Complete Guide to Dog Probiotics

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According to a study, dogs basically behave like toddlers and one thing these two have in common is that they can be pleasantly weird like eating food directly off the floor or just picking up anything and eating it. 

One of the problems that happen when our fur babies eat just about anything is that they’re put on a higher risk for diarrhea and other diseases. This is why it’s important that as a fur parent, we are educated with how to manage this. The best strategy to promote gut health is none other than dog probiotics. 

Here is a quick question and answer compilation on everything we need to know about this magical solution.

What are Dog Probiotics?

Probiotics which literally means “life-promoting” are basically beneficial microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal system of dogs. While there are already plenty of good bacteria in a dog’s system, dog probiotics add in more healthy bacteria to the equation. These healthy gut bacteria maintain and balance out the bad bacteria that co-inhabit inside the G.I. tract of our canine friend promoting a healthy internal environment, keeping our dog healthy and free from diseases or infection. 

These probiotics perform tasks like helping to break down food for easier digestion, fighting off potential pathogens, and making nutrients and vitamins which strengthens immunity. 

Some of these good bacteria are: Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium lactis, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus casei. These bacteria each play a specific role and also have specific effects on the health of our dogs which is why it is important that as dog owners, we consult a veterinarian first to help us choose what type of strain is best for our dogs.

You can check out this article to know what are the best dog probiotics: The 8 Best Probiotics for Dogs in 2020.

What are the sources of Dog Probiotics?

Probiotics can be found in a variety of food like yogurts, certain cheeses (like Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese), kefir, and Lactobacillus milk (like Yakult!). Additionally, kimchi (salted and fermented vegetables) and sauerkraut (finely cut raw cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria) are also very rich sources of probiotics. 

For dogs, there are probiotic dietary supplements with “Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Bacillus coagulans” that are sold over-the-counter in pharmacies. These are often produced as powders, capsules, and chews which are often flavored with meat to make it appetizing to dogs. They are also labelled with dosage recommendations and frequency of use. 

Some dog foods also contain probiotics. 

What are the benefits of probiotics?

According to Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, “The reason to give a dog a probiotic would be exactly the same reasons that a person would take a probiotic. 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.”

As mentioned earlier, specific good bacteria have specific effects on dogs. According to studies, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been found to help (1) manage yeast and support the immune system, (2) prevent anxiety, (3) reduce stress, and (4) improve diarrhea and food allergies. On the other hand, Bacillus species are also good aids in immune response. 

By introducing these good bacteria, you also create an environment inhospitable for bad ones that can damage the dog’s G.I. tract. 

If the dog is already suffering from an upset stomach, dog probiotics can help alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms, improve overall digestion, and also prevent urinary tract infection. It can also regulate behavior and mood as well as keep weight and appetite under control. 

Can probiotics be taken daily? How do we know if our dogs need them?

According to Dr. Richter, giving dogs a daily dose of probiotics to dogs is okay. In fact, he encourages that dog probiotics be a part of its daily routine. Though he also notes that, “But, like anything, monitor your dog’s reaction to the supplement.”

But how do we know when they really need them beyond as a supplement? Basically, dogs need higher doses of probiotics when they’re experiencing an upset stomach, diarrhea, and other G.I. tract diseases. But it is important to know that while probiotics help, it’s not always the end solution. It’s best to take the dogs to a veterinarian for further examination and to make sure that there are no underlying health issues that produce the symptoms. 

Specific changes in environment which might stress them out as well as changes in medication can also induce G.I. tract issues and probiotics can help prevent it.

Can I give human probiotics to my dog?

Yes, you can. They’re not harmful but generally, this practice is not encouraged by experts. That is because these probiotics do not provide the same benefits compared to species-specific supplements made for dogs. Although a combination of human probiotics can produce a similar strain that is given to dogs. 

In terms of food-sourced probiotics, it’s safe to give them to dogs but in limited quantities. For small-sized dogs, limit to a teaspoon. For medium ones, two teaspoons per day and for large ones, maximum of three teaspoons is allowed. 

Also make sure to note that these foods are plain, unsweetened varieties that do not contain artificial sweeteners, especially xylitol, as this is toxic to animals. 

How do I give probiotics to my dogs?

Since probiotics for dogs come in different forms, it’s best to know which type is compatible with your dog. If they ingest powdered ones well, you can simply sprinkle the recommended amount in your dog’s food. Some dogs like chewy ones which you can give as a treat as they are most likely flavored to appetize them. For pills, it’s like giving any medication, where you can slip the pill inside a tasty treat or into their food. 

Are there any side effects?

Dog probiotics are very healthy treats for the dogs and generally, they don’t cause any side effects as long as they are provided in the right dosage. But like humans, dogs can also react differently to any supplement. And anything that is too much is also bad and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

So always take proper caution. 

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