Dogs eat the strangest things. For pet owners, we need to hold our noses, clean the mess, and keep our pet healthy despite the dangerous bacteria that make it into the canine digestive system. 

Or maybe your pet eats out of their squeaky clean bowl, yet they still struggle with food allergies, diarrhea, and digestion problems. Whatever the case, probiotics are essential for healthy gut bacteria, especially for dogs exposed to toxins, bacteria, and allergens. However, it's only natural to want to know all the nitty-gritty before we offer something to our fur babies. 

Let's dive in as we talk about how probiotics work, what they can help with, and the potential side effects. We care about your best friend, so we're here to answer your questions and be a partner in your pet's wellness journey. 

What are Probiotics for Dogs? 

Probiotics are healthy bacteria strains found in your dog's body, mainly in the GI tract, mouth, respiratory organs, nasal cavity, dermis, and genitals. Certain strains of bacteria are needed to benefit the canine system.

Sometimes the body will not receive enough probiotics from diet alone, leading to a weakened immune system and health problems. By adding probiotic supplements to your dog's wellness routine, you replace and support the microbial balance in their body. 

There are also certain situations where the probiotic community is compromised and harmful bacteria run riot. Antibiotics, stress, and poor diet are some of the things that can impact the good microbial population.

Probiotic supplements can correct these harsh effects and heal the gut. By doing so, the body digests nutrients properly and provides a strong defense against dangerous disease-creating bacteria.

Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs 

If your dog struggles with diarrhea or they've recently been on strong antibiotics, then your veterinarian may recommend some probiotics for your pet. Probiotics are undoubtedly helpful in these situations, but your dog can also take them daily for the following health benefits:

Allergy Relief

Allergies are related to a weakened immune system. Whether your dog struggles with seasonal or food allergies, a common side effect is itchy skin. The American Journal of Veterinary Research found that, when administered to puppies, probiotics reduced atopic dermatitis's immune reactions with lasting results.

Gastrointestinal Tract Health

Probiotics are essential for gut health and the correct absorption of nutrients. Dogs who struggle with gastrointestinal disease or sensitivity will usually take dog probiotic supplements to ease symptoms of dog diarrhea, skin reactions, and loose stool. Probiotics are an important part of the treatment of chronic inflammatory bowel disease

Reduce Obesity

According to the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, an altered gut microbiome is observed in obese pets. When gut health is supported, digestion is improved, and obesity risk is lowered. Obesity is associated with various other conditions, such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, and skin disorders.

Reduce Stress

Information from studies has shown that probiotics can ease the effects of stress and anxiety on the gut. Drugs that are usually administered for stress and anxiety in dogs can have severe complications and adverse reactions. However, probiotics ease the symptoms of stress naturally and healthily. 

Strengthen the Immune System

Probiotics help the canine body to achieve homeostasis for optimal immune response. This process is called immunomodulation.

A robust and healthy immune system can serve your pet in various ways, including preventing the onset of urinary tract infections, improving stool quality (diarrhea and leaky gut), and preventing health issues like yeast infections, colitis pancreatitis, and inflammation around the GI tract. The use of probiotics for dogs can also prevent smelly breath.

As aptly stated by a joint study on the Microbiota and Probiotics in Canine and Feline Welfare, "The health and well-being of companion animals, just as their owners, depends on the gut microbes." 

Side Effects of Probiotics for Dogs

When you offer dogs probiotics, you are giving them a natural ingredient. Their body already contains billions of good bacteria, and you're giving them a billion more. It's not foreign or harmful to dogs or humans. However, as with any natural remedy, there is a stage of adjustment, and so adverse reactions may occur. 

As your dog's gut bacteria reach a healthy and happy balance, you may identify some dog probiotics' side effects. Every dog will react differently, and it's a good idea to contact your vet if the side effects persist or are troubling. 

Adverse reactions to probiotics are usually related to the digestive system, such as diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, appetite change, or nausea. These side effects may subside once homeostasis in the dog's gut has been achieved after a time. Things may get worse before they get better. Start with a low dose to avoid unwanted symptoms.

Allergic Reactions to Probiotics

If you're giving your dog probiotics to treat a food allergy, the last thing you want is a product that contains irritating ingredients like gluten, soy, proteins, eggs, flavorings, or other mix-ins. Make sure you check the ingredient label, especially if you're buying your dog some probiotic treats or kibble.

Choosing the Wrong Probiotic

If your dog has a weak immune system, you need to be careful in giving them the right probiotic source. While yogurt has received a lot of praise for its probiotic cultures, it's not a suitable probiotic for dogs. Yogurt pasteurization can pose a threat, where harmful bacteria have not been adequately eliminated, or additives and sweeteners (like xylitol) can be toxic to your pet.

Other probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, kefir, cheese, and kombucha have been found to cause allergies, hypertensive crises, and headaches in humans because of their biogenic amines tyramine, and histamine. Keep the yogurt for yourself, and instead buy your pet safe probiotic supplements. 

Studies in humans have shown that only about one in one million people who take probiotics containing Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria bacteria will develop an infection. The study included people of all ages, including those who were immunocompromised.

Similar studies in dogs have not yet been executed, but it's always good to remain vigilant when adding a new supplement to your dog's wellness routine. On rare occasions, overgrowth of Lactobacilli may enter your dog's bloodstream and produce inflammation. 

Can Dogs Overdose on Probiotics?

Studies as to whether dogs can overdose on probiotics are inconclusive. One study related aggression in dogs to high doses of Lactobacillus in the gut bacteria, but then also states that "it is unknown if the gut microbiome similarly relates to animal aggression."

