Humans are advised to take probiotics to encourage a healthy digestive system and improve physical wellbeing, and there’s every reason to suggest dogs can benefit too! Probiotics for dogs can keep your canine pal in peak condition from the inside out.
So how do they work, and what’s the best way to give a course of probiotics to your dog?
All your questions and more will be answered in this article.
- First steps
- How do probiotics work?
- What are the signs my dog needs probiotics?
- See your vet
- What are the benefits of probiotics for dogs?
- Other ways probiotics for dogs can help
- Ways to administer probiotics for dogs
- Possible side effects of probiotics for dogs
- Good for all the family!
- Probiotics for dogs reviews
I’m sure you’re here because you’ve heard about probiotics for dogs as a beneficial treatment, but I want you to keep one thing in mind at all times. It’s something a vet worth their salt will mention, but in my experience is almost always over looked:
If you don’t address issues with diet, probiotics will merely cover up what is likely the most significant underlying cause.
If you decide to supplement your dog’s diet with probiotics then great – they’re well worth it – but if your dog is suffering from one of the many terrible pet food products, then essentially you’re putting a band-aid on a wound which won’t heal.
How do probiotics work?
Likely, at some point in your life you’ve been prescribed antibiotics. These drugs work by killing bad bacteria in the body that’s causing an infection. They’re often lifesaving in the way they rapidly attack bacteria and rid the body of infection.
However, at the same time antibiotics nuke bad bacteria, they also destroy lots of good bacteria, especially the bacteria in the gut, known as gut flora.
Even if a dog hasn’t taken antibiotics, it’s still possible to have an imbalance of good bacteria, and probiotics can help as they stimulate the growth of healthy gut flora.
While a human’s digestive system differs from dogs, the principle is the same: a dog that has an unhealthy gut could very well benefit from a course of probiotics.
What are the signs my dog needs probiotics?
A lack of friendly gut bacteria can cause several symptoms in your dog that otherwise seem to have no cause. It could be that until recently they’ve been perfectly healthy, and then suddenly started to develop one or more of the following symptoms:
- Weight gain
- Smelly breath
- Allergies & sensitivities
- Low mood
- Gurgling stomach
Any of these symptoms can be a sign your dog’s suffering from a lack of healthy bacteria. When the balance of the gut flora is off, anything your dog eats can come straight back out again, preventing the dog gaining any nutritional benefit.
See your vet
The first thing you should always do is see your vet. Upset stomachs in dogs can be caused by numerous issues, so your vet will likely ask you if it’s possible the change in stomach health could be caused by one of the following:
- Parasitic infection
- Change in diet
- Infection elsewhere in the body
- Eating bad food (more common than we would like to admit)
There are other more serious illnesses that can also cause sickness in your dog, so be sure to get them to the vets soon. It’s important to rule out more serious issues.
If your pet gets an otherwise clean bill of health, the vet may certainly recommend a course of probiotics for dogs. In many cases they’ll instead recommend an antibiotic antiprotozoal drug like metronidazole (branded Metrogyl or Flagyl in Australia).
Whether you opt for the drug route or a more holistic probiotic route is a decision you’ll need to make.
What are the benefits of probiotics for dogs?
The aim of a course of probiotics is to boost the good bacteria in your dog’s gut and restore the balance of their gut flora.
Hopefully soon after they begin the course (especially once any diet-related concerns are addressed), your dog will noticeably begin to feel much better.
Their stomach issues will hopefully reach a resolution, but not only that, you could very well begin to see improvements to all manner of aspects of their health and behavior.
Let’s look at how a course of probiotics for dogs will affect different areas of their health:
The good bacteria in a dog’s digestive system get to work on consumed food almost immediately after it enters the stomach. Some of these good bacteria include Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium breve, among others. Just in case you were wondering the names of these pesky and all-too-absent bacteria that your dog needs a boost of!
Some savvy amongst you will have realised a few dog foods contain lactobacillus ingredients.
When there’s a lack of this bacteria, then the food your dog eats doesn’t get broken down effectively, and therefore the nutrients in the food don’t get absorbed into the system negating any beneficial effects.
