As pet owners, we want what's best for their health. A critical element of your dog's wellbeing is a healthy and balanced diet but sometimes what they eat doesn't provide all the necessary nutrients, this is especially true if your dog suffers from digestive issues.
This means giving them a diet that covers their nutritional needs, promotes physical wellbeing, and maintains a healthy weight. One element that can complement your pet's diet that is often overlooked is probiotics. There are many benefits to adding good bacteria to your dog’s diet, so here is everything you need to know about them.
What Are Probiotics?
Before deciding whether you should try this or not, you should first understand what it is. Often referred to as the good bacteria, probiotics and prebiotics are a form of beneficial bacteria that naturally live in the digestive tract. They help the digestive process, support many other aspects of intestinal health as well as the immune system.
There is a vast range of bacteria species, some of which are good and some of which are harmful. In the group of bacteria that are known as probiotics, the four main types of bacteria are Bifidobacterium, Enterococcus, Lactobacillus, and Streptococcus, these are typically used to treat digestive issues.
Are Probiotics For Dogs Needed?
In the wild, dogs naturally eat foods that contain these bacteria. However, domesticated dogs often eat a diet of manufactured dog food that is produced in a sterile environment, this inhibits the development of good bacteria in the food. This means that domesticated dogs have fewer natural good bacteria in their intestinal system than wild dogs. This is especially the case for dogs that are following a raw food diet, which is a current trend.
The Benefits of Using Probiotics For Dogs
The benefits for humans are widely advertised, and many of these benefits also apply to our canine friends. While some of the benefits are general to all bacteria, others are specific to certain strains. Here are some of the main benefits of including these to supplement your furry friend's diet:
• Aiding digestion
Digestive issues are common in pets, the main benefit of probiotics is that they aid digestion. The stomach and intestines can process food faster and more efficiently if good bacteria are present, sometimes the digestive enzymes present in your dog's body are not enough.
• Modulating the immune system
They are proven to modulate the immune system, which plays a vital role in maintaining good health.
• Inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria
Some of the harmful bacteria that can grow in the intestines include Clostridium perfringens, Salmonella, and E. coli, amongst others. Taking probiotics or adding them naturally to your dog’s diet can reduce the likelihood of these harmful bacteria growing.
• Treating intestinal conditions
Human studies have shown that probiotics can treat conditions such as intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Although there are fewer studies into whether the same applies to dogs, current findings indicate that it is possible.
• Prevention of infections
There is some evidence to suggest that some probiotics can prevent certain infections, such as urinary tract infections in dogs.
• Bowel regulation
If your dog is having trouble with their bowels, then probiotics are one way that you can help your dog as they work together with the digestive enzymes. Some strains of probiotics can improve the frequency and quality of your dog’s stools. Other strains are proven to reduce the length of time a dog suffers from diarrhea.
• Reducing allergies
Some studies show that dogs are less likely to suffer from allergic reactions if they are taking probiotics.
• Anti-inflammatory properties
Adding probiotics to a dog’s diet can reduce the amount of inflammation in their body. This means that it is beneficial to a range of conditions, such as arthritis if the probiotics are taken in conjunction with other treatments or therapies.
• Reducing obesity risk
One peer-reviewed article claims that probiotics for dogs can reduce obesity. In turn, this lowers the risk of a dog developing many other health problems, including diabetes, kidney disease, cardiovascular conditions, and joint problems.
• Behavior and mood
There is some evidence to suggest that probiotics can even improve your dog’s mood and reduce the likelihood of them suffering from behavior disorders.
Are Probiotics Necessary?
There is a distinct difference between needing something in your diet and enjoying the benefits of additions to something in your diet, and the same applies to dogs. Strictly speaking, dogs do not need to add probiotics in their diet, but this does not mean that they will not benefit from them.
Are There Any Downsides or Risks?
Probiotics supplements are one of many types of health support products available to dogs, and they are the ones that are recommended by vets most commonly. One reason for this is that they pose very little risk, and any form of negative reaction is unlikely. This means that most dogs will benefit from taking probiotics.
However, it is important to note that they are not suitable for every dog. If your dog is suffering from an existing health condition, then it is always best to seek the advice of a vet before beginning to give your dog probiotics. This is especially the case if your dog is suffering from conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or severe acute digestive disease.
That is not to say that these dogs cannot have probiotic supplements, simply that it is important to get expert advice. Some forms of probiotics could potentially benefit your dog, but others may not help at all or may worsen some symptoms. In these cases, it is sometimes trial and error for the vet to find the probiotic formulation that will benefit your dog the most.
Can Dogs Have Human Probiotics?
There are differing opinions regarding whether you should give your dog human probiotics or not.
