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You’ve probably heard the term “gut health” before. And if you’ve heard that you’ve also probably heard that probiotics are good for you. But did you know that probiotics are also good for dogs? In fact, canine-friendly probiotics are available as supplements, as part of dog food formulas, as dog chews, and as capsules. Some of the most popular and best-reviewed dog probiotics include:
- Purina Pro Plan Nutritional Dog Supplement
- Zesty Paws Probiotic Bites
- Vetri-Science Mega Probiotic Dog & Cat Supplement
- Deley Naturals Grain-Free Probiotic Soft Chews
For more detail on the wide world of pet probiotics, including a top veterinarian’s point of view, read on.
What are probiotics?
The Mayo Clinic describes probiotics as “good bacteria” that are similar to or are already inside your body. There are bad bacteria, and probiotics help maintain the balance between good and bad.
Probiotics are found in many foods, including yogurts, certain cheeses (like Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese), kefir, and Lactobacillus milk. Kimchi and sauerkraut also come loaded with probiotics.
Additionally, there are probiotic dietary supplements, notes the Mayo Clinic, with “Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Bacillus coagulans” being the most commonly used beneficial bacteria in over-the-counter supplements.
How about your dog friend and probiotics?
“The reason to give a dog a probiotic would be exactly the same reasons that a person would take a probiotic,” says Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, member of Rover’s Dog People Panel and author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide. “When you give a dog a probiotic, you’re supporting the health of the gastrointestinal tract. And when you do that you’re potentially helping digestion and inflammation levels as well as overall immunity.”
The benefits of probiotics for dogs
According to the American Kennel Club, if your dog’s stomach is sensitive (i.e. they react badly to food changes or medicine), a probiotic can help stabilize their gut health. When taking antibiotics, probiotics can help counteract the destruction of good bacteria and keep things in balance. A stressed out dog who exhibits anxiety through their tummy might benefit from a dose of probiotics.
The probiotics live in various parts of your dog’s body, including their gall bladder, pancreas, colon, spleen, small intestine, liver, and stomach.
“When you’re giving a probiotic, you’re literally introducing live bacteria into the gastrointestinal tract,” Dr. Richter says. “And by doing that you’re promoting an environment in the gastrointestinal tract that supports the growth of beneficial bacteria that normally live in the GI tract. And at the same time, you’re hopefully creating an environment that’s inhospitable to pathogenic bacteria that can cause problems.”
How to give probiotics to dogs
Probiotics come in different forms for dogs, including powders, capsules, and chews. And certain dog foods have probiotics in them: these include well-regarded brands like Nulo, i and love and you, Taste of the Wild, and Wellness CORE. Even Purina has an affordable probiotics-enhanced formula emphasizing digestive health.
To give probiotics to your dog, you can sprinkle the recommended amount of powder in your dog’s regular food, or you can give them chews, which are essentially very healthful treats.
If you’re giving probiotics to your dog in a pill form, try to give it to your dog the same way you would another medication; either by slipping it inside a tasty treat or putting it in their food.
Can dogs take probiotics daily?
Dr. Richter says, not only can you give your dogs a daily dose, “You’re supposed to give them every day. But, like anything, monitor your dog’s reaction to the supplement.”
What about your own probiotics? It’s not likely to harm your dog, but since dogs and humans have different digestive systems which have different needs, sometimes it’s better to choose specially formulated canine probiotics.
“There are probiotics that are made specifically for animals, and in some cases, those are better, but in many cases, you can give an animal a probiotic made for people, and it works just fine,” says Dr. Richter.
Fun fact: prebiotics, such as foods high in fiber, can help get tummies ready for digestion. And one of the best, most inexpensive prebiotics is pumpkin. You can add it to your dog’s food; a little goes a long way.
What are the best probiotics for dogs?
- Amazon’s #1 bestseller: Purina Pro Plan Nutritional Dog Supplement is a packet of powder you mix into your regular dog food.
- Chewy’s top-rated chews: Zesty Paws Probiotic Bites with Natural Digestive Enzymes, which comes with 90 treats.
- Chewy’s most popular probiotic-containing food: Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food, which has nearly 3000 reviews and rates almost 5 stars.
- Amazon’s choice probiotic capsule: Vetri-Science Mega Probiotic Dog & Cat Supplement, which is guaranteed to have 5 billion microorganisms per capsule.
- A top grain-free brand: Deley’s Natural Grain Free Probiotics for Dogs, Made in the USA (120 soft chews)
Talk to your vet before making any dietary changes, for starters. Then, give your dog small amounts of your chosen probiotic with one daily meal. Monitor their reaction, looking for symptoms of new digestive discomfort or any other unusual changes. Hopefully, you’ll start to see positive changes not long after beginning to supplement.