Dogs are notoriously curious and one of their most important means of exploring the world is their tongue. Don’t be surprised if your pet is intrigued by the bottle of probiotics left on the table and helps himself to it.
You should, of course, have a few words with your dog about his behavior but, other than that, no need to worry.
Even if the probiotics he took are not specifically designed for four-legged animals they won’t cause any significant problem.
On the contrary, you might want to consider putting your dog on probiotics, too.
What are probiotics?
Bacteria. Probiotics are simply bacteria that normally live in your pet’s guts. Just as they do in your own guts and they’re very important for your health.
Not to put you off or anything, but your adorable furry friend is mostly a huge pile of bacteria. For every living cell that makes up your dog, there are about 10 bacteria. And they’re good bacteria. Most of these live in your dog’s digestive system, mainly in the intestine, making up what is known as the intestinal microbiome. In recent years, scientists have been focusing on the role of this microbiome, going as far as calling it ‘the forgotten organ’. The research is mostly about humans, but the same goes for dogs.
The intestinal microbiome is made of trillions of microorganisms, bacteria, fungi and viruses. Each dog has a different microbiome, which means the numbers of each microscopic component are different. It’s like a fingerprint, if you want. Unlike fingerprints, the composition of the microbiome changes over the time. It can be influenced by many things, like diet, stress, certain medical conditions or by taking various drugs, especially antibiotics. Once the balance of this microbiome is affected, it stops working properly and your dog’s health will suffer.
All animals, including dogs, have six main types of bacteria families in their guts, and each one of these is made of different subtypes. You’d need a whole medical treaty to analyze all of them, but the most important bacteria for dogs are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Can a dog overdose on probiotics?
Like all medicines, probiotics can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. However, these are quite rare.
Stick with the recommended dose, but don’t worry if your dog happens to eat more. These bacteria are harmless and your pet will eliminate the surplus. In other words, a dog cannot overdose on probiotics.
What dogs shouldn’t take probiotics?
While probiotics are generally beneficial to a dog’s health, there are certain conditions for which such supplements are not recommended. For instance, if your dog has a problem with the immune system do not give him probiotics, certainly not before talking to your vet and exploring the potential benefits.
Dogs who have had recent surgery should not be given probiotics. Once your dog recuperates, they might be very useful to restore gut health if your pet was put on antibiotics, which is often the case after surgery.
If your dog has a chronic illness, check with your vet to see if you can give him probiotics.
How do they differ from prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a completely different story. They are non-digestible food compounds that reach the intestine largely unchanged and this makes probiotics very happy, because they feed on prebiotics. The best known type of prebiotics is starch which is fermented by probiotics.
For the most part, the good bacteria in the guts eats the same things your dog eats, but in order to thrive they need these prebiotics, which can also be administered as a dietary supplement.
Bottom line, your dog needs prebiotics so the probiotics in his guts can thrive.
Seven benefits of probiotics for dogs?
There’s a symbiotic relationship between the dog and the bacteria colony in his guts. That means it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The bacteria get fed and have a nice place to live in, but they repay the dog for the hospitality by helping him with digestion, protecting him against toxins and all sorts of bad stuff and by raising his immunity levels.
- Probiotics are often prescribed to treat digestive problems, such as diarrhea. Their role is to restore the balance in the microbiome, whether it was caused by an infection, stress, dietary changes or antibiotics. They can also be used for senior dogs, whose digestion changes and the intestinal microbiome balance is upset.
- Many infections are caused by bad bacteria, pathogen bacteria colonizing the digestive tract. Now, if the intestines have a strong population of good bacteria they will fight off the invading pathogens. However, if the bad guys win they will start building their own colonies in the dog’s gut, a condition known as dysbiosis. This can lead to inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, colitis, and, long-term, even cancer.
- The good bacteria in the microbiome produce various enzymes needed for a good digestion.
- Bacteria digest the fiber in the dog’s diet and produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA) which create a protective lining for the intestine. These SCFAs help the dog absorb vital nutrients, especially minerals. They also protect against food allergens, which is why probiotics are recommended for dogs with food allergies.
- Also, SCFAs help build the T-cells in the dog’s immune system, which are essential to fight off infection.
- The good bacteria play an important part in the production of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter that regulates mood and helps sustain the cognitive function. Serotonin is essential in learning and memory processes, keeping your dog’s brain sharp.
- Probiotics also promote dental health, as bacteria not only in the guts, but in every other part of the digestive system, including the mouth.
How can you tell if your dog needs probiotics?
Since each dog has a different microbiome it’s very hard to diagnose an imbalance. The best thing you can do is look for symptoms that indicate a gut problem. Here are the main symptoms of digestive stress:
- Constant itching and scratching (not caused by fleas or ticks)
- Bad breath
- Terrible body odor, way beyond what’s normal for a dog
- Offensively stinky poo
- Sniffing, panting, and whining
- Dry, flaky skin
Which foods do probiotics naturally occur in?
If your dog is fed kibble or other commercially available types of food, chances are he’s not getting enough probiotics.
Probiotics are mainly found in fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, some types of cheese (Gouda, mozzarella or cheddar), and various pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha. Organic apples are also a good source of probiotics
Dog probiotics vs human probiotics – are they the same?
If your dog stole some of your probiotics, he won’t have a problem. It’s still bacteria that he already has in his intestines.
However, if you want to build up your dog’s health and help his digestion you should look for products designed for canines, as their guts tend to host a different microbiome.
Pet pharmacies and online stores offer a variety of dog probiotics. Before buying anything, check out what they contain. You should look for products that have:
- Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, both derived from dairy products. They strengthen the immune system and fight against the proliferation of pathogens also dairy-based, which helps support the immune system. Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium animalis are particularly helpful against diarrhea in both puppies and adult dogs.
- Saccharomyces boulardii, which is a type of yeast that can treat diarrhea of various origins.
- Soil Based Probiotics, bacteria commonly found in soil and water which help produce vitamins and antioxidants. They also have anti-inflammatory properties and can treat urinary tract infections.
What is the recommended dose of probiotics for dogs?
Probiotics for dogs are available in various forms, such as powders, capsules, and chews. Capsules are preferable as they are the best suited to protect the delicate microorganisms inside. To be of any use, these bacteria need to be alive when fed to the dog. They are particularly sensitive to high temperatures and some capsules need to be stored in the fridge.
Check out the labels to see how you must store your dog’s probiotics.
Also, when you buy probiotics for your pet check out the insert to choose the appropriate dose for your dog’s weight. In most cases, your dog will need a daily dose of probiotics to restore gut health.
While chews are more appealing and powder can be sprinkled on the dog’s regular food, if you buy capsules you will have to train your dog to take his medicine without making a fuss every single day. You can trick your dog by hiding the capsule in a bit of meat, but don’t be surprised if the dog spits the medicine out. They’re smart enough to figure out the trick. A better idea is to come up with a game, like playing catch with the daily capsule.
If your dog accidentally ate some probiotics, whether for human or veterinary use, don’t fret about it. The bacteria in probiotic supplements are not dangerous for your dog and he will eliminate the excess quantity.
Probiotics are actually good for dogs as they can help restore the balance of the intestinal microbiome. This improves the dog’s digestion, helping him to absorb nutrients better. Probiotics are also a good remedy for diarrhea of various origins. A healthy gut strengthens a dog’s immune system, by protecting against bad bacteria and fighting off infection.
Don’t share your probiotics with your pet, as dogs have different needs than humans.