Just like in people, a dog’s digestive tract is filled with bacteria, both good and bad. The bad bacteria, while always present, shouldn’t make your dog sick in any way because the good bacteria is there to keep it under control and help keep the digestive tract running smoothly. The good bacteria helps to control the bad bacteria as well as allows the digestive tract to absorb food, while excluding elements such as bad bacteria and other toxins. When this system breaks down, a dog can become very sick and start experiencing diarrhea and vomiting. This upset is more likely to happen in dogs than in other pets because they have a tendency to eat things they shouldn’t, ingesting even more toxins and bad bacteria.
Probiotics for dogs, often sold as supplements, are living “good” bacteria that are very similar to those that live in the dog’s system, and they can be very beneficial for your dog.
Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs
Also just like people, probiotics hold a number of benefits for dogs. They include:
- Aid digestion
- Regulate the immune system
- Produce short-chain fatty acids which slow the growth of the “bad” bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and clostridium perfringens
- May help with the treatment of diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and intestinal inflammation
- May prevent future urinary tract infections
- Can reduce allergic reactions by controlling inflammations
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Types of Probiotics for Dogs
While there are many different types of probiotics available for pets, there are a few that have been shown to be especially effective in dogs. They are:
- Enterococcus faecium
- Bacillus coagulans
- Bifidobacterium animalis – proven to reduce the amount of time the dog suffers from diarrhea
- Lactobacillus acidophilus – improves frequency and quality of stools in sensitive dogs
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Probiotics may contain one of these strains of bacteria, or several. It’s very important that whatever probiotic you end up choosing for your dog that you read the label very carefully. This will not only give you the proper dosage amounts, it will also let you know whether or not the probiotics need to be refrigerated; some do in order to remain effective. It’s also important to understand that many probiotics, especially those that are not refrigerated, do not contain as many probiotics as they may claim. Freeze-dried probiotics come in a powder form and are even more effective than refrigerated probiotics.
While there are probiotics that are made and regulated just for dogs, sometimes probiotics made for humans are just as effective. It will be up to you and your vet to determine which one is best for your dog.
Speaking to your vet only makes good sense before you give your pet any medication of any kind, but doing so for probiotics is still essential, even though you can buy many over the counter. This is because commercially sold probiotics are not regulated and some simply work better than others. Because your vet has likely seen the issue before and worked with people that have tried the different types of probiotics, they’ll be able to tell you which ones work best.
Probiotics for Dogs – Dosage
When you first start giving probiotics to your dog, you might be surprised at how high the dosage is – typically it’s within the hundreds of millions of CFUs (colony forming units). Remember though that your dog has millions of bacteria already in their digestive tract and so while the number may seem high, for bacteria it’s not.
Whether or not you should administer the probiotics with meals or between meals is something that you and your vet will have to discuss. When the probiotics are being used to help with digestion, it’s recommended that they’re taken with meals. However, if they’re being taken for any other reason, they might be more effective when taken between meals. Smaller dogs might need smaller doses, especially if their stool starts to appear loose.
Probiotics for dogs, just like probiotics for people, have a multitude of benefits. They can help regulate the animal’s digestive tract, improve their quality of life, and keep them happier and healthier. Just like any other medicine your dog might need, always speak to your vet before administering it to ensure that you’re really helping your dog.