On the one hand, there is little or no evidence to suggest that it will do your dog any harm, and some experts say that human probiotics are potentially the better options as the labeling is more consistent and accurate on products intended for humans. On the other hand, some experts say that it is better to stick to products that are intended for dogs.
The Types of Probiotic Supplements
Probiotics for dogs come in many forms, and they do not all contain the same probiotics. Some of the forms in which probiotic supplements come include pills, powders, pastes, capsules, chews, and solutions. There are also some manufactured dog foods that claim on their labeling that the food contains added probiotics.
Dog supplements can contain one or more types of bacteria depending on their intended function. For example, some are specifically designed to reduce the duration of diarrhea in dogs when they have a stomach upset, while others are for more generalized gut health.
It is also important to note that some formulations are for humans, some are for dogs only, and some are advertised for use with various animals, as a pet owner you must do good research when it comes to your dog health.
Adding Probiotic Supplements to Your Dog’s Diet
In most cases, probiotics are given to your dog orally. Depending on the type of supplement you have bought, you will either add this into their regular food or conceal the supplement in a treat.
Brands typically differ in terms of the dosage based on their formulation and the number of active ingredients, you must follow any instructions or guidance given by the manufacturer. Failing to follow the instructions could mean that the beneficial bacteria are destroyed in the stomach before it can reach the dog’s intestines to perform their health support function.
When you are using probiotics for dogs, the dosage is given on the packaging. However, if you are giving your dog human probiotics, you need to consider your dog’s size.
As a guide, experts have said that you can give your dog the same full dosage as a human if your dog weighs more than 40 pounds. If your dog weighs less, you should reduce the dosage accordingly. Similarly, you should reduce the dosage if you notice that your dog is passing loose stools.
The purpose of your dog taking the probiotic also makes a difference to when you should give it to your dog. If the reason you are giving your dog the probiotics is to aid their digestion, then it is best to give your dog the probiotics with their meals.
For other purposes, it is better to give your dog the probiotics between meals as this will give the good bacteria a better chance of survival as it is traveling through the digestive tract. Another tip is to give your dog the probiotics with some water. This will dilute the stomach, which is responsible for killing off the bacteria before it reaches the intestines.
Choosing the Best Probiotic Supplements for Your Dog
With so many different probiotic products available, you may have difficulty deciding which is the best one for your pet. The best way to choose a supplement that has proven benefits and is from a legitimate and trustworthy brand is to seek the advice of a veterinarian. If you are deciding on your own, there are some steps to take when choosing the best probiotic supplement for your dog.
The first step is to look at the probiotic formulas that are listed on the packaging, as some probiotic formulas are proven to benefits dogs, while less is known about the benefits for others. Some of the strains that are proven to have benefits and are safe for your dog include:
- Bifidobacterium¹ animalis
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Enterococcus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
You should also read the information on the packaging relating to the purpose and benefits of individual products to make sure that you choose the product that offers the best solution for your dog. Choosing a probiotic that has several strains of effective and safe probiotics is often the best option, as this means you can tackle several issues and support your dog’s general digestive health.
Adding Natural Probiotics
Although there are some excellent probiotic products on the market, this is not the only option. It is also possible to give your dog probiotics using natural products, and many dog owners believe this is preferable.
The main reason that some people choose natural forms of probiotics rather than supplements is that some probiotic supplements are not as well-regulated as drugs.
Some of the best sources of probiotics are yogurt and cottage cheese. Another option is kefir with live cultures or fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and tempeh. It is possible to incorporate these ingredients into your dog’s diet along with their regular food.
Monitoring the Benefits of Probiotics
Once you have started to give your dog probiotics supplements or natural probiotics, you should monitor your dog as this will help you to decide if the probiotics are giving your dog the desired benefits. If not, you should try a different type of probiotic or speak to your vet for further advice and recommendations. Look for any changes to your dog’s coat, check their stools, and make a note of any changes in energy levels.
Storage of Probiotics for Dogs
Following the instructions applies not only to how you should dose your dog but also to how you should store them. Some probiotic products require refrigeration for the good bacteria to remain viable. Therefore, failure to refrigerate a product means that there are generally insufficient bacteria to make a difference.
Dogs and Probiotics- The Final Verdict
Probiotics are also known as good bacteria, they play an important role in digestive health and the immune system. There has been significant research into the benefits of humans taking probiotics alongside eating a healthy and balanced diet. Although there has been less research into the benefits for dogs, there has been increased interest in this area of research in recent years.
Current evidence suggests that dogs benefit in much the same way as humans. You can add probiotics to your dog’s diet with supplements or by adding ingredients to their diet that contain natural probiotics.
If your dog has underlying health conditions, it is best to seek the advice of your vet first. It is also important to follow the feeding, dosage, and storage instruction that are stated by different brands. Monitor any benefits once you have started giving your dog the probiotic supplements.