Stress and anxiety reduction – keep in mind that stress actually has close ties to digestive health, so a healthy gut can also mean a healthier mind for your dog!
Boosted immune system
Management of yeast levels.
Different products are made for different purposes, so it is important to always read information labels thoroughly when purchasing a probiotic product for your dog. Also, it is important to always follow the recommended serving size and frequency recommendations provided by the product – if a product lacks this kind of information, it may be best to seek out a probiotic from a different brand or company.
The Types of Dog Probiotics
Probiotic products come in many different forms, which can be very helpful if your dog is a picky eater!
Finding a product that your dog enjoys will work great in adding a probiotic to their diet, and can even serve as a fun treat for them. The main types of probiotic products for dogs are powders, capsules, and chews.
But, probiotics can also come in the form of foods as well. The type of probiotic that is best for your own dog will ultimately come down to their specific personality and what types of foods and ingestible items they respond the best to. It can be helpful to consider what form of other medications your dog prefers, such as their heartworm prevention medicine.
If your dog responds well to the form these kinds of medications come in, finding a similar probiotic product may be the way to go. Below is a quick rundown of each of these products to help you decide which method of serving probiotics to your dog best fits your dog’s needs:
Powders are a fairly common form for dog probiotics to come in.
A lot of probiotics for dogs are flavourful and you can add them to your dog’s regular food and served during mealtimes. In order to serve a powdered probiotic, simply sprinkle the recommended amount over your dog’s food. If your dog likes the powder, they will eat it along with their normal food. This can be a good way not only to boost your dog’s probiotic levels, but also to make their mealtimes a little more exciting and tastier as well.
Capsules and Pills
For picky eaters and dogs who do not respond well to changes to their regular mealtimes, capsules and pills may be the way to go. Getting a dog to swallow a capsule or pill is the biggest challenge, but wrapping it up in a piece of cheese or bread can make it easier to trick them into eating the pill.
Probiotic chews are likely to be the most appetizing for your furry friend, thanks to their similarity in form to treats. However, chews may not always be the most effective type of probiotic, nor the healthiest.
This is because it is hard to find a chew with a high enough level of bacterial substance to actually make a difference. Plus, in the effort to make chews more like treats, they can actually end up being fattening or unhealthy. If chews are your preferred method, be extra attentive to the ingredients to ensure the chew will not upset your dog’s dietary balance.
Some manufacturers of dog food make dog food that contains probiotics in the recipe, though you may run into a similar issue as with chews of there not being a high enough level of probiotics mixed in.
Additionally, switching your dog’s regular food can actually result in a disruption to their digestive health in the short term. If you have already been looking to change your dog’s food, however, this may be a good option. When switching from one food to another, be sure to take it slowly and mix the two foods together for a couple weeks to give your dog’s body and gut time to adjust to the change.
Yogurt is a common way for humans to ingest probiotics, leading some to consider giving yogurt to their dogs as a way of introducing probiotics into their diet.
While yogurt is not inherently harmful to canines, it is important to not overfeed any type of dairy product to your dog as this can result in weight gain and potential digestive issues down the road. If you would like to give yogurt to your dog, it is better to use it as an infrequent treat. As well, always serve your dog a yogurt that is plain and unsweetened. Flavorings and sugars found in other yogurts may cancel out the benefits of the probiotics.
Side Effects of Dog Probiotics
Any change to your dog’s diet has the potential to bring about temporary side effects, including:
Bloating or gas
Generally speaking, these side effects are not an immediate cause for alarm and you should give your dog at least a week to adjust to dietary changes. However, if symptoms become severe or persisting, stop serving the probiotic and contact your vet right away.
Making DIY Probiotics for Your Dog: Natural Dog Probiotics
If you are interested in making your own probiotics for your dogs, the best method for doing so is looking up probiotic-dense foods that are safe for dogs. Making your own dog probiotics may help reduce the costs of owning a dog overall depending how often you'd like to use it.
Examples of probiotic-dense foods that are safe for dogs include:
Plain, unsweetened yogurt
Fermented vegetables – make sure to avoid items containing onion or garlic as these can be toxic to dogs
Remember that these kinds of foods should serve as additions to an already balanced diet, not a replacement for your dog’s regular food.
Where to Buy a Quality Probiotic for Your Dog
When looking for a probiotic product for your dog, you will want to make sure you are buying from a reputable and trustworthy source.
There are many strains and types of probiotics out there, so consulting with your veterinarian beforehand on which strains to seek out is key. Here are the best sources for purchasing quality probiotics:
Online Pharmacies: Online pet stores and pharmacies, such as Chewy, are great places to find quality products. Plus, you will have access to customer reviews to determine how effective or high-quality a product truly is.
Veterinarian Offices: Veterinary offices often have in-house pharmacies containing foods, heartworm prevention medicines, and more. Check with your vet to see if they carry any probiotic products.
Pet Stores: Pet supermarkets, such as PetSmart and PetCo, are likely to carry a selection of probiotic products. If this is the route you choose to go, be sure to thoroughly read the ingredients and possibly do extra research before purchasing.
Your dog’s gut health matters! Probiotics are a great and natural way to ensure your dog’s internal probiotic levels stay balanced and healthy.
If your dog is experiencing digestive issues, such as diarrhea or gas, probiotics can help to get them back on track. Keep in mind that these kinds of issues may be indicative of larger health issues, such as infections, parasites, or even digestive disorders.
If symptoms persist after introducing a probiotic, consult with your veterinarian at once.