A major part of canine health stems from the gut. Keep reading to find out how a probiotic supplement can help your pet's bacteria population.
The benefits of canine probiotics are well-known and scientifically proven. However, one question remains – how many probiotics do dogs need per day?
Since some manufactures offer probiotics with either extremely low CFU (200-500 million) or extremely high CFU (58 billion), determining the right probiotic dose for dogs can be tricky.
In this article, we will explain the science behind the CFU measurement and help you understand how many probiotics your dog needs based on its unique requirements.
Probiotic Dosage for Dogs
Every dog has different probiotic dosage needs. If you're dosing your pet to help with their food allergies or GI tract upsets, then a higher dose may be necessary. In contrast, if using the probiotic supplement general wellness maintenance, then a lower amount will be suitable.
As a general rule of thumb, when choosing probiotic products, you want large "colony forming units" (CFU). Always check the product label to see what their CFU measurement is. A product with high colony forming units is more likely to be effective compared to a product with low CFU levels.
What is the Right Amount of Probiotics for My Dog?
The right amount of probiotics depends on the dog's unique needs. For example, managing diarrhea is best done with lower amounts of probiotics, while dogs with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) require much higher numbers of live bacteria.
Probiotics can be helpful in various situations, meaning the "right amount" indicates different things for different situations. Here is a shortlist of the things and conditions probiotics can help with:
Stressful Situations. Healthy probiotics can reduce stress. Human studies have found that "microbial composition or activity of the gut can be modified" by hormonal changes and stresses. Because humans and dogs both share the same Endocannabinoid System, it is very possible that probiotics for dogs can mitigate depression and anxiety, similar to humans. Dogs can experience stress just like humans. Social anxiety, isolation, environmental changes, illness, or even loss can cause your dog to become depressed.
Poor Diet and Stomach Sensitivity. Does your dog have diarrhea often? Probiotics can help to reduce the happening or duration of acute or non-specific diarrhea in dogs. Many years ago, canines hunted food and had a diet predominantly rich in protein. As dogs have become domestic companions, they have seen a change in their food bowl contents. Dog food has a significant impact on your pet's wellness, and a modern dog diet may not fill the metabolic needs of canines. Poor protein quality or diets high in carbohydrates can do damage. Not to mention the number of allergens or fillers that can irritate your pet's digestive system. Probiotics can help with digestion and offer a helpful additive to your dog's diet. However, you need to take a step back and have a look at their food brand as well.
Immune System Issues. Probiotics provide immunomodulation which is when the body's immune system achieves homeostasis for optimal immune responses. A robust immune system can prevent allergies in dogs, aid in treating irritable bowel disorder, prevent the onset of urinary tract infections, and improve stool quality and leaky gut. Health issues like parasite infestations, yeast infections, colitis and bowel disease, pancreatitis, obesity, and inflammation can be eased or avoided when prebiotics and probiotics are an active part of your dog's wellness routine. A probiotic supplement may also improve skin and fur conditions and even smelly breath.
Prolonged Use of Medications. Antibiotics or steroids serve the body by killing harmful bacteria in the body, but unfortunately, they are so volatile they also kill good bacteria. Probiotics can restore microbiome balance in your dog's gut so it is often suggested to use probiotics in addition to these medications.
CFU (Colony Forming Units) and Dosage for Dogs
Probiotic supplements come in many different forms. From capsules, powders, liquids, or treats, you can find something that will suit your pup. Some dog food brands even add probiotics to their ingredients, and there are human foods (yogurt, kefir) acting as natural probiotics.
However, regardless of the probiotic form, there is one thing pet owners find confusing – the CFUs listed on the supplement label. To make things simpler, we will explain what the Colony Forming Units measures and indicates.
What is CFU in Dog Probiotics?
The CFU number in a probiotic supplement refers to the number of live bacteria expected to be found in one serving. Alternatively, the label may list the CFU of the different strains of bacteria included in the formula.
The total CFU in the formula represents the complete number of bacteria in the entire product package regardless of strain.
How Many CFU of Probiotics does My Dog Need?
For health upkeep in dogs, between 1 and 4 billion CFU daily is adequate. For hefty dogs, you can aim a little higher and give your pet up to 5 billion CFU per day. When managing a condition that requires higher doses (like, for example, IBD), you can give your dog up to 10 billion CFU.
Our Honest Paws Wellness Pre + Probiotics contain 5 billion CFU per stick, thus making dosing and modifying the amount for your dog straightforward.
Keep in mind that a dog with a sensitive constitution may take a while to adjust to the sudden addition of probiotics in their diet, but wait a few days to see if they adapt and if their health improves.
Always call your veterinarian if you are unsure of anything or have concerns about your pet's health.
When to Decrease Probiotic CFU Dosage in Dogs
It would help if you considered decreasing the probiotic dosage when using the supplement for the very first time and in dogs with compromised immune systems.
