You take probiotics for your immunity, your overall digestive health and to ward off diarrhea when you travel. But what about your best friend? Is probiotics for dogs as beneficial for them as they are for you?
Absolutely! Probiotics benefit dogs in much the same way they benefit humans. These “good” bacteria live in your dog’s digestive tract just as live in yours. And according to studies, these beneficial bacteria do just as much good work in a canine’s system as they do in a human’s, such as modulating their immune system and aiding in digestion.
They also slow the growth of “bad” bacteria, like Clostridium perfringens, Salmonella and E. coli, and offer the intestine additional benefits like regularity and relief from constipation and diarrhea.
There are, of course, fewer studies on probiotic effects on dogs as compared to humans. But what the human studies prove on the effectiveness of probiotics in treating intestinal inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea as well as urinary tract infections, inflammation and decreased permeability in the intestines, can be seen to be true for dogs as well.
What is Probiotics for Dogs Good For?
Just as with people, bacteria in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract is influenced by a variety of factors, from an unhealthy lifestyle to emotional stress, and so on.
For example, veterinarians often prescribe steroids and antibiotics for dogs. These products do their jobs well and are often necessary, but they also have the unwanted effect of killing off the “good” bacteria in your dog’s gut.
There are other stressors that may throw off your dog’s ratio of good to bad bacteria in his gut. They include:
- Poor quality diet and unusual eating habits (we’ve all had dogs who insist on eating rocks, sticks, feces or grass)
- Sudden diet changes, if your dog has previously been one the same brand and type for a long time
- Drinking unclean water, from ditches, lakes or ponds
- Ingesting of chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides in his water
- Steroids and antibiotics
- Boarding at a vet office or kennel
- Gastrointestinal (GI) disease
- Emotional stress (often caused by changes in a dog’s lifestyle)
When stressors like these upset your dog’s balance of good and bad bacteria in his gut, it can cause other health and nutritional problems like chronic or intermittent diarrhea and poor absorption of food.
An imbalance of intestinal flora also makes your dog more vulnerable to the development of leaky gut (known as dysbiosis). If this occurs, your dog can absorb allergens and partially digested amino acids into his bloodstream. This can cause many other health problems, including autoimmune diseases.
Which Probiotic Strains are Best for Dogs?
Some manufacturers simply take probiotic formulas designed for humans and package them for dogs. There are various problems with that approach. If multiple strains of probiotics are used in a product, it can cause problems for humans and dogs alike, even though the individual probiotics have good human research backing them up.
The biggest issue with multi-strain probiotics for dogs is that many strains of probiotics have not been tested or researched for dogs. What’s good for the human is not always good for the canine so when it comes to probiotics, it’s best to stick to probiotic strains that have been shown to be safe and effective for dogs.
Another drawback to multi-strain probiotics for dogs is that some strains simply don’t work well together and may even compete with each other to be absorbed. Lastly, these multi-strain formulas for dogs often include low amounts of each strain. This is a waste of money, because your dog won’t get the right amount of each strain to actually have any effect.
So what do we recommend? When it comes to probiotics for dogs, keep it simple and keep it safe. Choose a probiotic that has only a few of the most important, most beneficial strains for dogs. Here are the most well-researched and proven effective probiotic strains for dogs!
This probiotic strains is proven by research to be especially helpful for puppies and is commonly used to help puppies gain weight and grow. It is believed that probiotics are especially important for puppies, to bolster the foundation of their immunity. Puppies who were supplemented with L. acidophilus displayed less allergy symptoms and fewer diseases when they were older.
But it’s not just puppies who benefit, L. acidophilus is helpful for older dogs as well, helping to improve frequency and quality of stools.
This is quite possibly the most studied strain of probiotics for dogs. It reduces acute diarrhea and can improve your dog’s overall intestinal health. Most dog probiotic formulas, however, don’t contain B. animalis.
This probiotic is a member of the Lactobacillus family, and offers many benefits for your dog. This strain is particularly helpful in the control of intestinal infections in dogs.
This bacterium is naturally concentrated in canine form, and it has very strong characteristics of survival. It has an innate ability to modify intestinal microbiota in a significant manner.
This is another probiotic that is naturally concentrated, like other bacteria that are inherent to canine microbiota. It is viable and strong, and is included in the most effective canine probiotic formulas.
In addition to L. salivarius and L. fermentum, L. rhamnosus is among the highly concentrated bacteria found naturally in your dog’s normal gut. If you find a product that does not include high amounts of this probiotic, it shouldn’t claim to be specially formulated for canines.
This funky sounding bacterium is a strain native to dogs and is commonly known as the ‘poop strain.’ It was found in studies to increase levels of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli as well as improve fecal quality and maintain higher levels of IgA, an antibody that protects against bacteria and viruses. E. faecium also helped puppies maintain their vaccination titers longer and helped with diarrhea and IBS.
What are the Best Probiotics for Dogs?
As we mentioned above, it’s a good idea to be wary about giving your dog multi-strain probiotics especially when you’re just starting out. The best bet? Keep it simple with just a few crucial probiotics for dogs that are sure to benefit his gut flora, boost his immunity and increase nutrient absorption.
What are the Proper Probiotic Doses for Dogs?
When you’re trying to choose a probiotic for your dog, you’ll see what appears to be a very haphazard approach in formulas, ranging from a low colony forming unit (CFU) count to CFU levels that are too high for dogs. You may wonder, what is the right amount for your dog?
For general canine health maintenance, canine research shows that 1 to 4 billion CFU each day is effective, depending on your dog’s weight.
- If your dog is under 50 pounds, start with 1 to 3 billion CFU a day.
- If your dog weighs more than 50 pounds, give him 2 to 5 billion CFU each day.
The dosage of probiotics for dogs will also vary depending on his unique health conditions. If your dog has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – yep, dogs get it, too – a higher count of CFU will likely be more effective. If your dog suffers from diarrhea, a lower CFU count is better. Higher CFU counts are usually contraindicated in dogs with diarrhea.
If you’re unsure what dosage is best for your dog, it’s best to consult a veterinarian and start with low doses and gradually ramp up.
What’s the Best Way to Give Probiotics to Dogs?
You’ll find some flavorful probiotic products that your dog will like, and others that have a neutral taste, so that it’s not difficult to get your dog to accept them. Mixing probiotics into wet food is the easiest way to feed your dog probiotics.
If you feed your dog dry food, introduce him to healthier, moist foods. Species specific diet foods work well with probiotics, to keep your dog healthy.
When is the Best Time to Give Probiotics to Dogs?
Sick pets could be in need of probiotics, but the most essential, best time to begin supplementing your dog’s diet with probiotics is when they are healthy and young. If your dog is given probiotics when still a pup, he will likely be healthier as he grows old.
The advice on when to give your dog probiotics, after you’ve decided to include them in his diet, can be confusing. You are advised on some sites to give probiotics on an empty stomach. Other sites recommend including probiotics with meals.
Actually, both are possible. Give your dog his probiotics in his first spoonful of a meal, so he has an empty stomach, and you still have something yummy to mix it with.
If your dog is taking antibiotics, therapeutic doses of probiotics two times a day may be helpful. If you can, try to break up your dog’s CFU’s into two doses per day, one during the morning and one during the evening. If he suffers from IBS, keep in mind that he will most likely need a higher dose than a dog that has diarrhea.
If you give probiotics as treats, your dog will probably look forward to them. This will make it easier to include them in his daily diet.