The Truth About Probiotics for Dogs and Digestive Health

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / November 28, 2017

When it comes to your dog’s health, it’s important to focus on their digestive system. The gut is a powerful tool for explaining your dog’s overall health. Probiotics for dogs focus on their gut health, which can improve other processes in the body. This helpful guide to probiotics for dogs will teach you how they can keep your dog healthy and feeling their best.

What are Probiotics For Dogs?

what are probiotics for dogs

Bacteria can be either bad or good. Probiotics are the good kind, mimicking the helpful bacteria that already exists in the body. Probiotics can occur naturally in the foods we eat, such as yogurt, cheese, and tempeh. Some probiotics are synthetic, though, which means that they’re man-made and designed to work much like a naturally-occurring probiotic.

Probiotics are a little different than prebiotics, which is actually the food for probiotics to eat. Prebiotics come from the carbohydrates in food and supply probiotics with the nourishment they need to flourish in the digestive tract.

What Do Probiotics Do for the Body?

Probiotics are all about helping your gut stay healthy. Your digestive tract health can affect just about every other process in your body in some way. In fact, what you eat and how you digest it can even influence your mood and cognitive function. Probiotics tackle your gut health, focusing on improving digestion so that your food gets broken down properly and nutrients from it go to where you need them.

How Do Probiotics Work?

These healthy bacteria are live organisms. These live organisms, most often from the Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus groups and their various species, balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut. Your body can lose good bacteria due to illness, eating an unbalanced diet, or even after finishing an antibiotic. Bad bacteria will always be present in your body, but probiotics entering your digestive system can increase the good bacteria to prevent unhelpful bacteria from taking over.

Are Probiotics Different for Dogs Than Humans?

Some pet supply companies manufacture their own probiotic for dogs. Additionally, many human probiotics can safely be given to dogs. Usually, all that differs is the dosage and the form it takes. While people can take probiotic supplements in a pill form, your dog’s probiotics might be more conveniently administered in a chewable form. Although it’s usually safe to give your dog a human probiotic, it’s not generally recommended without asking your veterinarian first.

Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs

benefits of probiotics

Dog probiotics can have such a wide range of benefits for your pooch, much like the benefits that human probiotics do for people. Some of the things you can expect your dog’s probiotics to do for him include:

  • Calming irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Treating diarrhea or constipation
  • Soothing an upset stomach
  • Improving overall digestion
  • Preventing urinary tract infections
  • Preventing allergies or soothing their symptoms
  • Regulating moods and behaviors
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Regulating appetite and weight

Almost any dog can benefit in some way from a probiotic, even if he or she has no known ailments. Probiotics can potentially prevent illness and disorders that coincide with aging in dogs, such as a weakened immune system or sensitive tummy.

Does My Dog Need Probiotics?

probiotics side effects

Your veterinarian will help you decide if your dog needs extra probiotics. Although most dogs won’t necessarily need a probiotic supplement, most dogs can gain some benefits from doing so. However, your veterinarian can help you decide if your dog just needs some tweaks in their diet for well-balanced meals rich in probiotics, or if a supplement might help him get what he needs. Picky eaters and dogs with certain illnesses or diseases might benefit more from a supplement than an otherwise healthy dog who eats a balanced diet.

Some health concerns and situations that might warrant a probiotic supplement for your dog include:

  • Allergies to food or the environment
  • An infection or virus
  • A change to a new food
  • Parasitic infection
  • Use of an antibiotic or other medication that affects the body’s natural flora
  • Stress due to a new environment or situation

Probiotics Side Effects

As with most anything that enters the body, too many probiotics could throw your dog’s system out of whack. The key to probiotic usage is giving your dog a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria. Too many probiotics can lead to extreme diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. If your dog already has a weakened immune system, he also might experience severe side effects from some probiotics. Probiotics can multiply too rapidly, causing their overflow to enter the dog’s blood, leading to inflammation or infection. Most issues stemming from a dog probiotic can be prevented by talking to your vet before administering one.

Types of Probiotics for Dogs

types of probiotics for dogs

Most veterinarians will suggest giving your dog a probiotic supplement that’s made specifically for canines. Most commonly, a supplement for dogs will be in a chewable or powder form, depending on your dog’s preference. It can be tricky to choose the right probiotic, though, since each type of probiotic can help your dog in a different way.

Best Probiotic For Dogs

The best probiotic for dogs, then, depends on what benefits your dog needs.

One of the most common groups of probiotics for dogs is Lactobacillus, which helps increase nutrient absorption so that your dog gets the most out of their balanced meals. This is a good option for dogs who have a healthy appetite for balanced meals to prevent upsets in the digestive process that can cause diarrhea and nausea and ensure that he’s getting plenty of vitamins and nutrients from their food.

Another common group is Bifidobacterium, which can improve your dog’s overall immune system, boosting their ability to bounce back after an illness and prevent more. This group of probiotics can even make your dog’s current symptoms of illness shorter and less severe.

Purina FortiFlora is one of the most recommended probiotic supplements, which provides antioxidants to boost the immune system while helpful bacteria targets your dog’s digestive tract.

Natural Probiotics

The best way for your dog to get their daily probiotics is through the food he eats. However, if your dog is ill or a very picky eater, this might not be an option. Still, it’s a good idea to try to work some probiotic-rich foods into your dog’s diet first before purchasing a supplement.

Raw goat’s milk is safe for most dogs (if you’re unsure about yours, check with your vet!) and has plenty of naturally-occurring probiotics. Kefir made with goat’s milk is another option that can make the flavor a little more appealing for picky eaters. Or, make your own fermented vegetables, like pickling vegetables with apple cider vinegar, and feeding your dog small amounts each day.

Administering the Probiotic

best probiotic for dogs

Before you administer a probiotic to your dog, you should check with your veterinarian for specific instructions and dosage requirements. They will take your dog’s weight and dietary needs into account to determine a beneficial dose and dosage schedule for your dog. You can also ask your vet for helpful tips for administering the probiotic, such as foods that are safe to mix with a powder supplement.

How Long Do Probiotics Take to Work?

Most probiotics get to work on their replication and growth processes immediately upon entering the gut, but it’ll take several hours for there to be enough to start seeing results. Some dogs might take a couple of days for digestion to balance, and long-term effects could take a few weeks to a couple of months to notice.

Final Thoughts: Probiotics For Dogs

Your dog can benefit from a healthy diet rich in probiotics. Probiotic supplements are also an option for picky eaters or dogs with certain illnesses or health issues. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian to find out if a supplement is a good choice for your dog and how he can make the most of their meals from a healthy diet.

About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for