If you have been into healthy food and supplements, you've probably already heard about probiotics. Companies that manufacture human probiotics claim that these live bacteria will help with your digestive system.
Having the right gut bacteria can help with weight loss, digestion, immune function, skin health, and reduce your risk of certain diseases in humans.
Indeed, the science behind probiotics is pretty straightforward for people: they do help, but they are not necessarily essential by any means. However, you may not know that this is a "probiotic for dogs." In theory, you can help your dog's gut the same way you can help your own using supplements.
The question is, of course, is a probiotic for dogs worth it? To arrive at the answer to that question, let's dive into this topic in more detail.
What Is a Probiotic for Dogs?
In our digestive system, we have many bacteria in our gut. Estimates put this number somewhere between 50 and 300 trillion bacteria that live inside every one of us. These bacteria help with many things, but most of them help with the proper absorption of food within our intestines. Of course, some of these bacteria can be harmful (e.g., E. coli), but the ones that reside within us on a day-to-day basis are always helpful. Your dog's gut has these same bacteria to help with their food digestion too.
During our lives, the ratios of these bacteria are ever-changing. If you eat more fatty foods, you're likely to attract different bacteria than if you eat broccoli and carrots. Sometimes, either through diet or naturally-occurring phenomena, the makeup of these bacteria can become undesirable. When that happens, you might start to have digestive problems, and your body might not get all the nutrients it needs from the food you eat.
Probiotics are live bacteria that act as supplements to this naturally-occurring bacteria. The idea is that by ingesting these live bacteria, you'll help keep your gut free of harmful bacteria and keep it functioning optimally at all times. In both humans and dogs, the result should be a better digestive system that can extract more of the proper nutrients.
Therefore, a probiotic for dogs is a capsule, liquid, or other medium containing beneficial bacteria for your canine's gut.
What Are the Benefits of These Dog Supplements?
In theory, these supplements sound like they would be beneficial. Practically-speaking, their benefits are primarily from anecdotal stories as opposed to hard evidence.
Dog owners frequently report fewer sickness in dogs like digestive issues after giving their pups probiotics. It's not uncommon for owners to say their dog has less diarrhea, less vomiting, better appetite, and an overall healthier appearance while on probiotics. While owners may be biased to believe that these natural probiotics for dogs would benefit their pups, owners typically know their pets best, so if they say the probiotics are working, they probably are!
In terms of academic research, there is some evidence to suggest that probiotics reduce the scope and severity of diarrhea in canines. A more comprehensive study of the various types of bacteria found in canine probiotics was a little more inconclusive. However, the authors did note many specific cases where probiotics were statistically beneficial for dogs. Instead of giving dogs probiotics "just because," the authors seemed to think that delivering targeted probiotics for treating specific diseases was probably the more logical approach.
It is also worth noting that no academic research has demonstrated that these probiotics harm canines. They are almost always safe to give to dogs and thus often fall into the category of "it doesn't hurt to try." If your pup is having diarrhea and GI issues, the probiotics may not work for your dog's specific problem, but they certainly won't do any damage. And, if it does solve the problem, you'll have given your dog a relatively easy, painless, unintrusive solution for their gastrointestinal issues!
What's the Best Way To Deliver Probiotics To Dogs?
If you're looking to give your pets probiotics regularly, arguably the best method is to provide your dog probiotic dog food. These foods have probiotics built into them so that way you don't need to give your pup their regular food and a supplement. It's all in the same package!
On the other hand, if you're looking to give your pups probiotics only when they have an issue where you think these supplements might help, then you'll probably want either probiotic powders or chews. If your dog likes the chews, they're often a great way to give them these powerful bacteria as you can also use them as treats to help your dog feel better.
Ultimately, though, the best way to give your dog probiotics is the way that they will accept. If you find that your dog likes the dog food, use that. If you find that they like the chews or powder more, use that instead. Every dog is different and will react differently to each medium.
Is a Probiotic for Dogs Worth It? Yes, for the Most Part
For the most part, probiotics have benefits in dogs just like they do in humans. While the evidence can feel a little inconclusive at times, studies show some benefits for digestive health in canines. That alone makes probiotics worth considering if your pup has digestive issues (and possibly as a regular supplement even in healthy dogs!).
If you think your dog might benefit from probiotics, consider picking up a powder, chew, or probiotic dog food today!