There are many reasons you might find yourself curious about dog probiotics. Maybe your dog recently did a round of antibiotics and your veterinarian recommended probiotics to support their gut health. Or maybe you’ve been struggling with some unpleasant digestive disruptions for your pet, such as diarrhea or gas, and you think dog probiotics might be a potential solution.
To make the best decisions for your dog’s health, you’ll need to understand exactly what probiotics are, how they impact your dog, and what to look for in a dog probiotic supplement if you choose to purchase one for your pet. Here is our guide to all things probiotic to help you make informed, educated decisions for your dog’s health and happiness.
The Basics of Canine Probiotics
As with any new wellness resource for your pet, it’s best to start with the basic questions:
- How does dog digestion work?
- What are dog probiotics?
- Are probiotics safe for dogs to use?
- Can I give human probiotics to my dog?
Understanding Your Dog’s Digestive System
It’s best to understand your dog’s digestive system as an ecosystem made up of billions of microbes, including bacteria, protozoa, and yeast. These microbes all work together to digest everything your dog consumes, pull out the important nutrients and energy from food, and expel the rest. This ecosystem is hugely important for supporting your dog’s immune system and their ability to fight off infection, so it’s vital to keep it working properly.
What Are Dog Probiotics?
Probiotics are a type of bacteria – one of the microbes that live in your pet’s gut. Probiotics go hand in hand with prebiotics, but they are different. Essentially, prebiotics feed probiotics.
By providing a food source for probiotics, prebiotics can promote gut health and a balanced intestinal biome. Both probiotics and prebiotics can be used to increase the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut and thus regulate their digestion.
Are Probiotics Good for Dogs?
Generally, probiotics can be a useful wellness tool for dogs. Dog-specific probiotics are widely considered safe for use. The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) has certified several brands of probiotics for companion animals.
That said, the question “Are probiotics good for my dog?” can only be answered by your veterinarian. Before you introduce a probiotic into your pet’s daily routine, it’s important that you consult your veterinarian about the safety and possible risks of doing so. They will be able to offer you detailed information and also offer advice on the type of dog probiotic you should purchase.
Can I Give My Dog Human Probiotics?
No, this is not recommended. The gut biome of dogs and humans is different. While some human foods are safe for dog consumption, probiotic products that you give to your dog should be canine-specific.
What Do Probiotics Do for Dogs?
Probiotics are intended to improve and regulate your dog’s gut health. These good bacteria can serve a variety of purposes and provide different benefits when it comes to your specific dog’s needs. Some pet owners choose to give their dog probiotics in order to:
- Support their pet’s digestive health
- Improve intestinal balance
- Promote general wellness
Probiotics for Dogs May Support Your Pet’s Digestive Wellness
Your dog’s digestive system is hard working. While the best way to support this system is with a healthy, well-rounded diet for your canine, you can also use probiotics to provide additional support and ensure that your pet’s digestion is in working order.
Probiotics can be an especially useful support in the face of digestive tract interruptions caused by external factors like stress. When your dog’s digestive system is disrupted, it can cause bad breath, cramping, gas, and diarrhea – all of which are uncomfortable for your pet and very unpleasant for you, as well.
Probiotics might support your pet’s body in accessing the full nutritional array offered by their daily meals. When your dog is getting the full array of their nutritional needs, they will have a stronger immune system and be more equipped to fight off illness and stay healthy and active.
Probiotics Can Support Your Dog’s Intestinal Balance
One of the primary reasons dog owners choose to incorporate a probiotic into their dog’s daily wellness routine is to help them maintain a solid, ideal microbial balance in their intestines. Your dog’s gut health is an important part of their daily life and comfort, and probiotics can support a balanced biome. Especially if your dog is experiencing stress, probiotics can be a useful source of comfort and gut health support to get things back in working order.
If they've noticed their dog’s digestion is affected by stress, some owners actually give their dogs probiotics in anticipation of stressful events, such as a fireworks holiday or a vacation where they’ll be separated from their animal.
Probiotics might be recommended by your veterinarian after a round of antibiotics, which can sometimes create a bacterial imbalance in your dog. Additionally, some infections might cause an increased growth of bacteria in your dog’s gut, and probiotics can be a tool for mitigating that issue (along with other treatments for the infection).
Promote General Wellness with Probiotics
Probiotics can be part of a holistic wellness routine that keeps your dog comfortable and functional. Your dog’s body is a remarkable, interconnected system – smooth digestion will support better sleep, better sleep will support more activity during the day, and more activity increases your dog’s physical stamina and longevity. Probiotics can be part of a wholesome daily regimen that keeps your dog in the best shape and ensures you can play for many years to come.
Choosing a Good Probiotic for Your Dog
If you’ve decided probiotics are a good choice for your dog, it’s important to be selective about which products you buy and also be careful about how you store your dog’s probiotics. To do this, you’ll need to know:
- The different types of probiotics
- What to look for on a label
- How to store your dog’s probiotics
Types of Dog Probiotic Products
There is an enormous number of different probiotics, so products vary greatly. There are also many ways to give probiotics to your dog, including powders, soft chews, probiotic supplements, and even dog foods with probiotics in them. The best probiotic for dogs with chronic diarrhea might be different from the best probiotic for dogs dealing with an antibiotic-induced gut imbalance. Making these choices will require extensive research and input from your veterinarian.
Ingredients to Look for in a Dog Probiotic
For your dog, you’ll likely want a probiotic product that contains at least one of the following:
- Enterococcus faecium
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Lactobacillus casei
- Bifidobacterium animalis
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
But again, your veterinarian can offer specific advice on what kind of dog probiotic is best suited to your animal’s needs.
The best probiotics for dogs will not only include detailed information about the probiotic strain that is used in the product, but it should also provide a use-before date and a guarantee about how many bacteria will be in the product before that date. Probiotics are living things, so dog probiotics will be useless when a product expires because the organisms are no longer present to do their work.
Most Probiotics Require Special Storage
Probiotics are living organisms, so they are sensitive to various environmental conditions, and there will likely be specific care instructions on their packaging. Depending on your product, its viability might be affected by exposure to light, temperatures, and even air. Carefully follow the instructions on how to store your dog’s probiotics, and throw them out after the expiration date.
Consult Your Veterinarian About Dog Probiotics
If your veterinarian already suggested dog probiotics for your pet, we hope this guide empowers you to choose a product that’s right for you and your dog’s specific needs. If you think the benefits of probiotics might be a good solution for your pet’s digestive challenges or intestinal imbalance, or if you just want to give your dog as much wellness support as possible, consult your veterinarian before introducing something new.