In both cases, the initial administration of probiotics is likely to be accompanied by gassiness and loose stool. In some cases, diarrhea and vomiting can be expected too.
This reaction is not something you need to be afraid of as it occurs because the body is trying the purge the accumulated toxins and harmful bacteria and restore a healthy gut.
Therefore, there is no need to discontinue the supplementation. All you need to do is decrease the probiotic CFU dosage by half and use it once per day. After a week, you can continue using the decreased amount but twice per day.
Once your pet is fully adjusted to the new probiotic supplement, you can increase the amount and use the regular recommended dose for its body weight.
Can You Give Your Dog Too Many Probiotics?
Yes, giving your dog too many probiotics is possible, but luckily, your dog cannot overdose on this supplement. Plus, all potential side effects are transient and self-limiting.
However, some pet owners find that while their dogs adjust to the homeostasis correction in the microbiome, adverse reactions are experienced, including loose stools, gas, vomiting, or diarrhea.
In such cases, lower the dose to manage the side effects and then increase it gradually. Slow introductions are also recommended when switching to a new canine probiotic brand and when adding new strains of bacteria to the menu.
How Much Probiotics is too Much for Dogs?
When it comes to probiotic supplements and live cultures, more isn't always better.
An excessive quantity of beneficial bacteria, such as those in human supplements, does not provide any additional benefits for your pet but instead causes the probiotic strains to compete for absorption.
Even if the good bacteria strains within the supplement are compatible and do not compete with each other, giving your dog too many probiotics might not be beneficial.
How Much Probiotics Should Dogs Take a Day?
It is also important to pay attention to the number of different bacteria strains included in the probiotic. Ideally, the right probiotic should contain between 3 and 5 strains of bacteria, including:
Lactobacillus is a friendly bacteria and involves many species like acidophilus, plantarum, casei, rhamnosus. Lactobacillus benefits the canine body by improving immune function, supporting the normal digestive process, building healthy colon walls, and more. A canine study found that Lactobacillus acidophilus "may have the potential to enhance intestinal health and improve immune function in dogs."
Bifidobacterium animals is another lactic acid bacteria that can reduce stress in dogs, as well as help with diarrhea and food allergies. Bifidobacterium animalis has a good survival rate in the canine gastrointestinal tract and is safe for dogs. Bifidobacterium has also shown anti-cancer activity in humans.
Saccharomyces Boulardii is a probiotic yeast. Dogs or humans can use it for the treatment of GI tract disorders and diarrhea symptoms. Saccharomyces Boulardii is a resilient probiotic and a favorable choice to use in conjunction with antibiotic medication. S. boulardii can manage inflammation and modulate short-chain fatty acids that feed friendly bacteria and discourage harmful bacteria growth.
Bacilli types of probiotics include Bacillus coagulans, indicus, and subtilis (DE111). These probiotics are spore-forming, meaning they form a coating that can protect them from heat, bile acids, and most antibiotics. Bacilli aids the digestion of proteins and carbohydrates and have shown anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects in humans.
Enterococcus faecium supports healthy digestion and supports the growth of good bacteria in the gut. It also has immunomodulatory features and is particularly helpful for managing stress-induced diarrhea.
How Long does it Take for Probiotics to Work in Dogs?
The exact time probiotics need to start working depends on the underlying reason for using supplements in the first place.
For example, in dogs with diarrhea, you will be able to see improvement after only a few days of use. On the other hand, if using probiotics for immune-boosting purposes, it may take up to several weeks before the supplement start working.
To ensure optimal probiotic efficacy, you should supplement your dog with prebiotics too. Prebiotics are compounds in food that encourage the healthy growth of probiotics. Foods that provide healthy fiber are great prebiotics for healthy gut bacteria to eat.
Soluble fibers are found in beta-glucans from mushrooms, some grains, pectin in fruit, chlorella, chicory root, and more. Other resistant starches will make it through to the colon intact, where the gut bacteria ferment (eat) them to create short-chain fatty acids.
Short-chain fatty acids will be in abundance if the gut is healthy. They benefit the body by:
Increasing the use of energy and reducing the risk of obesity
Helping provide gut integrity and strength
Regulating metabolic, neurological, and inflammatory responses
Protecting the body against allergens
Helping the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, and other nutrients
If you find that the addition of probiotics (and prebiotics) has not helped your dog, take your pup for a wellness checkup at your trusted vet's office.
High carbohydrates or high sugar diets can impact the gut negatively and cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the intestines. Medications that disrupt good bacteria formation, like antibiotics, can also limit the effects of probiotics.
Once you've worked with your veterinarian in all areas of your pet's health and adjusted their diet (if necessary), you may eventually see the positive results of probiotics for dogs.
Our Final Thoughts on Probiotics Dosage for Dogs
Probiotics for dogs can prevent disease by supporting your pet's immune system and digestion. Making a small change and adding probiotics to their daily health routine can make a huge difference in your dog's health and longevity. Caring for your dog means caring for their gut bacteria too.