As awareness of the importance of dog gut health continues to rise, so does the use of probiotics for our canine companions.
Dog probiotics are more than just a trend—they can offer substantial health benefits for dogs, from enhancing their digestive function to strengthening their immune system.
We’ll take a look at how they could be instrumental in keeping your dog happy and healthy.
- What are dog probiotics and how do they work?
- What are the signs that my dog needs probiotics?
- What are some of the potential added benefits of giving dogs probiotics?
- What’s the difference between a prebiotic, probiotic, and postbiotic?
- How do I choose the right probiotic for my dog?
- What’s the best way to store dog probiotics?
- What are some of the potential side effects of probiotics for dogs?
- Does pet insurance cover dog probiotics?
What are dog probiotics and how do they work?
Just like humans, dogs have billions of bacteria in their gut, including a balance of both beneficial and harmful types.
When your dog has too much bad bacteria—and not enough good—it can lead to digestive issues, skin conditions, and a weakened immune system.
Dog probiotic supplements are packed with good bacteria to help restore and maintain balance in your dog’s gut.
Sometimes vets recommend dog probiotics as a preventative measure to support a dog’s digestive health and overall well-being, and might even prescribe them for the treatment of specific conditions.
Probiotics for your pup can come in various forms—like chews, powders, or capsules.
What are the signs that my dog needs probiotics?
There are certain cases when your dog might require probiotics as treatment for specific conditions. Look out for these six signs that might indicate that your dog should take probiotics.
- Frequent gastrointestinal issues
If your dog is experiencing regular bouts of diarrhea, constipation, or bloating, it could mean a bigger issue with their gut health. Probiotics can help balance the digestive tract and alleviate these symptoms.
- Nutritional imbalance
Dogs that eat a diet of highly processed dog food may benefit from probiotics. Highly processed dog foods can cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome, potentially leading to digestive issues. Dog probiotics can help restore a healthy gut by replenishing good bacteria.
- Antibiotic use
Taking antibiotics can wipe out both bad and good bacteria in your dog’s body. Probiotics can restore gut health after your dog has been on a course of antibiotics, by building up that good bacteria again.
- Bad breath
Don’t blame poor Fido for his halitosis. Persistent bad breath in dogs can sometimes be a sign of an imbalanced gut microbiome. Probiotics can help restore this balance and improve your dog’s overall oral health.
- Frequent yeast infections
If your dog is prone to yeast infections, it may be a sign of too much bad bacteria in their gut. Probiotics can help balance the gut flora, preventing such infections.
Food allergies can often be linked to an imbalanced gut microbiome. Probiotics can help maintain a healthy gut, potentially reducing allergic reactions.
It’s important to remember that these signs can be symptoms of other health issues too, and some dogs can be allergic to certain probiotic supplements. Always consult your vet before starting your dog on any new treatment or supplement regimen.
Probiotics are generally safe, but it’s important to get a professional’s advice to ensure the best course of action for your pet’s health.
What are the benefits of probiotics for dogs?
Dog probiotics don’t only act as treatment. They can also be used as a preventative measure to help maintain your dog’s overall health and wellness.
Here’s a closer look at some of the the potential benefits of incorporating dog probiotic supplements into your dog’s diet:
- Boost immune system: Regular probiotic intake could make your dog less susceptible to certain infections and diseases, particularly ones related to their digestive system.
- Enhance mood and behavior: Daily probiotics can help your pooch achieve a balanced gut microbiome, which is linked to improved mood and behavior in dogs. Also, proactively giving your dog probiotics several days before a stressful situation—like moving, or boarding—can help support their gut health and stress levels.
- Improving skin health: Probiotics may contribute to healthier skin by reducing inflammation and combating skin conditions—like itchiness or dryness.
Keep in mind that dog probiotics might not be the best fit for every pup. We recommend consulting with your veterinarian.
What’s the difference between a prebiotic, probiotic, and postbiotic?
