Can I Give My Dog Probiotics?
The benefits of probiotics for humans have been well documented. The billions of bacteria in the digestive system — called the gut microbiome — affect our skin health, mental cognition, health, immunity, and even our ability to digest food. Probiotic supplements and foods help ensure your gut microbiome includes good bacteria to support better digestion and wellness.
With all the positive attention probiotics are getting, it's no surprise pup-parents might be wondering, "Can I give my dog probiotics?" The simple answer is yes. Before doing so, you should consult your vet and understand how the products might work for your four-legged best friend.
Are There Probiotics for Dogs?
Probiotics are "good" microorganisms, most commonly of the genus Lactobacillus. Humans consume probiotics in foods such as yogurt or sauerkraut. For your four-legged buddy, it's probably best that you add dog-specific probiotic supplements to his diet.
Canine probiotic supplements have been on the market for years. They're recommended by veterinarians to combat upset stomachs and diarrhea. With increasing interest in gut health, many people are now giving probiotics to their dogs to support their overall well-being.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics?
For humans, probiotics can relieve constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and other GI symptoms. Evidence suggests that they have similar effects on our canine companions. Probiotics can impact the gut microbiome to help with digestive issues such as diarrhea and gas.
Are All Probiotics Good for Dogs?
No. While your dog could benefit from certain probiotics, be aware that not all probiotics are equal.
Just because something works for humans or other dogs doesn't mean it's good for your pup.
The best thing for his safety is to always talk with your vet first. As your pet's partner, you want to be knowledgeable.
Different probiotic products — whether it's a supplement or special food — have different strains of probiotics with different purposes. Many formulations specifically for dogs are available. In these, you might see probiotics named Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium lactis. Your vet will point you in the right direction for what your furry friend needs. If you do go this route, be sure to pay attention to expiration dates since the benefits of probiotics require live bacteria.
What about yogurt?
Yogurt is one of the best-known probiotic foods for humans. You may be curious if you can share it with your canine pal. While some vet-based sources say you can, you should be very cautious. Some yogurts contain xylitol, a sweetener that the Food and Drug Administration warns is highly toxic for dogs. Also, the sugars in flavored yogurt and lactose can also upset your pup's stomach. Before offering your pup yogurt, check with your veterinarian.
How Do I Use Probiotics?
Since probiotics contain living organisms, they need careful storage. Avoid extreme temperatures. Keeping probiotics in a hot car or garage for extended periods of time will likely kill the bacteria. Some probiotics even need refrigeration.
Follow the recommended serving size, and prepare to increase or decrease that amount, if necessary. Each dog's digestive system is different — affected uniquely by his food and environment — so there's no one-size-fits-all amount for probiotics. Start slowly, on the low end of the range, and monitor your pet for a few days to a week to determine whether you need to make changes. Since the bacteria will be working to support your dog's gut microbiome, it may result in diarrhea or an upset stomach. If this happens, decrease the serving size and watch your pup closely before increasing the amount again.
Canine probiotic supplements come in a variety of forms, including capsules, pills, chews, powders, food sprays, and in food. What you choose depends on your pet and your situation. If your dog is motivated by food, a flavored chew might be a good choice. If you have a picky eater, you might choose a capsule or pill you can disguise with a favorite treat. Powders and sprays that only contain probiotics can be mixed with your dog's regular diet, but they can change the taste of the food a little.