Recommended Article #12Jun23
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This recommended article "Best Probiotics For Dogs: The Ultimate Guide" is curated and sourced from Dogs Naturally Magazine. If you loved this article, please do feel free to share it around.
Best Probiotics For Dogs: The Ultimate Guide
Probiotics for dogs are a few other supplements that can have such a significant impact on the immune system and general health. It's crucial to support your dog's microbiome by giving him the right probiotics at the right time because gut bacteria play a significant role in both health and sickness.
What Is The Microbiome?
Bacteria live in all parts of your dog’s digestive tract. There are just a few that live in the stomach. As you travel down the intestines, the numbers of bacteria increase. But your dog's colon is where the majority of bacteria are found.
The microbiome refers to the complex community of bacteria and other microorganisms in your dog’s gut. Collectively, these bacteria perform similar functions to just about any other organ. The microbiome is in fact referred to as "the forgotten organ" by scientists. Like a fingerprint, each dog has a unique microbiome. This is really because each dog has a different environment and diet.
What Are Probiotics?
Dog probiotics are living organisms that provide health benefits. These good bacteria are found in your dog’s gut, in fermented foods, and in supplements. Some types of yeast are also regarded as probiotics.
Are Probiotics Good For Dogs?
Yes, they are! Beneficial bacteria have a few key jobs in your dog’s body which help in:
- Promote overall dog gut health
- Digest food
- Produce key vitamins (including vitamin K and B vitamins)
- Produce serotonin and influence mood
- Reduce the gut pH
- Crowd out harmful bacteria
- Produce enzymes
- Produce fatty acids that discourage the growth of harmful bacteria
- Support the immune system
How Probiotics Support The Immune System
Bacteria like to stay in your dog's gut because they consume the same foods as he eats (or more exactly, they ferment food). Since your dog cannot digest fiber, bacteria really enjoy eating it. Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are "pooped out" when bacteria eat fiber. Therefore, probiotics for dogs are a fantastic approach in increasing your dog's intake of healthy SCFAs.
The three main SCFAs are:
Short chain fatty acids either remain in your dog’s colon or travel into your dog’s body. Either way, they play a critical role in your dog’s health and immunity. They can:
- Feed friendly bacteria and discourage the growth of harmful bacteria
- Help form the protective mucus layer in the gut
- Keep the cells lining the gut close together (they prevent leaky gut)
- Reduce glucose levels, which protects against metabolic disease and obesity
- Build important T-cells in the immune system, which helps reduce chronic inflammation.
- Protect against food allergens
- Help the body absorb calcium, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients
Bacteria are crucial to your dog's health because 80% of its immune system resides in its gut. Specifically, your dog's health is critical in a diverse and populated bacteria community.
Other Health Benefits Of Probiotics For Dogs
Probiotics benefit most dogs since they support your dog's immune system thanks to friendly bacteria. But there are a wide variety of health issues that can be helped by probiotics:
- Leaky gut
- Yeast overgrowth
- Urinary tract infections
- Colitis and bowel diseases
- Allergy symptoms
- Mood disorders
Small changes to the species of bacteria living in your dog’s gut can have a noticeable impact on its host. The above diseases are all linked to shifts in the bacterial populations in your dog’s microbiome.
These shifts are less noticeable if your dog has a diverse population of bacteria in its gut. The health of your dog will be less impacted by bacterial shifts if there are large populations of bacteria. But bacterial shifts happen all the time. Bacteria shifts can be caused by:
- A high-starch diet
- A high-fat diet
Best Prebiotic And Probiotic For Dogs
Despite their importance to your dog’s health, there’s one thing probiotics can’t do: they can’t live without food.
The beneficial bacteria in probiotics are living entities that need to eat. That’s where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are soluble, indigestible fibers that feed probiotics.
Without prebiotics, probiotics will be less active, less effective, and can eventually die off. But if the probiotics are well-fed, they’ll grow and encourage new colonies of friendly bacteria to populate your dog’s gut, and soon they’ll start to crowd out the harmful bacteria. So it's the probiotics that can make it or break it when choosing the best probiotic for your dog.
Believe it or not, many probiotic supplements don’t contain any prebiotics. So your dog will essentially just poop them out. Make sure the jar states it contains prebiotics or that it lists prebiotic foods in the ingredients. Foods like dandelion root, burdock root, larch arabinogalactan (from the larch tree), or inulin (from chicory) are some of the additions you’ll want to look for.