Ready to put on your life science hat?
All three of these types of “biotics” work together to maintain a healthy gut and promote overall well-being, but they each serve a slightly different function.
Essentially “food” for probiotics, prebiotics are usually non-digestible fibers that your dog’s body can’t break down, so they make it to the colon where they feed the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that live there. Prebiotics help the probiotics to thrive and multiply.
The live and active good bacteria that are naturally present in the gut, but can also be taken as supplements. They help to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, support the immune system, and promote overall health.
The byproducts, or end products, of the fermentation process that probiotics undergo in your dog’s gut. These can include vitamins, enzymes, and other compounds that also have beneficial effects on health.
In simple terms, prebiotics feed the probiotics, and then probiotics produce postbiotics.
How do I choose the right probiotic for my dog?
The market is full of a variety of dog probiotics, including chews, powders, and capsules. Here are some key points to consider to make sure your dog’s probiotics meet their specific needs:
- Opt for a probiotic specifically designed for dogs. These are tailored to a dog’s gut microbiome and are usually safer and more effective.
- Look for a probiotic with a high count of colony-forming units (aka CFUs). CFUs refer to the number of live and active good bacteria in a dose of a probiotic. A higher CFU count means the probiotic is likely to be potent and effective.
- Choose a product that includes a variety of healthy bacteria. Some top choices by dog owners (and vets) include Visbiome Vet, Synacore, and Proviable.
- Consider the specific needs of your dog. Some probiotics are designed for certain conditions. For instance, if your dog has food allergies, they might require a different probiotic supplement than a dog with bad breath.
- Check the label to make sure that the ingredients don’t include something that your dog is allergic to.
- Look for products that contain prebiotics as well as probiotics.
What’s the best way to store dog probiotics?
Most probiotics should be kept in a cool, dry place away from heat and moisture. Depending on the specific product, they may need to be refrigerated to ensure the live organisms they contain stay viable. However, many modern probiotics are freeze-dried and shelf-stable (meaning they don’t need refrigeration).
Read and follow the storage instructions and expiration dates on the product packaging. Some products may have specific requirements depending on the strains of bacteria they contain.
It’s always a good idea to keep the probiotic container tightly sealed when not in use to avoid exposure to air, which could decrease its effectiveness. And, of course, keep it out of reach of curious pets to prevent any accidental overconsumption.
What are some of the potential side effects of probiotics for dogs?
While most dogs handle probiotics well, potential side effects can occur. These might include:
- Allergic reactions: Though rare, allergic reactions to certain strains of bacteria are possible.
- Overactive immune response: Dogs with compromised immune systems might experience problems if their immune system responds too strongly to the introduction of new bacteria.
- Digestive discomfort: Probiotics may affect your dog’s stomach, like bloating, gas, or diarrhea, especially when first starting probiotic supplements.
Side effects are generally mild and often resolve as your dog’s body gets used to the new beneficial bacteria in its system.
However, if you notice any severe reactions, or if your dog appears to be in distress, it’s essential to stop the probiotic and consult with your vet immediately.
Does pet insurance cover dog probiotics?
Whether pet insurance covers probiotics depends on your insurance provider, the type of coverage you have, and the type of probiotic you use. For example, a Lemonade Pet policy may cover certain probiotics if they are prescribed by a licensed vet for the treatment of a specific condition.
But if your dog takes probiotics as a preventive measure, or eats a prescription dog food that includes probiotics, it probably won’t be covered by your pet insurance. It’s important to check the specifics of your policy to understand what pet insurance covers.
A base policy at Lemonade helps take a bite out of vet bills for diagnostics and treatments related to accidents and illnesses (provided those occur after your policy’s waiting period has ended). And you can easily customize your pup’s policy with our preventative care packages and optional add-ons to meet the unique needs of your pup, all with your budget in mind.
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A few quick words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage may not be available in all states.