Pet lovers have always aimed to maximize the lifespan of their pets. Thanks to the unending health technology nowadays, pet owners can clinically improve the quality of life of their pets through medicines, supplements and activities for pets.

For dog owners, the vastly growing trend is giving their canine companion dog probiotics that has been proven to improve the health of your dogs.

happy dog

Basically, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. People usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. However, your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. They are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

Dog probiotics are essentially the same as probiotic supplements that humans take. Your pets’ tummies also need taking care of, and the benefits are generally the same for animals. This healthy option provides a number of benefits such as improved digestion, and increased overall energy

The problem is that animals can’t just take any probiotics. There are known side effects of probiotic supplements that may even cause harm if taken incorrectly. Also, not all suppliers give out safe dog probiotics. Some can be dangerous to the health of pets because of additional elements.

dog eating food

So, if you’re planning to give your pet a treat of dog probiotics, be mindful of this checklist first so that you can be sure that you’re actually helping your pet and not leading your beloved dog to harm:

The Basics

First, you have to understand that not all probiotics are alike, and that many probiotic formulas for pets are really imitating human formulas.

Many cheap probiotics are unstable and lose their beneficial properties in the dog’s stomach before the probiotics can reach the intestine. The intestine is where the probiotics need to plant in order to take care of the dog’s intestinal tract.

Bacteria are also host-specific, giving your dog a random probiotic may be a mistake, throwing its whole systemic balance off.  A research found out that keeping the dog’s ( gut in a favorable balance of healthy bacteria has vast health benefits, ranging from improved digestion, stronger immune system, and better neural and brain function.

Nusentia, a site that specializes on probiotics for dogs, even said that “Your dog’s gut has so much mojo, in fact, that it is often referred to as the second brain.” Comprised of a sophisticated network of symbiotic bacteria, your dog needs health support in order to efficiently handle multiple body functions, and sustain its overall wellness.

Probiotics activate and pass through your dog’s stomach acid and bile, then implant in the gut where they multiply hundred-fold. This process is important, because many probiotics will not survive past the stomach, or even the mouth. While in the intestine, probiotics manufacture vitamins and enzymes, produce neurochemicals and also keep out harmful and disease causing bacteria.

group of dogs

The right dog probiotics will help dogs with yeast overgrowth, yeast infection, and rash. True enough, there are probiotics for dogs with diarrhea, helping dogs  improve their digestive tract and prevent any further bowel dysfunction such as diarrhea and constipation. Also, it improves the dog’s gas and breath odor, while also having good side effects such as improved skin and coat.

The necessaries

Now that you’re about to select the best probiotic for your pet, you always have to look at these criteria.

List of ingredients. The list of ingredients should identify the specific bacterial species and also indicate the strain, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus. This strain improves frequency and quality of bowel movement in dogs.

CFU. The label should also guarantee the number of Colony Forming Unit (CFU) in millions or billions per gram. A colony forming unit is a bacteria or yeast that is capable of living and reproducing to form a group of the same bacteria or yeasts. Microbiologists use CFU to describe the number of active, live organisms instead of the number of all the bacteria – dead, inactive and alive – in a laboratory sample.

Since there are various kinds of organisms, only the viable ones should be considered to be probiotics. “Viable” means that the microbes are capable of living under the proper circumstances. 1 to 4 Billion CFU daily is standard for dogs depending on the dog’s weight – dogs under 50 lbs need 1-3 billion CFU per day. Dogs over 50lbs should be given 2-5 billion CFU daily.

The minor stuff. Like what you would do for any kind of supplements, the product packaging or manufacturer’s website should have a customer service number so you can contact the manufacturer with any questions. The probiotic should also have a “Best Before” date or expiration date.

puppy with food

Storage time and conditions (i.e., excessive heat or cold) can reduce the viability of some bacterial stains. Dog probiotics, like any probiotic supplement, are live cultures and are generally unstable at temperatures over 75 degrees in the active state. Similarly, this is why you keep your yogurt in your fridge.

Preventing the side effects

Any substance that contains ingredients capable of affecting changes with a living organism is going to produce side effects of varying degrees. While some of these side effects won’t be apparent enough to be physically experienced, changes usually occur at the cellular level. However, most side effects go beyond the cellular level in reaction to the dog’s body chemistry, which may be abnormal due to illness, hormonal irregularities or a compromised immune system.

For example, dogs can still have an allergic reaction to some probiotics. Signs that a dog may be suffering an allergic reaction to one or more of the live bacteria composing probiotic supplements include the following: intense “all over” itching, difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue and lips and unsteady gait. Dogs exhibiting these symptoms after being given probiotics should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible for care.

These side effects can happen more often when you choose low quality probiotics. Most of the time, these low quality probiotic supplements are made using cheap raw material. More often than not, this means that the probiotics are unstable. As such, these unstable probiotics quickly degrade in the dog’s stomach before reaching the intestines.

A significant amount of “bacteria die off” occurs when the materials are exposed to extreme conditions, such as exposure to high temperature and to the dog’s stomach acid and bile. The probiotic bacteria need to pass through the hostile stomach acid and bile to get to your dog’s intestine where they can multiply. This poses a problem with most probiotics since most of the die off occurs at, or before, the time they reach the stomach.

dog covering eyes

Unless probiotic bacteria reach the dog’s intestines intact and still retain all their beneficial properties, they are essentially useless and may even be harmful to the dog once inside the gastrointestinal tract.

Another problem about low quality probiotics is that they may be labeled “for dogs” but are, in fact, meant for humans. Nearly all bacteria are host-specific, meaning that some bacteria are designed to exist in dogs and some specific to humans. Giving dogs human probiotic supplements may cause side effects that include vomiting, severe diarrhea and dehydration.

For a quick check, make sure that the packaging indicates these canine-specific bacteria:

  •         Bifidobacterium animalis
  •         Lactobacillus acidophilus
  •         L. rhamnosus
  •         L. fermentum
  •         L. reuteri
  •         L. salivarius

The best thing to do before giving anything to your dog is to consult your veterinarian. Also, being mindful of these basics can help you make a more informed decision when choosing the right probiotics for your dogs.