Or you can feed foods like garlic, bananas, apples, cooked mushrooms, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, or asparagus to make sure you get the benefits of pre and probiotics for dogs.
Now let’s look at 3 types of probiotics and how their individual qualities can help your dog.
3 Best Probiotics For Dogs
These are the best-researched and most effective types of probiotics for dogs.
1. Lactic Acid Probiotics
The vast majority of probiotics for dogs are lactic acid bacteria, usually made from fermented milk. You’ll see their strain names on the supplement label, along with the species' name. The Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species are often shown as B. Or L. So you might see B. longum or L. acidophilus.
Lactobacillus species convert milk sugar to lactic acid, which inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine. Like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium species produce lactic acid but they’re not considered a lactic acid bacteria. Bifidobacterium lives in the colon and can interact with immune cells. They can crowd out harmful bacteria and help support the immune system. Low numbers of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been linked to anxiety.
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics are pretty fragile and they typically only last about 24 hours before they’re eliminated from the gut. But even though they’re unlikely to colonize, their DNA remains and they can still offer many health benefits. Overall, they’re useful probiotics for dogs with diarrhea.
Individual lactic acid probiotic strains include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus - This is the tried and true bacteria found in most probiotics. It’s well-researched in dogs and can increase Lactobacillus populations in the gut and reduce the populations of harmful clostridia. It also has a favorable effect on immune cells.
- Lactobacillus casei - This probiotic lives in the mucus membrane of animals. It’s an important part of the gut-brain axis and can affect mood and emotions.
- Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus - These probiotics have been studied in dogs and have been shown to have a much better survival rate. They help build healthy colon walls in dogs with IBS and can decrease antibiotic-related diarrhea. Low levels of Lactobacillus rhamnosus have been linked to anxiety in dogs.
- Bifidobacterium animalis - This probiotic has been found to be helpful for managing acute diarrhea in dogs.
- Bifidobacterium longum - This probiotic has been studied in dogs and is another one that works on the gut-brain axis. A study done by Purina found that larger numbers of Bifidobacterium longum can reduce signs of stress in dogs. B. longum can also help with diarrhea and food allergies.
- Enterococcus faecium - Enterococci are another lactic acid bacteria that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. This probiotic does a better job of surviving the acidity of the dog’s gut than most Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. While this probiotic is healthy for dogs, it’s come under attack recently. Scientists are worried it can cause antibiotic-resistant enterococcal infections in humans. But it’s definitely beneficial for dogs and is a well-researched addition to canine probiotics.
- Pediococcus acidilactici - Pediococcus acidilactici is another lactic acid bacteria that are showing a lot of promise in canine studies. It’s been successfully used to manage skin conditions and leaky guts.
2. Probiotic Yeast
Saccharomyces boulardii is a healthy yeast that’s in the category of probiotics for dogs. Saccharomyces boulardii is used to treat acute and chronic diarrhea in humans. A recent trial in dogs showed the same benefits. S. boulardii has also been successfully used to treat Candida and yeast. S. boulardii also helps with digestive issues caused by chronic inflammation as it can alter cell signaling pathways in the immune system. What’s unique about S. boulardii is that it can’t be killed by antibiotics. It can be taken at the same time as antibiotic use to help protect the beneficial gut bacteria and prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea. So this is one of the best probiotics for dogs on antibiotics.
3. Spore Forming Probiotics
Unlike Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the Bacilli strains of probiotics are spore-forming. These bacteria can form a hard coating that protects them from heat, stomach acids, and most antibiotics. In fact, many antibiotics are made from soil-based probiotics for this reason. Bacilli are also called soil-based probiotics for dogs because they’re commonly found in soil and water. The most common strains used include:
- Bacillus coagulans - Bacillus coagulans is a lactic acid-producing bacteria, meaning it can crowd out unfriendly bacteria. B. coagulans is also anti-inflammatory and can have a marked effect on inflammatory digestive diseases, which makes it a good probiotic for dogs with diarrhea. And a 2016 study also shows that it improved rheumatoid arthritis in rats.
- Bacillus indicus - Bacillus indicus is a unique probiotic as it produces large amounts of carotenoids. These are the yellow and orange pigments in plants. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants. B. Indicus also produces B vitamins, vitamin K2, and quinols. This is an advantage for dogs with EPI and those needing digestive enzymes.