While an underproduction of probiotics can impact the canine body negatively, it's natural to assume that too much of a good thing may not be a good thing. Probiotics are safe for your dog, but too much may increase the frequency and longevity of unwanted side effects. 

The safest way to administer probiotics to your pet is to follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Always speak to your vet if gastrointestinal upset persists as there are many underlying conditions, and a serious health problem could be the culprit.

Weigh up the health benefits of probiotics with the possible side effects and decide for yourself whether giving your dog probiotics is a worthy treatment plan. 

What Type of Probiotics are Healthy for Dogs

Human supplements contain probiotics that will benefit the human flora, while probiotics for dogs are created for canine needs. Experts develop probiotics of canine origin specifically for use in canine nutrition. They do this by isolating lactic acid bacteria from canine feces and then separating them. 

According to the 2017 study, most resistant to stomach acid and digestive bile are isolated for probiotic use. Further assessment is also carried out to ensure the probiotic form a powerful unit against harmful pathogenic strains of salmonella. 

Some canine-specific bacteria are:

  • Bifidobacterium animalis supports healthy digestion and helps dogs to recover from illness. 

  • Bacillus Coagulans is a good gut bacteria that produce lactic acid and overwhelms terrible bacteria. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory.

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus assists intestinal health and immune function. It enhances the absorption of nutrients and is potent in fighting off harmful bacteria and infections. 

  • L. rhamnosus promote a healthy and robust colon wall. They are useful in the treatment of diarrhea in animals. Studies have also shown its effectiveness in treating atopic dermatitis. 

  • L. fermentum has a high survival rate against acid and bile. It has been shown to reduce GI tract disorders and boost the immune system.  

  • Lactobacillus sakei has been used in canine studies for the treatment of atopic dermatitis and skin disorders. 

  • Enterococcus Faecium is not suitable for humans but is excellent for canines. It aids digestion, balances bacteria population, and is helpful during diet changes or alongside antibiotics treatment.

A probiotic that combines 3-4 of these strains will have the best results in your pet. Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium strains are the most common and will enhance nutrient absorption, alleviate stomach upset and boost the immune system. 

Look for Products that Include Prebiotics

Prebiotics are the fibrous, non-digestible starches that feed the probiotics in your pet's body. Prebiotics are present in foods that we eat and encourage beneficial bacteria and microorganisms.

Foods that contain this helpful starch include mushrooms, chicory root, dandelion greens, bananas, apples, flaxseeds, leafy greens, and other water-soluble fibrous foods. Prebiotics usually contains essential vitamins and fatty acids that further support the immune system and boost your dog's health. 

Can I give Human Probiotics to My Dog? 

While it may be convenient to share probiotics with your pet, it's not advisable. Human supplements are created for humans and contain certain probiotic strains that may be useless or even harmful for your pet. Human probiotics usually come in a pill form, which your dog may not like. 

Instead, choosing a probiotic that is formulated for your pet's body will heed the best results. Manufacturers also flavor and create pet products that will appeal to furry animals. Edible probiotic treats and chews or chicken flavored power forms may be easier to give your dog.

Keep in mind that since probiotics contain live bacteria, products will have a shelf life. Always use the product within the specified time and store it according to manufacturer instructions. 

What is the Proper Probiotic Dosage for Dogs

Dosage requirements will depend largely on your dog's health. A healthy dog will need an essential probiotic dosage for general maintenance. If your dog's immune system is needing support, or their allergies or tummy issues are out of control, then you may want to offer them a probiotic dose that is higher until their health improves. This can take up to four. 

When choosing probiotic supplement products, you want billions of "colony forming units" (CFU). The CFU indicated the total amount of bacterium in the supplement formula. A product with high colony forming units is more likely to be effective when compared to a product with low CFU levels. 

For maintaining your dog's health, 1-4 billion CFU daily is adequate. For hefty dogs, you can aim a little higher and give your pet up to 5 billion CFU daily. (Our Honest Paws Probiotics contains 5 billion CFU per stick). You can give your dog prebiotics and probiotics daily for general health management. 

Remember that there may be a time of adjusting, so give it time before you expect side effects and upset stomach to subside. Always call your veterinarian if you are unsure of anything or have concerns about your pet's health.

Probiotics for Dogs, A Worthy Choice

Probiotics are not a quick fix, as it can take time for the healthy flora in the gut to heal and find equilibrium. Results depend on the well-being of your pet and the condition you are seeking to correct. For diarrhea, you may see benefits within a week. For things like allergies or GI disease, improved health may only be seen after some weeks or months. 

Who knew that by adding probiotic creepy crawlers to your dog's diet, you could boost their well-being. Now, instead of taking care of one pet, you have billions of bacteria to babysit as well. Next time your dog is head deep in the mud, get the hose ready and let them have their fun. Knowing that you're supporting their gut health with probiotics can give you peace of mind. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for probiotics to work in dogs?

Results depend on the well-being of your pet and the condition you are seeking to correct. For diarrhea, you may see results within a week. For things like allergies or GI disease, improved health may only be seen after a few weeks to months. 

Is it OK to give my dog probiotics daily?

Yes, You can give your dog probiotics daily for general health management. 

Do probiotics have side effects?

As your dog's gut bacteria reach a healthy and happy balance, you may identify some dog probiotics' side effects. Every dog will react differently, and it's a good idea to contact your vet if the side effects persist or are troubling. 

Do probiotics help dogs with diarrhea?

Probiotics are important for gut health and the correct absorption of nutrients. Dogs who struggle with gastrointestinal disease or sensitivity will usually take dog probiotic supplements to ease symptoms of dog diarrhea, skin reactions, and loose stool.