Probiotics for Dogs: Everything You Need to Know
Written by FOTP Team
Medically approved by Cathy Piche BA, RVT, CCRP
Both human and animal bodies are chock full of healthy and not-so-healthy microorganisms (or “microbes”), such as bacteria and yeasts. Probiotics are the good, helpful, healthy kind.
Put simply, probiotics are a type of bacteria that live inside the body, benefiting the digestive system, bolstering the immune system, and restoring balance to the gut when it’s been upset by illness, stress, or medication.
You’ll often find probiotics sold as supplements, or in yogurt with live cultures, or fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, or tempeh.
So, What Are Probiotics for Dogs?
Probiotics for dogs are species-specific microbes found in animal-friendly supplements designed to boost your pet’s wellbeing.
In other words, they deliver good bacteria to a dog’s gastrointestinal system, bringing balance to your pup’s stomach, intestines, and digestive tract to promote health and prevent disease.
How Do Probiotics for Dogs Work?
To learn how probiotics work for dogs, it’s helpful to understand the canine digestive system in a little more detail.
Like humans, your best friend has this complex ecosystem in their gut, called the “microflora.”
The microflora is home to billions of busy microscopic organisms, such as bacteria and yeast, which help with digestion, bolster the immune system, fight off nasty infections, and produce vitamins and nutrients. This community of microbes is known as the “microbiome.”
Keeping your dog’s microbiome flourishing is crucial for their health and wellbeing. That’s because your dog’s gut is home to most of its immune system, with the majority of their immunity-producing cells residing there.
Probiotics can support a dog’s digestive and immune health by reaching the gut alive and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. They also encourage the development of friendly bacteria to keep things in balance, and they can produce certain vitamins and short-chain fatty acids, which bring their own health benefits.
Why Give Dogs Probiotics?
Generally, a healthy dog can maintain a happy, natural balance of gut bacteria without needing a probiotic supplement.
But there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that topping up your four-legged friend’s diet with health-boosting microbes can benefit them from top to tail.
So, when might you need to give your dog a probiotic?
Certain situations can impact your pup’s overall health, upsetting their intestinal microbial balance (the levels of good and bad bacteria in their gut).
These often include:
- Times of stress, such as moving or boarding. Stressful situations can sometimes result in colitis and diarrhea.
- Illness or infection.
- Old age.
- Poor diet or abrupt changes in eating habits.
- Prescription medications, such as antibiotics. These can kill good bacteria while fighting infection, causing stomach issues and diarrhea.
- Contact with parasites.
Note: it might also be a good idea to give your dog probiotics as a preventative measure, to make sure your pup stays happy and healthy.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs?
There are several potential benefits to probiotic supplements for dogs:
- They can aid digestion, helping to break down food and pass it through the digestive system.
- They can treat diarrhea, intestinal inflammation, and irritable bowel syndrome. This study found that dogs taking probiotics suffered from diarrhea for a shorter period than dogs taking a placebo.
- They can help reduce stress, and have a calming influence on your dog’s behavior. This can result in less barking, reduced separation anxiety, and additional benefits.
- They can boost the immune system, fighting off nasty pathogens and gut intruders. This study discovered that dogs taking the probiotic Enterococcus faecium had far higher levels of gut immunity after five months than those who didn’t.
- They can help reduce the impact of allergies in dogs, particularly food-related ones.
What Are in Probiotic Supplements for Dogs?
Probiotic supplements for dogs will usually contain one or more types of beneficial bacteria, along with a variety of healthy, natural, and helpful ingredients.
Species-specific strains of probiotics worth noting include Enterococcus faecium, Bacillus coagulans, Bifidobacterium animalis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus. These slow the duration and severity of diarrhea, improve stool quality and consistency, boost the immune system, and increase the absorption of nutrients in dogs.
But what’s the best probiotic for dogs?
That’s up for debate, of course. But in our daily dose supplement, The One, we use a probiotic called BP-L1. It’s a heat-treated probiotic, which, simply put, is more effective than live probiotics. This is because live probiotics tend to be dead on arrival, whereas heat-treated ones are still alive when they get into your dog’s system.
At FOTP, we combine the benefits of probiotics with clinically-proven ingredients to support healthy digestion, bolster immune health, improve skin and coat health, and alleviate stress and anxiety. You can check out our full range of products here.
Probiotics for Dogs FAQs:
How Long Does It Take to See Results of Probiotics for Dogs?
When taken regularly, most dogs will begin to show results in around six weeks.
Can Dogs Take Human Probiotics?
No, it’s not a good idea to give a probiotic supplement designed for humans to your pet.
While you both have a colony of good bacteria to look after, your dog’s digestive system is still very different from your own. Sharing your probiotic with them could result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. What’s more, the bacteria could multiply faster than usual, causing inflammation and infection.
It’s always better to err on the side of caution and give your pooch dog probiotics. That way, you know they’re getting the species-specific probiotic strains they need for a healthy gut.
Can Dogs Eat Human Foods With Probiotics?
Yes, there are some human foods with probiotics that you can safely serve your dog.
Plain, natural yogurts or fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut, can be mixed with your dog’s food to give them a generous dose of good bacteria.
Just make sure you read the labels carefully before doing so, as foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners like xylitol can be harmful to animals.
Can Puppies Take Probiotics?
Yes, puppies and young dogs can take probiotics.
It’s a good idea to supplement their diet with dog-specific probiotics, as it will not only support their growth and development but also keeps their immune system in check, reducing the risk of infection, constipation, and diarrhea.
Just make sure you read the instructions carefully and choose the correct serving size for your dog’s age and weight. Front of the Pack’s probiotic supplement, The One, is only suitable for dogs over the age of 12 months.
Do Probiotics Have Side Effects for Dogs?
Yes, some dogs can experience mild side effects when they start taking probiotics.
If you’re giving your pup a probiotic due to a digestive issue (or your vet has recommended probiotic supplements), you may notice the symptoms worsen slightly before they improve. These symptoms can include bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. However, in time, these tend to clear up as the probiotic does its thing.
It’s also vital that you stick to the suggested serving size when giving your dog a supplement. If your pet accidentally consumes more than the recommended dose, speak to your veterinarian.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are types of fiber that promote the growth of good bacteria. Essentially, prebiotics feed probiotics.
In our one-a-day probiotic dog supplement, we use sunfiber as a prebiotic. As it passes through the intestines, it breaks down into short-chain fatty acids that help grow good bacteria in the gut, supporting intestinal health in the process.
Probiotics for Dogs: Stick With It, Results Take Time
When it comes to probiotics for dogs, studies show that “friendly” bacteria can help your dog’s bowel movements, reduce the frequency and severity of diarrhea, and even boost their immune system. But it’s not an overnight problem solver.
By supplementing your pup’s diet with probiotics, you’re essentially sending in reinforcements, colonizing their gut with good bacteria to bring about balance and promote health. This takes time and, more importantly, consistency.
The One supplement makes this easy. Simply sprinkle the recommended number of scoops onto your dog’s food once a day, or mix it in with their favorite healthy snacks. Our combination of clinically-proven ingredients helps good bacteria thrive, supporting your dog’s digestive system and gut health, as well as alleviating stress, anxiety, and allergies.
Positive, noticeable improvements in improved stool consistency can be seen in just a few days with peak results usually taking 4-6 weeks.