If you’re looking for probiotics for your dog, you may have already found the number of options a little overwhelming. Are you choosing the right one? The right method of delivery? Is the brand you’ve chosen reliable? There are many different things to consider in making your choice, and the following tips may help:
Are probiotics the right choice for your dog?
If you’re looking for a probiotic, you likely know something about them already. It’s worth reviewing what they are, how they work and what they aim to treat. A ‘probiotic’ is a dose of bacteria measured to be beneficial to the host. It can be a helpful way to combat problems associated with imbalances in gut bacteria. These bacteria are sometimes called a ‘microbiota’, that is, the ‘community of micro-organisms’ living in a particular environment. Research has increasingly shown the many ways in which the microbiota impacts health in an animal or person. (1)
A 2019 study, for instance, showed how an orally taken probiotic compound could help older dogs in particular with issues of appetite, weight and digestion, among other things. One of the findings was that the older dogs’ microbiota – after having taken the probiotic compound – appeared more similar to those of the younger dogs, suggesting that age may play an important role in whether probiotics make a difference. (2)
Are they for a human or a dog?
This may sound straightforward, but it’s worth keeping in mind: using products meant for people on your pet may prove less effective, or have unintended consequences. The top three disorders found in dogs in the UK, according to a 2017 study by researchers at the Kennel Club, were all skin conditions. One of these was allergic skin problems. The conditions can range from having little-to-no impact on a dog’s life to being a serious threat to their wellbeing. (3)
While allergic conditions almost certainly have some inherited components, according to the study, there are various environmental factors that may cause skin irritation for a dog. These include skincare products and other toiletries meant for humans, as well as household cleaning products. As the authors note, ‘it is important for dog owners to remember that products that are suitable for humans to use on or near their skin may not be appropriate for dogs’. (3)
Think about this when selecting probiotics. You need to make sure that you’re not choosing something meant for human use and giving it to your dog. While there can be some overlap in the bacteria used in human probiotics and those designed for our furry friends, dogs have different digestive systems with different needs. Human probiotics may contain strains that are not helpful, whereas a good supplement for dogs will have been designed for their specific needs. A human supplement may not do harm, but it also may not help as much or in the same ways as a dog-specific probiotic.
Why does your dog need probiotics?
It’s worth making sure that you’re considering probiotics for a condition they can actually help to treat. Writing for PetMD in 2020, veterinarian Teresa Manuncy provides a helpful list of things that we know probiotics can do for pets, and things that we think they might be able to help with. That list includes:
- Immune response
- Diarrhea, IBS or intestinal inflammation
- Preventing UTIs
- Help with allergic reactions (4)
Dog diarrhoea is a common reason pet owners seek out probiotics for dogs. Manuncy offers that probiotics can help with diarrhoea caused by several different factors, including:
- Stress colitis
- Changes in diet
- Antibiotic use which has induced an imbalance in gut bacteria (4)
In general, it’s a good idea to speak with your vet about what makes sense for your dog’s needs, and then proceed from there when choosing something like probiotics.
Make sure that you know what you’re buying
While the advice for human and dog probiotics can differ in important ways, there are some overlapping concerns. The National Health Service makes the point that because probiotics are often categorized as food rather than medicine, they don’t have the same regulatory requirements, and they don’t go through the same testing. (5)
They list three things to keep in mind:
- Does the product contain the bacteria that it states on the label?
- Is there enough of the bacteria in the product to have an effect?
- Is the bacteria able to survive long enough to reach the gut? (5)
All of the above tips are well-worth thinking about. Trials that show real results have used special preparations of probiotics, so be sure that the products on which you’re relying to help your dog can deliver the benefits that they claim to. Talking to your veterinary professional may also help you to find the right probiotics for your dog. (5)
- ‘Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health’, Source: https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2179
- ‘Oral Administration of Compound Probiotics Improved Canine Feed Intake, Weight Gain, Immunity and Intestinal Microbiota’, Source: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00666/full
- ‘New research reveals prevalence of health conditions in UK’s dog population’, Source: https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media-centre/2017/september/new-research-reveals-prevalence-of-health-conditions-in-uk-s-dog-population/
- ‘Probiotics for Dogs: Do They Work?’, Source: https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/probiotics-dogs-what-you-need-know
- ‘Probiotics’, Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/probiotics/
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