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Probiotics for Dogs: Does Your Dog Need Them?

If you’ve ever had yogurt before, then you’ve probably heard of probiotics. For humans, probiotics help our body with almost everything—from skin to digestion to immunity.

But what about our dogs? Do they need probiotics? Are canine needs different from what humans need? Let’s learn more about dog probiotics and if they really need it.

What Are Probiotics for Dogs?

Probiotics are supplements that contain beneficial microorganisms. They’re often used to maintain or restore good gut health, particularly after disturbances caused by dietary changes, antibiotic use, or stressful events.

Like us, dogs have billions of beneficial microbes in their digestive tract. These healthy bacteria support your dog’s digestive health, fight off harmful bacteria, produce essential nutrients and vitamins, and keep a healthy immune system.

When there’s an imbalance in their gut flora—or the mix of microorganisms in a dog’s digestive system—your pup may experience digestive troubles, weakened immunity, food allergies, and other health problems. Some pet parents are turning to probiotics to help treat these issues.

Do Dogs Need Probiotics?

Usually, a healthy dog can naturally maintain the microbial balance in their gut, so they won’t need these supplements. 

But a veterinarian may prescribe probiotics for your pup, as they can benefit from additional good bacteria when they’re in certain situations that cause a microbial imbalance. These include sudden changes in diet, long-term antibiotic use, some stressors like separation anxiety or moving to a new home, old age, and parasites.

Symptoms of a microbial imbalance in dogs often involve digestive problems, like loose stools or diarrhea, gas, and sometimes even changes in behavior like increased anxiety or irritability. Other signs might be less obvious, such as skin irritations, behavioral changes, and weight issues.

What Are the Benefits of Probiotics for Your Dogs?

Probiotics work with the immune system to keep it strong, create helpful acids that fight off bad bacteria, and improve conditions such as diarrhea, irritable bowels, and intestinal inflammation. 

Probiotics have also been found to reduce allergic reactions by controlling inflammation and decreasing intestinal permeability.

Here are some other possible conditions your pup may have that can benefit from probiotic supplements:

  • Bad breath
  • Coat quality
  • Diarrhea
  • Immune disorders
  • Intestinal inflammation
  • Liver disease
  • Obesity
  • Urinary tract infections

One of the less commonly known benefits of probiotics in dogs is their role in mental and emotional health. The connection between the gut and the brain, known as the “gut-brain axis,” implies that your dog’s gut health can influence their mood and behavior. 

Research has shown that dogs taking certain probiotics were calmer and were more likely to explore new or potentially stressful situations, meaning having a healthy gut can help manage their mental and emotional stress.

Did You Know: Your dog’s digestive tract contains about 70% of their immune system. When their gut lacks the beneficial microbes probiotics for dogs offer, they’re more likely to develop illnesses.

Types of Probiotics for Your Dogs

Some strains of good bacteria are species specific, meaning they’re commonly found in your dog’s gut. Look for canine-specific probiotics that contain the following types of bacteria:

  1. Enterococcus faecium: Research suggests this strain aids in relieving digestive disorders, supports immunity, and can help reduce the duration of diarrhea.
  1. Bacillus coagulans: A lactic acid–producing bacteria, this strain is known for relieving GI upset, such as gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, and inhibiting the growth of harmful or unnecessary bacteria.
  1. Bifidobacterium animalis: It helps manage yeast infections and supports immunity.
  1. Bifidobacterium longum: This strain is particularly noted for its ability to reduce stress, prevent anxiety, and may even manage epilepsy in dogs.
  1. Lactobacillus acidophilus: This is probably the most common bacteria you’ll find in most probiotic supplement brands. Known for improving stool quality and frequency, this strain also reduces the population of harmful clostridia and supports a strong immune system.
  1. Lactobacillus rhamnosus: This strain helps treat mild and acute diarrhea, improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by helping build healthy colon walls, and reduces allergic reactions.

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What Are the Best Probiotics for Dogs?

Personally, I give Tulip Deley Naturals Probiotics, since I know and trust the manufacturer of these probiotics. My veterinarian has also given me the okay to use these, and Tulip loves her chicken-flavored soft treats.

Here are a couple of things I’ve taken note of when I chose  the best probiotics for Tulip. These may help you pick what’s best for your pooch:

Type and Number of Microorganisms: Look for products that list the specific type of strain you need. Different good bacteria offer different health benefits. The daily serving of any probiotic supplement should also contain 1–10 billion CFUs (colony forming units).

Expiration Date: Probiotics are live organisms, and their viability can decrease over time. Most probiotics may only have a shelf life of a few months, so make sure to check the expiration date.

Manufacturer Information: Research the manufacturer to ensure they are reputable and provide quality products. Look for brands that have a good track record and positive reviews from other pet parents and are commonly recommended by veterinarians. More importantly, ask your veterinarian for advice on the best brand of probiotics.

