Probiotics for Dogs

Should you give your dog probiotics?

Probiotics have gained popularity over the past few years thanks to the many purported benefits they offer to people. It’s no surprise that dog lovers want to extend those benefits to their pups as well.

But, are probiotics safe for dogs? And, if they are, will they offer the same health benefits to dogs?

We’ll cover the ins and outs of offering probiotics to your dog throughout this article, beginning by explaining just what probiotics are.

We’ll explain how dog probiotics differ from probiotics for people, as well as how they are similar.

Finally, we’ll give you some tips on buying the right probiotics for your special canine friend.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are the live bacteria and yeasts that live in our gut and help keep the gut healthy.  Specifically, they help maintain the proper balance of good and bad bacteria in your GI tract.

Everybody has bacteria in the gut, but the balance of that bacteria changes constantly as we expose ourselves to different foods, antibiotics, and environmental stressors.  If you’ve ever experienced gastrointestinal upset before an important meeting or big exam, or after eating at some fast-food restaurants, then you’ve experienced this imbalance first hand.

Some people find that consuming probiotics regularly can help to maintain the proper balance of bacteria, regardless of what life throws at us.

How are dog probiotics different from probiotics for humans?

Overall, probiotics for dogs are going to be similar to those for humans. However, because dogs and humans have different diets, the levels and types of bacteria are going to be different.  In addition, dogs’ stomachs tend to be more acidic, potentially leading to a need for a different probiotic supplement which accounts for this acidity.

It is recommended that only pet-grade probiotics be used for your dog.

What are the benefits of probiotics for dogs?

While more research is needed to draw definite conclusions about the benefits of pet-grade probiotics, more and more veterinarians and pet owners are reporting first-hand experiences with the positive outcomes of using the supplement.

Possible benefits include:

  • healthier stools
    Dog owners have reported that after introducing probiotics as a dietary supplement their dogs stools became firmer, more compact, and less smelly. Supposedly as the gut becomes healthier and is able to absorb more of the nutrients from food, there is less waste.
  • strengthened immune systems
    The gut is the largest organ of an animal’s immune system. As such, keeping this area healthy will have positive residual effects on one’s overall immunity.
  • increased life span
    Dogs with improved health are more likely to live longer.  By supporting your dog’s immune system with probiotics, you are increasing the likelihood that the dog will be able to combat potentially life-threatening illnesses and diseases.

Probiotics for dogs with diarrhea

There are many possible reasons why your dog might be experiencing loose stools.  Stress and antibiotics are prime culprits for diarrhea in many dogs.  In addition, puppies who are still building up their immune systems are prone to experiencing digestive problems.  Probiotics have been shown to reduce diarrhea in puppies and other dogs with diarrhea from various causes.

Probiotics for gassy dogs

Gassiness in dogs is often associated with poor gut health.  Starting your dog on probiotics in order to reduce gassyness can help.  However, some people report increased gassiness in their dog shortly after starting them on the supplements.  Manufacturers attribute this to the gut getting used to a new environment and recommend continuing with the probiotics for a total of 4 weeks before deciding whether to quit them. Most people find that their dog’s gas improves with continued use.

Probiotics for dogs with IBD

Probiotics may be recommended for dogs with Irritable Bowel Disease in order to increase the beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Results will probably vary depending upon the dog. Be sure to check which microflora bacteria are used in the probiotics you choose for your dog, and verify with your vet that it is safe for your pooch.

Probiotics for dogs with skin allergies

People usually think of stomach issues when the subject of probiotics comes up, but there are many pet owners who swear by them for easing their dogs’ skin problems.  People have been using probiotics to help with their eczema for years and, while the research is limited, there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that using probiotics may help with your dog’s excessive itchiness.

When looking through the reviews on Amazon for the various options of probiotics for sale, we couldn’t help but notice the number of reviewers with similar stories: They’ve been searching for an answer to their dog’s skin problems for years, have seen numerous vets who have prescribed various shampoos or medications, and only after introducing probiotics did their pet finally find some relief.

Possible signs of skin allergies in dogs:

  • hair loss on paws or knuckles from licking
  • scratching ears (may indicate yeast infection in the ear)
  • rash
  • excessive shedding or hair loss
  • flaky skin
  • discoloration on dog’s skin
  • hot spots

If you notice your dog displaying any of these symptoms, you should contact your vet and discuss the option of adding probiotics to your dog’s diet.

What are the best probiotics for your dog?

The best probiotics will have 3 features:

  1. It should have live cultures.
  2. It should have the strain of microflora bacteria that will benefit your dog the most.
  3. It should have a substantial amount of microorganisms per serving (suggested is at least 1 billion CFUs per scoop).

Generally the packaging should say if it contains live cultures or not.  Products with live cultures usually need to be refrigerated to stay fresh, or they are stored in packets or capsules.  It is generally recommended that consumers look for a probiotic product that contains several different bacterial strands in order to create a healthy balance in the gut.

Most recommended probiotics based on user reviews:

Can you give your dog yogurt for probiotics?

Yogurt is usually safe for dogs unless they are known to be lactose intolerant. The great thing about yogurt is the live cultures that are usually present.

Unfortunately, not all yogurts contain live cultures, so it’s important to check the label.  In addition, there is some debate over how effective the probiotics in yogurt are after going through the pasteurization process.

Generally speaking, purchasing the probiotics in its raw form will likely give you better results.

That said, if you’d like to give yogurt to your dog for its potential health benefits, give the following suggestions a try:

  • organic yogurt
  • plain, non-sweetened yogurt
  • kefir
  • Greek yogurt

We have found that offering our dog some yogurt inside of a hollow marrow bone is a delightful and fun treat! Alternatively, some prefer to add a dollop of yogurt right onto their dog’s food.  In either case, be sure to monitor your pet for signs of intolerance to the dairy treat.

The Bottom Line

Overall, probiotics can have many positive effects on your dog’s health, including easing gastrointestinal upset and relieving some skin problems. Many folks are pleasantly surprised by changes in their pets stool and report that their dogs’ poops are firmer, smaller, and less smelly.

Before adding yogurt or probiotic supplements to your dog’s diet, please be sure to read the labels carefully.  Look for products that contain live active cultures with several different bacterial specimen, and no sugar or other unhealthy fillers.

Finally, remember that each animal is different and has a unique body chemistry.  What works for one dog might not work for another, thus product reviews must be taken with a grain of salt.  Sometimes it takes some trial and error to find the best product or dietary solution to meet your dog’s needs.