- Bacillus subtilis - Bacillus subtilis is an inhabitant in the guts of healthy dogs. It was used to treat urinary tract infections before antibiotics were developed. Like B. coagulans, B. subtilis has a strong influence on the immune system. It helps produce IgA, an antibody that’s often low in dogs with autoimmune diseases. IgA bolsters the gut lining and also produces vitamin K.
Many Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics are made from dairy, but S. boulardii and spore-forming probiotics aren’t. This makes them some of the best probiotics for dogs with allergies, especially dairy allergies.
For specific health concerns, some types and strains of probiotics have properties that offer better results than others.
What Type Of Probiotic Is Best For Dogs?
As already discussed there are many types of probiotics and various strains with specific qualities and benefits. But when you choose probiotics for dogs, the type you use really depends on their individual health and needs.
Best Probiotics For Dogs On Antibiotics
A 2018 study found that giving Lactobacillus probiotics after antibiotic use caused a delay in the microbiome’s recovery. And the recovery was less complete compared to the group where no probiotics were given.
The best probiotics to help restore your dog’s microbiome after antibiotics are S. boulardii and soil-based probiotics (Bacillus subtiliis and Bacillus coagulans). They survive antibiotic use so you can give them at the same time to help protect the gut bacteria and prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea.
Best Probiotic For Dogs With Diarrhea
If your dog has diarrhea, then a high CFU (colony forming units) lactic acid probiotic should help within a few days. Some studies show that probiotics can cut the recovery time roughly in half. It’s best to continue the probiotics for a few weeks, to help resolve the underlying gut issues.
If your dog has chronic diarrhea or a digestive disorder, then a good multi-strain probiotic given with gut-soothing herbs is a good choice. In this case, you’ll want to keep your dog on the probiotics long-term or until the diarrhea completely resolves.
Best Probiotic For Dogs With Allergies
Probiotics can be a way to help with your dog’s allergies. Probiotic bacteria can help reduce bad bacteria in your dog’s gut to help reduce inflammation and autoimmune responses. And you can give probiotics to itchy dogs. There have been a number of studies done showing probiotics reduce allergy symptoms in itchy dogs. In some cases, probiotics help remove the symptoms.
Soil-based probiotics are more resilient than standard probiotics as they’re more likely to survive the trip through your dog’s gut so you only need 1 to 5 billion CFU.
If you use a Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium product, you want to make sure that the probiotics have:
- More than one strain of bacteria
- At least 30 billion CFU
- The easiest way to give your dog probiotics for allergy relief (or any condition) is with supplements. You should be able to find the strain and number of CFU listed on the label of the probiotic. Don’t buy a probiotic that doesn’t disclose these details.
Best Natural Probiotic For Dogs
If you prefer to add probiotic foods to your dog’s diet, here are some to try (but a few have some drawbacks).
Tripe is the stomach lining of grazing animals like cows. Green means it has not been processed or treated. Raw green tripe is an excellent source of probiotics and digestive enzymes for your dog. It has living cultures of Lactobacillus acidophilus and amino acids.
Kefir is made from milk fermented with kefir grains. It has the benefit that it can be made with cow, goat, coconut, or rice milk, so you can choose a non-dairy product. Kefir grains are strains of lactic acid bacteria that contain many species and strains of bacteria, vitamins, proteins, and yeast.
Yogurt is fermented milk made with the bacteria species Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. There are a few problems with using yogurt as a probiotic. First, dairy products can cause inflammation and immune issues in dogs. Second, most yogurt contains very few probiotics. And most yogurt is high in sugar, which can cause unwanted changes to the gut flora.
Foods such as Chaga, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi can be a healthy part of your dog’s diet. You can make them yourself as homemade probiotics for dogs. What’s unique about fermented foods is their high prebiotic content. Prebiotics aren’t particular about the species of bacteria they feed, so fermented foods can potentially feed harmful bacteria and yeast. Fermented foods can also be a problem for dogs with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and yeast infections, so use them in moderation and with caution.
How To Choose A Probiotic Supplement For Dogs
You can give your dog a human probiotic or a probiotic powder for dogs, just make sure it doesn’t have fillers, and use the information that follows to help you choose what you need.
Probiotic brands should guarantee the amount of colony forming units (CFU). This is a unit of measure to determine the number of bacterial cells in a probiotic supplement. Many of these little soldiers will die off as they work so you want to ensure you have high amounts like 6 or 10 billion CFUs, or higher. Vet-recommended probiotics for dogs should meet these requirements as well. Despite clever marketing, probiotic yogurt for dogs, or even people, might not list CFUs so you know they’re minimal.