Digestive issues are the first and most obvious effect you’ll see improve once you start a course of probiotics for dogs. You’ll find your dog is more interested in their food, and once they’ve eaten there should be less gurgling, noisy stomach sounds.
You’ll likely be very thankful your dog has much less gas! This will be a blessing to the entire family, but most importantly you’ll have a much more comfortable dog.
You may notice any bloating your dog had prior to the probiotics has subsided.
When they’re on their walks and they go to the bathroom, you’ll see that their diarrhea stops, and their stools go back to being their usual, firmer texture.
Allergies & food sensitivities
Improving your dog’s gastrointestinal health will work wonders for other parts of their body, too, including reducing skin issues.
More often than not these are spoken of as allergies, but in most cases they should be referred to as food sensitivities. To reiterate once more, the first step in addressing allergy and sensitivities is diet. Only then should probiotics be considered as an additional aid.
Symptoms of allergies & food sensitivities in dogs are:
- Excessive licking
- Pawing of ears and face
- Biting or chewing skin and paws
- Skin rashes, inflammation, flakey skin, and dry coat
- Sores and lumps
- Hair loss
Dogs who scratch a lot may well be suffering from food sensitivities because their poor gut health results in their immune systems not working effectively.
It means that their skin doesn’t ward off allergens as well as it normally would.
By boosting the good bacteria in your dog’s gut, especially the bacteria Lactobacillus, your dog’s immune system should greatly improve. Once their gut health stabilises you should notice they scratch a lot less and are in a lot less discomfort.
The overgrowth of live cultures can lead to Candida, which is a fungal infection. This fungus can take over the gut and cause all the issues we mentioned earlier.
Candida is also known as thrush and can affect humans too.
A course of antibiotics may help fight a Candida infection and would likely be the vet-prescribed course of action, but a course of probiotics for dogs could not only knock the fungus on the head but also encourage the growth of good bacteria.
Giving your dogs probiotics, or having it included in their diet, can prevent yeast infections or Candida developing in the first place.
Other ways probiotics for dogs can help
It always helps a dog’s system to boost their good bacteria, so there’s every reason to administer probiotics for dogs even before they begin to show signs of digestive issues.
Probiotics can fight liver disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and can make your dog feel so much better in themselves that they become more playful and sleep less during the day.
This is great news for your dog, but it will mean more playtime and longer walks for you!
Ways to administer probiotics for dogs
Dogs aren’t known for being great at taking pills, but there are many ways to treat your dog with probiotics.
Your vet will be able to recommend from a whole host of probiotics for dogs, and the most obvious choice will be commercial supplements.
An example would be capsules or pills, but as all dog owners know, getting dogs to swallow capsules can be a very difficult task. So, thankfully, there are lots of other ways to give your dog probiotics.
There are powders you can sprinkle into your dog’s food, along with tasty chews that can be given as though they’re treats.
In addition, changing your dog’s diet to a kibble or food that contains more probiotic is also an easy way to give your dog what it needs, but without the struggles.
Some poorer quality dog foods may also contain probiotics to effectively hide issues which would otherwise likely occur. This is more common than you would expect, especially given dog owners assume a dog food is working if their dogs stools are firm. Probiotics are one of a few ways pet food manufacturers can artificially firm stools, beet pulp is another.
Natural ways to source probiotics for dogs
If you’re not keen on giving your dog commercial supplements, then simply adapting their diet to include natural ways of boosting their good bacteria can be an excellent option.
Feeding your dog sugar-free yogurt or kefir can help if they contain live cultures. You should always choose plain yogurt, with no added sweeteners. Always avoid Xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs.
Miso soup and even fermented cabbages like kimchi and sauerkraut are rich sources of probiotics, but it’s less likely your dog will enjoy these! You never know – some dogs love vegetables, but you’re more likely to find they lap up plain yogurt before crunching on fermented cabbage. Even Korean dogs.
Possible side effects of probiotics for dogs
Probiotics are very rarely dangerous, but they work by changing the flora of your dog’s gut which can show initial increased symptoms in the early stages prior to any improvements.
So, you could find your dog is even gassier than normal (keep those windows open!) or more bloated. They may have diarrhea and need to be let out to go to the bathroom more often, or they could even have the opposite issue with some constipation.
