Probiotics for Dogs: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

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Have you ever wondered if you should be giving your dog probiotic supplements? If so, this post is for you! Today we’ll be taking a look at what probiotics for dogs actually are, when this type of supplement can be beneficial as well as potential side effects you should be aware of.

If this interests you, read on to find out more!

Probiotics for Dogs: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

Image via Canva/Getty Images

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are the “good” microbes (bacteria and/or yeasts) that live naturally in your dog’s digestive tract that help to fight infection, aid digestion, and support a healthy immune system.

A healthy gut (or healthy microbiome), is one where both good and bad microbes coexist in the gut without problems. When balance is disturbed, and the “bad” microbes outweigh the “good”, a probiotic supplement can be given to help restore equilibrium.

Benefits and uses of probiotics for dogs

Although the mechanisms are not completely understood, some studies suggest that supplementing your dog’s diet with certain probiotic strains can help to:

  • Improve gut health and aid digestion
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Calm an upset stomach (incl. gas, diarrhea, and intestinal inflammation)
  • Improve fecal quality and stool consistency
  • Maintain a healthy weight by keeping your pup’s appetite under control
  • Manage and improve food-related allergies
  • Improve bad breath and skin conditions
  • Regulate behavior, mood, and boost energy

How do I know if my dog needs probiotic supplements?

Not all dogs need supplemental probiotics however, they can be beneficial when the natural balance of good bacteria in the gut has been disturbed, for example when…

  • Your dog has been unwell and/or on medication such as antibiotics
  • Your dog has been under significant stress (or will be)
  • Your dog has a sensitive stomach or suffers from food-related allergies
  • Your dog’s food has changed recently, or they eat a highly-processed diet of dried kibble
  • Your dog suffers from poor gut health or chronic gastrointestinal issues
  • Your dog is overweight
  • Your dog suffers from mood changes or behavioral issues
  • Your vet has recommended them

If you’re not sure if you should be giving your dog probiotics, it’s always best to consult your vet first. 

Alternatively, you can test your pet’s gut health at home with an at-home gut health testing kit, designed specifically for pets to help gauge their unique needs when it comes to digestive health.

Image via Nom Nom

The Microbiome Testing Kit pictured above from Nom Nom is the world’s first gut health kit for pets that is fully integrated with a vet-formulated nutrition program.

Within 3-6 weeks of submitting your pet’s samples for testing, you’ll receive a comprehensive analysis of your pet’s gut microbiome and health, along with personalized nutrition and lifestyle recommendations and comparative data to see how their gut health compares with other pets.

Ultimately empowering you with real insights to make informed decisions regarding your pet’s digestive health and consequent long-term happiness.

Types of probiotic supplements for dogs

Commercially available probiotic supplements come in a variety of forms and contain a variety of different probiotic strains. As not all probiotic strains do the same thing, it’s always important to read the label first and consult your vet if you are ever unsure.

For dogs looking for an immunity or digestive boost, full-spectrum probiotics are a great option, meanwhile, for dogs with a less-than-cooperative GI tract, GI-targeted probiotics might be more beneficial, as these contain strains with strong anti-inflammatory qualities that help to restore healthy gut balance, improve stool quality and aid overall digestive health.

Natural probiotic alternatives

Image via Canva/Getty Images

For pet parents that prefer natural probiotics over supplements, a little plain yogurt or kefir with live cultures is an easy alternative. Just make sure the yogurt is free from any artificial sweetener (i.e. xylitol), as this can be highly toxic to dogs.

Raw goats’ milk and/or kimchi are also good alternative sources of natural probiotics for dogs.

Probiotic side effects

Other than boosting the immune system and restoring a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut, high-quality probiotic supplements don’t tend to have any negative side effects when given in the correct dose.

As every dog is different, however, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and keep an eye out for any potential allergic or negative reactions when making changes to your dog’s diet, including the administration of probiotic supplements.

Similarly, always follow dosage guidelines on the bottle (or as recommended by your vet), and only give your dog probiotics that have been specifically formulated for pets.

For an in-depth review on the minimal risks associated with probiotic use in dogs, check out this super informative article from Doggy’s Digest.

Final considerations

Finally, in order to get the most out of your dog’s probiotic supplements, it’s also important to feed them a diet that is rich in natural prebiotics too as these provide fuel for the probiotics to properly thrive in your dog’s digestive system.

Prebiotics can be given in supplement form or as part of a fresh, lightly cooked, whole foods diet. 

DISCLAIMER:

While this post has been carefully researched (with sources listed below), it is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Always consult your vet when making changes to your dog’s diet and for advice regarding your pet’s individual health needs and requirements.

SOURCES and FURTHER READING:

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Probiotics for Dogs: Uses, Benefits, and Side-Effects

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