How do I know if I should give my dog probiotics? This is a question we receive a few times a month at Fidose of Reality. There is a time and a place for probiotic usage in dogs, but in true reality-based style, we’ll give you the facts, what to look for in a probiotic, and what some veterinarians in the know have to say on the topic.
What is a Probiotic?
A probiotic is exactly what it sounds like: The opposite of an antibiotic. In fact, the two are often used in tandem. The folks at petMD say this: “Nutritional supplements containing live microorganisms (bacteria and/or yeast) that aim to improve health can be considered probiotics. They are typically used to improve the workings of the gastrointestinal tract, and they certainly do play an important role in this regard.”
In a nutshell, probiotics boost good microorganisms in the GI tract and attempt to “out-compete” the bad ones.
If you’ve ever eaten yogurt when taking an antibiotic or added acidophilus to your diet to prevent a yeast (or other) infection during a course of antibiotics, these are products of a probiotic nature.
Does My Dog Need Probiotics?
“I recommend probiotics for my patients on antibiotics, as I think this is really important,” says Dr. Julie Buzby, founder of Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips. “ And in those cases, I recommend staggering the probiotic with the antibiotics.”
Buzby reports that although there is not a lot of scientific evidence supporting the use of probiotics in small animals, she absolutely believes in them for her patients. In her practice, Buzby commonly uses them for GI-related illnesses, like acute or chronic diarrhea, or other immune system issues.
“I consider probiotics to be a very safe, potentially very beneficial, supplement, when used appropriately,” she says.
From a dog mom perspective and dog writer and blogger, probiotics have helped my dogs on more than one occasion.
When my Cocker, Brandy Noel, was diagnosed with canine Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), she was given a probiotic for long-term usage. The distress and trauma to her delicate gastrointestinal system coupled with the antibiotics she was on for long periods of time definitely upset the flora balance in her body. Probiotics kept nasty infections from attacking her weakened system. At that time, we used FortiFlora packets and sprinkled it on her food.
My Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, contracted infective tracheobronchitis aka kennel cough, in the fall of 2015. After a rough road and treatment with antibiotics, this dog mom failed to heed her own advice. I should have considered giving my dog a probiotic during his courses of antibiotics. As a result, this happened:
A vet visit revealed a yeast and bacterial infection of the middle ear, left; slight bacteria and yeast in right ear; and a sinus infection.
“Carol, could it be that your dog has a yeast infection in his ears as a side effect to antibiotics,” fellow Cocker mom and long-time rescuer, Naomi Lukaszewski shared with me.
You could have knocked me over with a pin.
I asked for a tablet form probiotic at the vet, which I immediately began giving Dexter. The name of that probiotic is Proviable.
It helped, as with time the yeast cleared and the probiotic did its job.
How To Choose a Canine Probiotic
Dr. Buzby reports that is that there is no monitoring of these products by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), so quality control worries her. She encourages diligent dog parents to use a probiotic that carries the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal.
Fidose of Reality is a big fan of the Only Natural Pet line of products and have used them for our dog.
CLICK THIS: You can check out the Only Natural Pet probiotic offerings.
Though not a probiotic, the Only Natural Pet Immune Strengthener is a blend of natural vitamins, herbs, antioxidants and mushrooms which provide immune system support to help your dog or cat fight chronic health issues while supporting organ function. We used it after our dog finished up his antibiotics (and probiotics) from kennel cough.
Remember, what works for my dog may be completely different for your dog, but a good probiotic used properly can work wonders for a dog’s stressed GI tract.
Dr. Laurie Coger, author of the book, Vaccines Explained: The Wholistic Vet’s Guide to Vaccinating Your Dog, shares that a good probiotic should contain multiple strains of bacteria, and should be designed for dogs.
“My personal favorite is Total Biotics from NWC Naturals — their LEADS system protects the bacteria and helps them maintain viability,” she says. “ I love that they include large numbers of bacteria as well as 11 species. We know that over time the number of live bacteria in a stored container will decrease, so it’s important to start with big numbers. It’s also important to store as directed, and pay attention to expiration dates.”
The right bacteria also keep the lining of the GI tract in good health, making it resistant to inflammation and breakdown.
The bottom line is this: There is no one, perfect “one size fits all” probiotic for dogs. Consulting with a canine nutritionist, your dog’s veterinarian, and/or a holistic vet you trust is important in selecting the right combination.
How Long Do I Give My Dog a Probiotic
“Many people have found that when taking probiotics themselves, they can eventually move to an every-other-day or even less frequent dosing schedule. The same is probably true for dogs,” petMD reports. Always follow the probiotic directions.
Further, petMD reports that if you can identify and address the underlying cause of your dog’s symptoms (e.g., poor diet, gastrointestinal or immune disorders, chronic stress, etc.) you may find that probiotic supplementation is no longer necessary.
In my own experience, once my dog stops the antibiotic, I continue the probiotic for another week or two afterwards.
Caveat: Many probiotics, particularly those not refrigerated, contain fewer live organisms than their labels claim. Follow label instructions.
Should Dogs Use Probiotics Regularly?
A dog’s digestive system should stay balanced with a healthy level of good bacteria to build and maintain a strong immune system. If your dog eats a less than stellar diet, consider making dietary adjustments to a better quality food with probiotics to assist in the process.
Talk to your dog’s veterinarian about the strains of bacteria in any probiotic, their efficacy, how many colony-forming units it contains, and know what you are giving before starting a probiotic.
Dogs who fall into these categories may be good candidates for a quality probiotic:
- Unknown background/rescued
- Have a weak immune system or disease
- Have a diarrhea-related issue
- Receiving antibiotics
- Dietary changes (and for this, check out The Honest Kitchen’s Instant Goat Milk pro bloom that you can add to your dog’s food)
You are your dog’s advocate, so knowing if and when he needs a boost with a probiotic is in your hands. A solid dog probiotic can work wonders if used properly and in conjunction with working with your dog’s veterinarian or holistic care provider.
Our friend, former veterinary technician, Rachel Sheppard of My Kid Has Paws, gives her take on dog probiotics. Be sure to visit and see what she has to say.
QUESTION: Have you ever tried a probiotic for your dog? Would you consider it?