What Do Probiotics Do For Dogs?

By helloBARK!
Updated on 27 July 2021

Are you looking to find a digestive supplement to support your dog’s digestive health?

If you’re like me and you have dogs that can get a funny tummy from time-to-time, you may have considered a digestive supplement to support a healthy gut environment.

There are an array of digestive supplements created for dogs to help support your canine companion stay fit and active.

Most digestive supplements will contain probiotics that work to maintain and promote a healthy gut environment for your four-legged friend.

In this article, we’ll hear from three experts about what probiotics can do for dogs, why they’re important and what dog owners should look for when selecting a probiotic digestive supplement for their pup.

Remember, you should speak to your vet before you introduce a dog supplement, including a digestive supplement, to their diet so you can follow their advice and guidance based upon their knowledge of your dog’s medical history.

What Makes A Good Probiotics For Dogs?

Felicia Kelly, Registered Veterinary Technician And Claims Adjuster for Embrace Pet Insurance

A good probiotic is one that has multiple strains of bacteria, has been well studied, and is stored or packaged correctly.

Why Are Probiotics For Dogs Important?

Felicia Kelly, Registered Veterinary Technician And Claims Adjuster for Embrace Pet Insurance

Probiotics are important to help maintain an intestinal microbial balance for your dog. Probiotics can aid in digestion and can help the immune system. Probiotics produce short chain fatty acids which can inhibit harmful bacterial growth. There are multiple ways in which probiotics can aid in a dog’s health. I recommend speaking with your veterinarian to find a probiotic that will work well for your dog.

Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ And Vet Expert At Pumpkin Insurance

Did you know that the body, human or otherwise, has more bacterial cells in it than animal cells. It’s true!

The microbiome is an active area of medical research in both human and veterinary medicine. The microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses present in the body.

The gut microbiome plays a very important role in the health of our companion animals by aiding digestion and benefitting the gut immune system, which is the largest immune system in the body.

An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight problems, hormonal problems, overgrowth of bacteria or fungus anywhere in the body, mood issues, and low immunity, which is why supplementing with a high quality probiotic may benefit your pet’s health.

A Terrier keeps his eyes on a dog supplement (Photo: Adobe Stock)

A Terrier keeps his eyes on a dog supplement (Photo: Adobe Stock)

What Should Dog Owners Look For

Felicia Kelly, Registered Veterinary Technician And Claims Adjuster for Embrace Pet Insurance

Dog owners should look for a probiotic that is in a capsule pill form, has multiple strains of bacteria, and a prescription probiotic rather than an over-the-counter product. A probiotic that is in a capsule form will benefit dogs more because the coating will protect the bacteria from the stomach acid. The goal is to get the bacteria to the intestines. We want to replace the good bacteria that the dog is losing.

For example, when a dog has diarrhea, they are shedding all the bacteria from their intestines. The goal is to get the probiotic bacteria safely to the intestines to replace the bacteria that is being shed. A probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria will benefit dogs more than one with a single strain of bacteria. We want to create a microbial balance and having multiple strains of bacteria in a probiotic will help achieve the intestinal balance.

Having too many bacteria of the same strain will cause an overgrowth, which is counterproductive to the microbial balance we are attempting to create. A probiotic that requires a prescription has a better chance of having a higher potency and being a better reviewed or studied product.

It’s best to speak with your veterinarian about which probiotic will work best for your dog. Every probiotic is different, and some may be used in different situations for your dog.

Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ And Vet Expert At Pumpkin Insurance

When you look at the label, there should be a guarantee of the number of live bacteria (labeled as colony forming units or CFUs) that are contained in the product. There are many pet foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics (which also benefit gut health) – still look for guarantees. There should be an indication on the label about what species and strains are included so that you can look up any efficacy studies that are associated with those strains.

Do not use products that are formulated for humans because humans and pets have their own unique gut flora.

Choose enteric coated probiotics to ensure that the bacteria get to where they need to be and aren’t just digested in stomach acid. Probiotics are important for gut health and immune health. Probiotics are a good idea any time your pet has been on antibiotics in any form (oral, topical, intravenous, etc.). Probiotics can also help with digestive issues, urinary tract health, and skin health. Do not give probiotics to any animals that are severely ill or have a compromised immune system.

Anything Else To Consider?

Bull Terrier (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Bull Terrier (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Travis RIce, Founder Of WOOOF

The main issue with many probiotics, especially for dogs, is their fragile nature and limitation in restoring and maintaining overall gut health.

Owners must ensure the company did not use heat to make their product. There isn’t a lot of information about storage in the industry but owners should also expect the CFU on the bottle is not the amount their dog will receive, many of those bacteria will die off in the manufacturing and storage process.


• They don’t work alone and may be a precursor to the real benefits. While probiotics are a great way to add beneficial bacteria to the gut, probiotics alone will not restore and maintain a dog’s gut health. Probiotics work with prebiotics, a dietary fiber, and postbiotics. Think of prebiotics as the food, probiotics are the bacteria itself, and the postbiotics as the result. Without a good prebiotic, those probiotic supplements won’t work well. There also hasn’t been a lot of research done on the efficiency of probiotic to postbiotic in dogs. Interestingly, postbiotics are what may be giving dogs the health real benefits like supporting immunity immunity, reducing inflammation, treating diarrhea, helping allergies and treating other digestive issues.

• It only helps the right core issue. Probiotics can work wonders, but it can also be an expensive investment with little results if used for the wrong underlying reasons. Pet’s gut microbiome can be dramatically changed by things like stress, diet, age, and medication. Probiotics can help the abundance of good bacteria in the gut, but do not treat the underlying reasons for a dog’s stress, a diet that isn’t working, or simply age. Owners should also look into ways to decrease their dog’s stress through behavior training, supplementation or lifestyle adjustments. They should also try diet adjustments if their dog continues to have digestive symptoms and consider adding digestive enzymes to further help normalize the digestive tract.

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