Other Ingredients: Examine the supplement for any additional ingredients that could benefit or harm your dog. Probiotics may contain enzymes, yeast, vitamins, and minerals. Be wary of anything that may trigger any existing allergies in your dog. Avoid products with artificial additives, colors, or flavors.

Age of Your Dog: Probiotics can be beneficial for dogs of all ages, from puppies to senior dogs. However, the specific needs may vary based on age. For instance, puppies might benefit from probiotics to develop balanced intestinal bacteria and support their immune system, while senior dogs might need it for overall gut health and well-being.

Forms of Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics are available as pastes, powders, pills or capsules, and even sprays. Some dog food brands and dog treats also contain probiotics.

The way your dog absorbs probiotics can vary based on the type of product you use, so be attentive to your dog’s preferences, needs, and health conditions.

Do Probiotics Have Side Effects on Dogs?

Probiotics are considered safe, but some pet parents have reported the following common side effects, which may happen if your pup has had a particularly high dose: digestive discomfort, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and constipation.

These side effects are typically mild and temporary. They often resolve as your dog’s system adjusts to the probiotics. If you notice any persistent or concerning symptoms, consult your veterinarian.

Safe Use of Probiotics

Before starting probiotics, talk to your veterinarian, especially if you have a puppy, a senior dog, or a dog with health conditions or specific needs. Once your veterinarian has given you the okay, make sure to follow what your veterinarian has prescribed or the recommended dosage on the probiotic package. The dosage often depends on the dog’s size and the CFUs in the product.

Start with a small dose and gradually increase it. This helps your dog’s system adjust to the new bacteria. Watch for any adverse reactions like diarrhea, gas, or bloating. Stop giving probiotics if these occur and persist, and consult your veterinarian immediately.

After you’ve given your pup the supplement, make sure to store probiotics as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Some may require refrigeration, while others are shelf-stable.

Keep an eye on your dog’s overall health and behavior once you start them on probiotics. Look for improvements or any concerning changes.

Remember: While probiotics for dogs offer numerous benefits, they are not typically necessary if your pup is already healthy and has a balanced gut microbiome.


Can Puppies Take Probiotics?

Yes, puppies can take probiotics specifically for them. These will help them develop a balanced intestinal bacteria, which supports immunity and digestive health. Additionally, they’re great for lowering the chances of digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, and infections in their digestive systems.

Can Immunocompromised Dogs Take Probiotics?

Yes, immunocompromised dogs can take probiotics, but it should be done so with caution and under strict veterinary supervision. In rare cases, the bacteria in probiotics could potentially translocate and cause serious issues like septicemia, although this is more commonly reported in human patients. Less is known about its effects on pets, so it’s better to err on the side of caution. 

Studies have shown, however, that dogs with parvovirus and acute hemorrhagic diarrhea can safely take probiotics.

Can Dogs Take Human Probiotics? 

According to PetMD, dogs can take human probiotics, as they aren’t harmful to pets. But it’s generally not recommended, as these won’t provide the health benefits species-specific supplements contain. Your dog’s gut flora is different from yours, and some human supplements and products may contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs.

The same goes for human food like yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, etc. Adding new food to your dog’s diet can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues—quite counterintuitive to the reason you’re giving your dog probiotics.

What Are the Risks of Probiotics?

Pet probiotics, like many other supplements, aren’t regulated by agencies such as the FDA. This lack of oversight means that different brands of probiotics might not be made the same way.

Also, the labels on many probiotic supplements often don’t match what’s actually inside them. A good number of these supplements might not even have the right kind of bacteria they claim to have. Plus, there’s a question about how much these bacteria can really help dogs, as many supplements have only a small amount of the good bacteria that dogs need.

The Final Woof on Pet Probiotics

Though we’re familiar with the benefits of probiotics to our and our pup’s digestive health, there’s still the challenge of picking the right one due to varied quality and lack of strict regulation in the industry. 

As always, when introducing anything new to your beloved pets, talk to your veterinarian first. They’ll be able to recommend the best probiotic supplements for what your dog needs.

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience working with pets.

Through this blog and her book, Pampered Pets on a Budget, Kristen has helped millions of pet parents solve problems and provide the best care for their dogs and cats.

Working alongside hundreds of pet professionals, including veterinarians, behaviorists and trainers inspired Kristen to become a pet parenting “guide”, providing readers with reliable information about health, wellness and lifestyle for dogs and cats and the people who love them.

A dogged advocate for pet adoption and rescue, Kristen has featured over 1,000 adoptable dogs and cats from the SPCA on live television and radio appearances to get them adopted. Her blog, has been featured in over 100 media outlets – including the New York Times, USA Today, FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, Women's Day, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Pop Sugar and more.

To stay up to date on the latest health and lifestyle trends for pets, Kristen regularly attends the top veterinary and pet product conferences, where she’s often a featured speaker.

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