Thankfully these should be short-lived symptoms, and because probiotics contain natural ingredients and serve to only boost what’s already in your dog’s digestive system, these should return to normal in no time.
However, if the symptoms worsen and your dog becomes unwell, then don’t hesitate to take them to the vet for further advice.
Good for all the family!
Once you see how well probiotics for dogs have worked, you’ll wonder whether you could have such good results if you took probiotics, too!
There are some excellent probiotics on the market for humans, so there’s no need to steal your dog’s stash!
Keep it in mind – perhaps the whole family could benefit from the inherent improvements of probiotics for overall health!
Probiotics for dogs reviews
I’ll skirt over a few of the common brands with a little bit of information on each. They’re mostly all very similar but you’ll find some have a little quirk to entice you (such as added hemp).
Don’t worry too much though, as all will be beneficial to your dog.
So here we go, some recommendations for probiotics for dogs:
Purina Pro Plan FortiFlora for Dogs (Cats is the same formula)
Purina are one of the world’s biggest pet brands, yet most people don’t realise they’re Nestle. According to some statistics by Kantar (if you know who they are), FortiFlora is the #1 probiotic for canine/feline as recommended by veterinarians.
A questionable first ingredient may make you wonder whether FortiFlora is the right probiotic for your dog, and this is covered in more detail in the Purina FortiFlora review.
Big Dog Probiotics for Dogs
Some of you will be aware of Big Dog, a leading Australian brand of raw BARF patties for at least 20 years now. They’re a reputable company who offer quality products, and consumer feedback over the past two decades has been testament to that.
Their probiotic/prebiotic/enzyme supplement comes as 150g of powder form, and you can use 5g a day (depending on size of your dog). You can mix it with wet food, make it into a paste with dry food, or mix with coconut oil or peanut butter as a treat.
A jar should last a month, and contains a range of good bacteria probiotics, digestive enzymes, and green banana powder as a prebiotic.
Big Dog are a good brand, and their Probiotics for Dogs mix looks good.
PETZ PARK Probiotic for Dogs with Hemp Seeds
PETZ PARK Probiotic at the time of writing costs more per gram than Big Dog, but based on feeding recommendations should last up to 2 months (depending on dog size).
It contains hemp as a unique selling point, but when we look at the ingredients we find it contains a range of grains in the mix – oats, barley, rye, corn, more oats, soya beans, millet, buckwheat.
Fair enough, it contains some nice ingredients too, such as spirulina, alfalfa, barley and wheat grass, quinoa, calcium, and kelp, but given the amount of grains I don’t think it’s as good value for money as Big Dog Probiotics.
PAW Blackmores Digesticare
PAW Digesticare by household name Blackmores is a probiotic + wholefood powder. It’s a mix of not only probiotics, but vitamins, amino acids, dietary fibre, and omega fatty acids. You can look at it as being more well-rounded, or a jack-of-all-trades.
Like with PETZ PARK, we find the ingredients to contain grains, spirulina, alfalfa, quinoa, as well as legumes and more cereals. The price per 150g is similar to Big Dog Probiotics, but when we account for Digesticare being bulked up with grains it would seem less value for money.
Vetafarm Synbiotic 180-S Animal Probiotic Supplement
This brand is available at Petbarn, so will appeal to those who shop in store.
Unlike the other Probiotic mixes above this one caters for all animals. That may sound like a bad thing, but like Big Dog Probiotics the ingredients seems to focus on what it says on the tin – probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes. They haven’t bulked it out with grains and legumes.
For a prebiotic, inulin is included in the form of chicory root as a natural, unprocessed choice.
For 150g it’s a similar price to Big Dog Probiotics above, so very comparable. If you have other pets, like cats, birds, rabbits, mice, and iguanas, then you can divvy this one up!
A little harder to source than the above, Canine Ceuticals offer a range of human-grade supplements for dogs, including two for gut health – Canine Ceuticals Gut Protect and Canine Ceuticals Gut Restore.
Both are packed with ingredients to improve gut health in many ways, with Gut Protect designed as a preventative (based on psyllium husk) and Gut Restore to help your dog recover from gut health issues, medication, antibiotics, or surgery.
You can find more detail on the Canine Ceuticals gut health supplements here.