In your search for probiotics, you’ll find there are various products such as a probiotic chew for dogs, liquid probiotics for dogs, probiotic paste for dogs, and probiotic bites for dogs. You want to check ingredient labels to make sure they aren’t filled with inactive, non-essential ingredients like starches and sugars.
How To Dose Probiotics For Dogs
The amount of probiotics you give your dog depends on the type of probiotic you choose. For the lactic acid bacteria, you’ll want to look for a supplement with several strains. Most studies on probiotics use a mix of strains because results with single strains aren’t as good.
Because lactic acid bacteria are easily destroyed in the gut, you will need a product with a large number of CFU. You’ll usually want to see at least 10 billion CFU for any live probiotics to survive in your dog’s gut. This is fine for healthy dogs, but if your dog has digestive or immune problems, then look for about 25-50 billion CFU for a medium to large sized dog.
Saccharomyces boulardii is much hardier than the dairy-based probiotics, so a smaller amount can be given. In general, you can give a half billion to 5 billion CFU.
If you’re considering a spore-forming dog probiotic, you can also use a smaller amount of CFU because they easily survive the gut acidity. Look for about 1 billion CFU.
Is it OK to give my dog probiotics daily?
Most dogs would benefit from taking a probiotic every day, especially those who consume kibble or a high-starch diet. Dogs with excessive gas or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, however, shouldn't take probiotics every day.
What do vets say about probiotics for dogs?
Most vets are okay with providing probiotics to dogs, and many even do sell them in their own clinics. Typically, all they ask is that you give your dog a probiotic with well-researched strains.
What kind of probiotics are best for dogs?
Dogs no longer eat off the ground and consume bacteria from the soil, hence, soil-based probiotics are an excellent choice for dogs. Additionally, these bacterial strains are hardier and more likely to survive the harsh gut environment of the dog.
Do Probiotics Have Side Effects?
Probiotics for dogs are generally a perfectly safe supplement that has a variety of safety studies. The most common adverse effects include bloating, gas, and digestive upset.
Probiotics' more frequent problem is that they don't work. Here are some conditions where probiotics for dogs might not be the best approach to health:
Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO)
Most of your dog’s bacteria are meant to live in his colon. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) happens when abnormally large numbers of bacteria reside in the small intestine. These bacteria can interfere with digestion and nutrient absorption in the small intestine. SIBO can be caused by a few factors, including:
- Diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates
- Reduced gut motility
- Drugs that disrupt the microbiome (antibiotics and steroids)
It’s estimated that about 80% of people with chronic digestive issues actually have SIBO. And the number of occurrences in dogs might be just as high. The symptoms of SIBO include:
- Chronic or intermittent diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Gastresophophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- IBS (or inflammatory bowel disease)
- Food intolerances
- Skin issues
- Leaky gut
Because SIBO is an overgrowth of bacteria, giving your dog probiotics will be like adding fuel to the fire, depending on the probiotic. Therefore, if your dog's symptoms worsen after taking probiotics, it may indicate that he has SIBO.
If you suspect your dog has SIBO, spore-forming (soil-based) bacteria are a better option. These probiotics have a shield that enables them to stay in their spore state until their environment is safe. This enables them to cross the small intestine and establish colonization.
How Long Should Dogs Be On Probiotics?
You can give probiotics to dogs on most days if you're doing it as part of a preventative health plan. Since they are less likely to result in SIBO, soil-based probiotics are often a preferable option for daily probiotics.
A high CFU lactic acid probiotic should improve your dog's diarrhea within a few days. According to several research, probiotics can roughly decrease the recuperation time in half. For the best chance of resolving the underlying gut issues, it is preferable to keep taking the probiotics for a few weeks.
If your dog has chronic diarrhea or a digestive disorder, then a good multi-strain probiotic with gut-soothing herbs is a good choice. In this situation, you’ll want to keep your dog on the probiotics long-term or until the diarrhea completely resolves.
"Best Probiotics For Dogs: The Ultimate Guide" curated and sourced from Dogs Naturally Magazine is written by :
Dana Scott is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Dogs Naturally Magazine, and CEO of Four Leaf Rover, a high-end natural supplement company. She also breeds award-winning Labrador Retrievers under the Fallriver prefix. She is a sought-after speaker and outspoken advocate for natural health care for dogs and people and has been a raw feeding, natural rearing breeder since the nineties. Dana also works tirelessly to educate pet owners so they could influence veterinary medicine and change current vaccine, food, and preventive health practices.
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