Probiotics…we hear about them all of the time and know that they are great for our own health, but what about probiotics for dogs? It helps to first be sure you know what probiotics are and then start to consider ways to incorporate probiotics for dogs into your pet’s daily diet.
What Does Probiotic Mean?
When we are going to consider probiotics for dogs, we need to think of them in two different ways. First as bacteria already in the digestive system, and second, as food sources of probiotics.
Probiotics are “living microbes that make up the gastrointestinal tract, and support a healthy immune system”. They are desirable kinds of bacteria that keep a healthy balance in the digestive system. For example, probiotics are the bacteria that ensure that harmful bacteria like the famous E. coli, cannot reach unsafe or dangerous levels.
All mammals have intestinal flora and fauna, and yet not all of them have similar digestive systems.
Dogs, as an example, have very short digestive systems and they can eat and pass waste in as little as six hours afterward. That means that their process for breaking down food and absorbing it into their bodies begins right away, and it is why their stomachs have a much stronger amount of acid than a human’s.
Because of that, many experts were unsure if the second type of probiotics – the kind taken in as food sources would work for dogs.
However, we now know that there are effective probiotics for dogs. When you’re purchasing, read the labels for one of these strains depending on the problem you are trying to help your dog overcome:
- Bacillus coagulans – Enhances intestinal health and reduces instances of intestinal issues.
- Bifidobacterium animalis – Unique bacteria that supports digestion and helps resolve diarrhea in dogs.
- Bifidobacterium bifidum – Supports balance of flora in the intestines and enhances immune response.
- Bifidobacterium breve – Supports digestive health, regulates bowels and eliminates instances of gas, bloating and diarrhea.
- Bifidobacterium lactis – Common to yogurt and good for immune issues
- Bifidobacterium longum – Helps digestive function and improves immune system
- Enterococcus faecium – Supports digestion and reduces instances of digestive problems
- Lactobacillus acidophilus – Improves bowel function, protects entire GI system and is good for dogs with sensitive digestion
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus – Supports other strains and enhances antioxidant absorption
- Lactobacillus casei – Supports growth of beneficial bacteria
- Lactobacillus plantarum – Supports better absorption of vitamins and minerals
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus – Improves elimination and balances intestinal micro flora while crowding out bad bacteria.
You can find them in supplemental forms, and there are many reliable probiotics supplements for dogs in capsules and powders. However, you can also give your dog yogurt and/or kefir, buttermilk or some soft cheeses that have live cultures. There are many chews with probiotics and dog foods that feature probiotic ingredients.
How to Add Probiotics for Dogs to the Daily Diet
Depending on the type of probiotics for dogs you have selected, and the CFUs or colony forming units of probiotics in the food or supplement, you will want to gradually increase the amount to the appropriate dosage over the course of one to two weeks to allow your pup time to acclimate. If you start with too large a dose, you can just leave your dog feeling miserable.
How much do you need? Although only a few definitive studies exist today, scientists agree that a pill with 4 billion CFUs is a good starting place for dogs, as this is the only way to be certain your dog is obtaining adequate probiotics each day. You will also want to stick with the probiotics designed for dogs, as they are the only way to be sure you are getting those dog-friendly strains listed above.
Naturally, if you decided to begin giving your pet a probiotic supplement or adding it to the daily food intake because of health issues, you will want to pay very close attention to the symptoms or signs that led you to the decision. Just keep in mind that it can take a few weeks for the bacteria to colonize the intestines fully and spread throughout the entire system.
If your pet had no signs of poor health, you may not see many differences in their behavior or appearance; however, many pet owners say they see more regular bowel movements, a boost in overall energy and shinier coat after a short time.
Benefits of using Probiotics for Dogs
What benefits would your dog enjoy from the addition of a probiotic regimen? The most commonly recommended reasons for adding a probiotic food or supplement include:
- Poor digestion
- Old age
- Overcome infection
- GI upset
- Poor immune function
- To counteract medications
- Adjusting to new surroundings (i.e. many shelter dogs are given probiotics to help them ease into the new environment without digestive upset or immune issues) and deal with stress and anxiety
- Reduce or eliminate parasites
Just be sure you know which strains are in any supplements used, be sure there is guaranteed analysis of the numbers of live bacteria in the product, and check the use before date to be sure it is not expired. Though you can give probiotic foods to dogs, the supplemental forms can be easier if a dog is lactose intolerant or lives with a very sensitive stomach; be sure that you are using the highest quality sources for the best outcome.