As time goes by, dog owners are increasingly concerned about the quality of the food that their dogs are eating.
A recent survey showed that 72% of US dog owners agreed that high quality dog food is effective in preventative health care.
Or to put it another way- when your dog is eating good food, they are more likely to stay healthy.
And one important area is in digestive health- which is one of the fastest growing claims that you are likely to see somewhere on your dog’s bag of food.
In fact between 2015 and 2019, these claims rose by a whopping 54%.
But if dog owners are really concerned about how healthy their dog’s digestive system is, are they tempted to use products designed for people?
The focus of my article today is, can I give my dog Yakult?
What is Yakult?
Yakult is a Japanese probiotic drink which was first created in the 1930s and started to be sold worldwide in the 1990’s.
It has the same consistency and taste of yogurt.
In the US they are sold in small plastic bottles which are 80 ml or 2.7 fl oz.
Whereas in the UK, Yakult is sold in smaller bottles- only 65 ml.
A person is meant to drink one of these a day to help keep them “healthy.”
And we will find out exactly how they keep us healthy in the next section.
What is a probiotic?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that have health benefits when they are consumed.
It’s funny because for most of us we have grown up believing that bacteria is bad.
Well microorganisms are a form of bacteria which are good.
Research shows that probiotics can affect a range of health outcomes but the most well known benefits is to do with helping our digestion, diarrhea and constipation.
These microorganisms boost the number of good bacteria in our stomach (or our dogs) and just make them work better.
How do probiotic drinks help dogs?
Generally, probiotic drinks are meant to help dogs in the same way that they help people- by supporting their digestion.
It won’t surprise you to learn that there has been very little research done on the use of probiotics with dogs.
However, in 2019 a study was published about the use of probiotics with dogs.
The study reviewed any research that had been completed before 2017.
Specifically it looked at how probiotics had been used to help dogs with gastrointestinal problems.
There were only 17 pieces of research that had been done and the evidence that using probiotics helps dogs, was very thin.
What probiotics are safe for dogs?
Now the thing about these microorganisms is that there are several different ones and that they each do something slightly different.
The bacteria in Yakult is called lactobacillus, which is handy because this microorganism is also recommended to be used with dogs.
Along with another common strain of probiotic called bifidobacterium- which isn’t found in Yakult but it is found in lots of fermented foods.
A topic that we will come back to later.
Combined, these probiotics are thought to help prevent diarrhea and boost the immune system.
What benefits does Yakult have for your dog?
Well after stating that the health claims of using probiotics can be a little overstated, there is some evidence that Yakult works in specific contexts.
In 2006 in the Netherlands a specialist panel looked at the health claims made by Yakult and found that there was enough evidence to suggest that drinking a bottle of it a day could help people with constipation.
So perhaps if your dog is prone to frequent bouts of constipation then you might consider adding Yakult to their daily diet.
But since Yakult is designed and marketed for people not dogs, how much Yakult should you give your dog?
Hazards of feeding your dog Yakult
If a product has a benefit then without a doubt it will also have some possible hazards.
And Yakult is no different.
And there are two downsides of using Yakult with your dog.
Firstly, it is a batch of microorganisms that are wrapped up in a milk based, yogurt like substance.
Which literally won’t go down well if your dog is lactose intolerant.
Instead of using it to support a dog’s digestion, it could just aggravate it even more.
Secondly, Yakult contains a lot of sugar.
In fact it is about 12% sugar.
How much Yakult should you give a dog?
Without any formal guidance, we are really left with no choice but to do a little guesswork.
Clearly feeding your dog one bottle a day is too much because most dogs aren’t physically the same size as humans.
And so my recommendation is to start small and build up gradually.
For the smallest dogs start off with a teaspoon and for larger dogs start off with a tablespoon.
Increase the amounts slowly over a week or so.
If you start to see it having a positive effect then perhaps you have found the perfect serving size for your dog?
If you start to see very negative effects, such as diarrhea and vomiting then stop using it and try something else.
What are some other big brands of probiotic drinks?
Yakult isn’t the only probiotic drink for sale.
Other big brands in the US include Activia Daily and Lala probiotic yogurt smoothies.
And in the UK we have a range of probiotic yogurt drinks by Actimel.
Both Activia and Lala contain more strains of bacteria than Yakult.
Remember Yakult contains just one variety- lactobacillus.
Activia and Lala contain four varieties or cultures- including bulgaricus, thermophilus and lactis.
Three other ways to feed your dog probiotics
If you really want to boost your dog’s health by adding probiotics into their diet, then it can be done without resorting to letting them drink your favourite probiotic drink.
The first way to do this is to buy a pot of natural yogurt and add a small amount into their food.
Just make sure that the yogurt contains some live bacteria.
You don’t need to buy some big named brand product, as long as it contains some live cultures it will be fine.
By doing this, you will be saving some money but it still won’t help you if your dog is lactose intolerant.
For these dogs, there are at least two other ways of getting probiotics into their system safely.
And the first of these is by feeding them fermented food of some sort or other.
My favourite would be pickled gherkins because they are always in my fridge.
But other possibilities include sauerkraut or even miso.
Our last way of adding probiotics into your dog’s diet is to buy probiotic tablets and feed these to your dog.
You can buy probiotic tablets which are designed for humans and tablets or powders which are catering to dogs.
The tablets for dogs seem to be more expensive than those created for humans.
Another difference is that the human tablets have much larger doses of bacteria in them.
To finish this article, I want to answer some very specific questions that people ask about using Yakult with their dog.
Should I feed Yakult to a dog that is vomiting?
I wouldn’t recommend feeding Yakult to a dog that is vomiting.
Dogs vomit for many reasons not just because they might have an upset stomach.
If you want to help your dog after they have vomited make sure that they have access to plenty of fresh water.
If they keep vomiting then you need to phone your vet.
If you do feed Yakult to a dog that is vomiting, the most likely thing to happen is that they will vomit the Yakult back up in a few minutes.
Should I feed Yakult to a dog that has diarrhea?
The question might be slightly different, but my answer remains the same.
If your dog has diarrhea then feeding Yakult to them probably won’t help.
If these bouts of diarrhea are pretty frequent, you might want to look at changing a dog’s diet or checking to see that they aren’t eating anything that they shouldn’t be.
For instance stealing food from the kitchen counter or eating all kinds of disgusting stuff whilst out on walks.
And if you are asking this question because your dog has had bad diarrhea for a couple of days then Yakult won’t help them but phoning your vet will.
Diarrhea dehydrates a dog very quickly and so if it lasts more than a day and your dog’s stool continues to be very watery, phone your vet.
And give them lots of water, not Yakult.
Should puppies drink Yakult?
I’m going to keep this answer very short.
Don’t feed your puppy Yakult.
A puppy’s digestive system is different to an adult dog’s because their stool tends to be softer.
It is partly because puppy food is different to adult dog food.
Yakult won’t necessarily help to make their stool firmer and by adding into their food you might turn them into a picky eater- because they might refuse to eat their Yakult flavoured food or refuse to eat any food that hasn’t been sprinkled with Yakult.
If your puppy is happy on the diet that you are feeding them and their stool is on the soft side as opposed to the watery side, then don’t try to fix something which isn’t broken.