In this article:
- What are probiotics for dogs?
- Benefits of probiotics for dogs
- How to give your dog probiotics
- What does CFU mean?
- How long do dog probiotics take to work?
- Are there side effects of probiotics for dogs
What are probiotics for dogs?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when given in correct doses, can give a range of health benefit to the recipient, whether in humans or our furry companions. These live microorganisms are mainly bacteria and yeasts. Probiotics for dogs are often added to their food to help maintain a balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut. A balanced gut (also called the microbiome) protects the gastrointestinal tract from harmful microorganisms, helps with the absorption of essential vitamin and minerals, aids digestion of food, as well as the immune system, the skin, the animal's mood and more.
What are the benefits of probiotics for dogs?
The benefits of probiotics for dogs span many different areas of health.
Probiotics for dog immune system health and general health
Around 70 per cent of a dog’s immune cells are in the gut, making gut health a key component of a healthy immune system. Probiotics can help strengthen the mucosal barrier in the gut, enabling the essential vitamins, minerals and water to pass through to the bloodstream, while stopping the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria. A healthier gut enables better absorption of vitamins and minerals and better overall health.
If your dog is experiencing a change in their diet or a change in their environment (like visiting a boarding kennel), a probiotic supplement can help to protect against common tummy upsets and illnesses.
Probiotics for dogs use with antibiotics
From time to time, our pets may need to go on a course of antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection. Depending on the type of infection and antibiotic used to treat it, antibiotics work in one of two ways – either by killing bacteria or stopping bacteria from reproducing. While this can resolve the infection, antibiotics unfortunately can’t tell the difference between good and bad bacteria, meaning good bacteria will be killed along with bad bacteria. This can upset the ecosystem of friendly bacteria in the gut microbiome.
To help preserve balance of the good bacteria while on antibiotics, your vet may recommend probiotics for use with antibiotics. There are certain strains of probiotics that are not affected by antibiotics – one such strain is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae var. Boulardii. Look for this strain in a probiotic if your dog is on antibiotics, which you can find in ZamiPet Probiotics + Gut Protect for dogs.
This approach can be particularly useful in the treatment of skin issues such as dog pyoderma or hot spots (a type of skin infection). Using probiotics in this case helps to support the gut microbiome while the antibiotics work to treat and heal the skin. This approach also helps prevent gastrointestinal upsets (like diarrhoea) caused by antibiotics.
Probiotics for dogs with itchy skin (including allergies and yeast infections)
A probiotic for dogs may be beneficial to help prevent itching and scratching. If your dog is licking at its paws, this can be not only extremely irritating for your dog but a sign of an underlying health condition. If the immune system is overactive or even under reactive, it can create inflammation and heat which promotes the normal yeast or bacteria found in the gut or on skin to flourish to the point of it causing a skin infection. Signs of a yeast infection in dogs can look very similar to that of a bacterial skin infection with them licking or chewing at their paws, hair loss and ear infections. The difference with yeast infections is that the skin may also be very smelly and greasy.
Probiotics can help balance the gut microbiome, allowing the immune system to work more effectively. This may help prevent skin infections occurring and fight off minor skin irritations without the need for treatment from the vet. For this reason, probiotics for dogs with allergies and probiotics for dogs licking paws are often recommended by vets. Specific strains found in ZamiPet Probiotics+ Gut Protect that can aid in the prevention and recovery from yeast and bacterial skin infections
For dogs with itchy skin, a supplement may also help maintain the skin barrier, the first line of defence against skin infection. ZamiPet Skin, Coat & Nails has been specially formulated to support the skin health of dogs prone to skin issues.
Probiotics for dogs with acute diarrhoea
The job of the gut is a highly important one with two main functions – extracting the nutrients from the food that’s eaten and then moving waste products out of the body. Pet parents with a dog with diarrhoea will know that when this waste excretion process is not functioning as it should, this is a problem they want resolved as soon as possible. It can also be a source of discomfort for your pet (not just the cleanliness of your floors).
Probiotics for dogs with diarrhoea work to improve the number of friendly bacteria in the gut, helping it to function normally again. ZamiPet Probiotics+ Gut Protect has been specially formulated with a number of specific probiotic strains that help resolve diarrhoea.
Probiotics to improve a dog’s mood
There are many things that can cause an imbalance of a healthy gut (known as dysbiosis), including antibiotics or other medications, dietary indiscretion (eating something they aren't supposed to), gut infections and even stress. There is growing research that supports a relationship between gut health and behaviour via the gut brain axis. Scientific studies have shown particular strains of probiotics help reduce the signs of anxiety in dogs including:
- Lactobacillus helveticus
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus plantarum
Probiotics for dog’s bad breath
The gut isn’t the only place where we have a microbiome – human and dogs alike have a microbiome in their mouths. For dogs that have bad breath due to an imbalance in their mouth microbiome, probiotics may help to create a healthy balance and reduce the offensive odour.
However, bad dog breath can also be caused by periodontal disease, which can only be treated at the vet often via a dental scale and polish and an ongoing treatment plan. A good dental hygiene routine including daily brushing and the use of dental sticks for dogs will help slow the formation of plaque and tartar reducing the likelihood periodontal disease. Before beginning any supplementation or treatment for bad dog breath, it’s best to visit the vet first to find the cause of the bad breath to ensure the real cause is being treated.
How to give your dog probiotics
Before starting any supplementation with your pet, it’s best to consult your vet. They can advise if probiotics may be beneficial, or if another treatment might be more appropriate for a health condition that your pet is experiencing.
When selecting a probiotic, choose one specifically formulated for dogs. This helps ensure that the probiotic strains in the supplement will be more appropriate to promote a healthy microbiome in dogs and resolve their health concern.
What does CFU mean?
CFU is a term that you can’t miss while shopping for probiotics. It's the abbreviation of colony forming units – this is a measure of the number of active, living microorganisms in one serving of a probiotic supplement. It’s usually measured in CFUs per gram.
When shopping for a dog probiotic supplement, you may see CFU counts on products from 200 million to 2 billion CFU. Does a higher CFU count always mean a better quality, more effective probiotic supplement? Often, but not necessarily. The effectiveness of the probiotic will also depend on other factors, including:
- The strains of probiotics selected for the supplement: Look for strains of probiotics that have been shown to be effective in dogs, as well probiotics included to support the specific health needs of your pet. It is often more beneficial to have a number of different strains in a probiotic (called a multi strain probiotic)
- Product packaging: look for single serve sachets, if possible. This helps ensure the probiotics are delivered at the correct dose, every time, as well as the probiotics not being contaminated by a spoon or scoop. A single serve sachet also helps ensure the probiotics remain fresh and alive, which is vital for them to be effective
How long do dog probiotics take to work?
in dogs, probiotics can take anywhere from a few days to months to be effective. As the balance of the microbiome is different for every dog, it will take time for the probiotics to work to increase the good bacteria count, while reducing the bad bacteria count. Patience is key, so stick with a daily dose of a probiotic supplement for at least two months. If symptoms persist, return to the vet.
Are there side effects of probiotics for dogs?
Probiotics are working to rebalance billons of microorganisms in your dog’s gut. As this balance slowly changes, your dog’s symptoms may not initially improve and they may experience:
- Diarrhoea and digestive discomfort
- Bloating, gas and constipation
The information in this article was checked by ZamiPet Veterinarian and General Manager Dr Andrew McKay, BVSc, University of Melbourne, 2000. Vet Registration No: V3985
Disclaimer: This information is general advice only. Before starting any treatment or supplement with your pet, please consult your vet first for the best approach to getting your pet back to their best health.