Most of us have heard about probiotics and how they are beneficial for our digestive systems. Every time you take a probiotic supplement, you're supporting the good bacteria in your GI tract and helping your immune system (about 70% of your immune system lives in your GI tract!). But what you might not have known is that probiotics can benefit dogs, too.
Our GI tract (and your dog's) is essentially one long tube that includes your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. The small and large intestines house the good bacteria that are important for your dog's health.
When should you give your dog probiotics?
Dogs can take probiotics on a regular basis to promote everyday, digestive health and well-being. However, there are several situations that may disrupt the healthy bacteria and microbiome in your dog:
- Stress (from travel, going to the groomer, life changes, etc.)
- Getting into the trash
- Dietary changes or food allergies
In these situations, probiotics can help keep the bacteria in your dog's gut balanced, support the protective layers of the intestines, and assist with normal digestion and absorption.
Consult with your vet about probiotic supplements that are formulated especially for dogs. Supplements should be labeled with the NASC Quality seal. The NASC Quality Seal identifies products from companies that are committed to quality, vigilance, and continuous improvement.
Probiotics for dogs are available in a variety of forms, including soft chews, oral gels, or pastes and powders. They can be given as a treat or mixed in food.
What are some possible side effects of probiotics for dogs?
While probiotics are a common supplement that pet owners give their dogs, there are some (while rare) potential side effects, such as vomiting and diarrhea. To avoid these side effects, consider slowly starting your dog on probiotics with a lower dosage, but always make sure to read the label. Again, be sure to talk with your vet about how to introduce probiotics.
What about prebiotics?
No, that's not a typo – there are both probiotics and prebiotics. As you know by now, probiotics typically include multiple strains of live beneficial bacteria that support good GI health. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria in the gut, helping them flourish. Luckily, many probiotics come with prebiotics in them to leverage the benefits of both.
Probiotics and prebiotics aren't essential to your dog's health, but they can help with intestinal well-being and help maintain a healthy microbial balance in dogs.