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Although they have been around for thousands of years, probiotics are currently popular. Long before humans were aware of probiotics, they consumed fermented products, such as beer, bread, wine, kefir, kumis, and cheese, for nutritional and therapeutic purposes.1 In the late 1800s, Ilya Ilich Metchnikoff was the first person to take a probiotic intentionally after researching people in rural Bulgaria who lived much longer than rich European city dwellers. He attributed their longevity to the consumption of their diet’s staple—soured milk (i.e., yogurt)—in which he discovered good bacteria (i.e., probiotics).2 Today we understand more about the gut microbiome, and many people commonly take probiotics to promote their digestive health. These products are also being promoted for pets, but are probiotics good for dogs? Keep reading to learn answers to some frequently asked questions about this topic.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that—when administered in adequate amounts—provide their host with health benefits. These organisms act by modulating the intestinal immune function, enhancing the gastrointestinal (GI) barrier function, and reducing the visceral sensitivity to stress. In addition, probiotics may block pathogenic bacteria by reducing their ability to bind to the gut wall and by producing antibacterial substances.3
Probiotics are safe for dogs, but these bacteria are species-specific. Human probiotics, while not harmful to dogs, don’t provide the same benefits as a species-specific supplement. Probiotic species that have proven beneficial to dogs include4:
Probiotics can be beneficial to your dog in many ways. These microorganisms can enhance your dog’s health by doing the following:
Canine probiotics come in many different forms—including supplement treats, capsules, powder, chewable tablets, and liquid. You can also find probiotic-fortified dog food. Most dogs willingly eat probiotics, but you can hide a probiotic capsule in a treat if your dog is picky. Probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFUs), and the current recommendation for dogs is 1 to 10 billion CFUs per day.4 Ensure the product is not expired, because probiotics lose potency and effectiveness over time.
Some human foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables, have live cultures that may benefit your dog. Choose plain, unsweetened yogurt products that don’t contain artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Recommended yogurt dosages include:
You can give your dog probiotics on a regular basis to promote digestive health and immune function. Instances when these products are especially beneficial include:
If your dog has an upcoming stressful event, such as receiving a vaccination, start administering a probiotic several days in advance so they have a healthy, well-functioning GI tract before they experience potential anxiety. Continue the treatment for several days after the event.
Canine probiotics are considered extremely safe, having few reported side effects. In rare instances, probiotics cause gas, and stomach upset and discomfort, particularly when starting the supplement.
If your dog is experiencing GI upset, your veterinarian should rule out an underlying medical problem before you add a probiotic to your pup’s diet. If your goal is to promote your dog’s intestinal health, find a probiotic that contains multiple live culture strains, and choose a product that requires refrigeration, because many shelf-stable probiotics are less potent.
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Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that live in your dog’s GI tract, and prebiotics are fiber sources that nourish and promote probiotic growth. Prebiotics feed probiotics, and are usually found in high-fiber foods.
If you are considering a probiotic for your dog, consult your veterinarian regarding the appropriate product and dose for your canine companion. The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.
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