Not all bacteria are created equally. While some types of bacteria can make your dog ill, other types of bacteria are actually essential for your pet’s health. Beneficial bacteria are known as probiotics. They are bacteria that naturally live in your dog’s body, helping to boost their immune system, aid in digestion, and produce certain vitamins and nutrients. Learn more about probiotics for dogs and talk to your vet at a pet hospital in Jacksonville, FL, to see how probiotics might help your pet.

What Are Probiotics?

The word probiotics literally means “life promoting.” It refers to a class of bacteria that often naturally live inside of animals, and that play a role in improving or maintaining health. Other types of microorganisms, such as yeasts, can also be probiotics.

Just as different types of microorganisms can cause different types of illnesses, different types of probiotics have different positive effects on a dog’s body. Probiotics for dogs are often the same as the bacteria that naturally live in their digestive systems. Some of those bacteria include:

  • Bifidobacterium animalis
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus casei

Each type of beneficial bacteria plays a distinct role and has specific effects on the health of your dog. A vet can help you choose the right strain of good bacteria to give to your dog, based on their health and medical history.

How Can Probiotics Help Your Dog?

If your dog is prone to digestive troubles, such as gas and diarrhea, giving them probiotics might help. Certain strains of bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis, might be able to reduce diarrhea in dogs or improve stool quality.

In addition to helping to improve digestion in dogs, probiotics might also be able to help improve their mood, improve fur and skin appearance, and reduce bad breath.

Probiotics can also help your dog bounce back after a course of antibiotics or other medications. When a dog takes antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection, the medicine often kills all types of bacteria—both good and bad—in their system. As a result, some dogs develop diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues when they take medicines. Probiotics can help to restore positive gut bacteria and reduce unpleasant side effects of medications.

Types of Probiotics

Probiotics are available in a variety of forms and formulations. Some are capsules or pills that you give to your dog, while others are in the form of chewy treats. Probiotic powders are also available. Plus, some types of dog food contain probiotics.

The type of probiotic that works best for your dog depends on their personality and size. Some people find it easy to give their pet a capsule or pill, while others have dogs who absolutely won’t take pills. The dosage of a probiotic pill might not be adequate for larger dogs.

Probiotic chews might be the most appealing for dogs, as they are essentially healthy bacteria in treat form. But the number of probiotics in a treat might not be substantial enough to provide much benefit to your dog.

You can mix probiotic powders in with your dog’s food to make it easier for them to get the right dose. While powders do have their benefits, some people find it burdensome to have to measure out the correct amount and stir it into food.

Yogurt is also a source of probiotics. You might be able to give your dog a small amount of yogurt with their meals to boost the levels of beneficial bacteria in their gut. Since not all types of yogurt contain probiotics and since not all types of yogurt are suitable to give to dogs, it’s a smart idea to check with your pet’s vet before you start feeding them yogurt. You want to avoid a trip to an emergency pet hospital in Jacksonville, if at all possible.

How to Choose Probiotics for Your Dog

Depending on how long your dog has been a member of your family, you might be very familiar with their tastes and preferences. Knowing those preferences can help you pick the right probiotic to give them. For example, if your dog refuses to take pills, then you know that a probiotic capsule is most likely out of the question.

Another thing to consider when choosing the right probiotic for your dog is the type of beneficial bacteria it contains. Ideally, the packaging will list the strains of bacteria found in the probiotic and will include a description of the reported benefits of those strains. It’s important to remember that it might take some trial and error when it comes to choosing the right type for your dog. If you try one probiotic formula and it’s not helpful, another might be. Always talk to your dog’s vet first before trying a new type of probiotic, though.

One last thing to remember when choosing a probiotic for your pet: Make sure the probiotic actually contains live bacteria. The packaging should state how many bacteria will still be alive by the end of the product’s shelf life. Some products state how many bacteria were alive at the beginning, but there’s a chance that the microorganisms could die while the probiotic sits on a store’s shelf. Also look for a use by or expiration date to make sure the probiotic will still be viable.

When you get the probiotic home, be sure to store it properly. Usually, probiotics should be kept cool so that the bacteria doesn’t die off. The refrigerator might be the best place to keep your pet’s probiotic supplements.

When to Give Your Dog Probiotics

Probiotics can be helpful to dogs in specific circumstances. For example, if your pet tends to have gastrointestinal issues when they are stressed out, giving them probiotics during stressful times can help to reduce their digestive troubles. Stressful times might include times when your dog needs to be boarded, when they go to day care, or if they have a vet visit coming up.

You might also give your dog probiotics if their diet has recently changed, and they seem to be struggling to adjust to it. Some pet owners give their dogs probiotics alongside antibiotics or other medications.

If you’re not sure whether probiotics will help your dog or not, or if you’d like guidance choosing the strain or type of probiotic that will provide the most benefit, your family vet is here for you. Schedule an appointment for your dog at Forever Vets Animal Hospital in Jacksonville to learn more about probiotics and to see if they’re a good pick for your pet.