Probiotics for Dogs
All dogs can benefit from probiotics, which aid digestion and modulate the immune system. Probiotics produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which inhibit the growth and activity of harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens, as well as providing other benefits to the intestines. Human studies have documented the effectiveness of certain strains in treating diarrhea, irritable bowel, and intestinal inflammation (fewer studies have been conducted on dogs). Probiotics may help prevent urinary tract infections, and can even reduce allergic reactions by decreasing intestinal permeability and controlling inflammation.
Species with specific strains known to benefit dogs include varieties of Bacillus and Lactobacillus.
Cautions: Some probiotic species require refrigeration in order to remain viable; follow label recommendations for storage. It’s questionable how many survive passage through stomach acid into the digestive tract, and whether they then colonize or must be continually replenished.
Freeze-dried probiotics, such as those produced by BioNatural Pet, can last longer than refrigerated or other powdered products, especially if the powder is exposed to moisture (such as when the container is opened and closed). Probiotics in commercial pet foods may not survive processing or storage. Probiotic products should always provide an expiration date.
Dosage: Probiotics are measured by colony forming units (CFUs). If probiotics are being used to help with digestion, they should be taken with meals, but otherwise they may survive better if given between meals, particularly if taken with liquid that helps to dilute stomach acid and move them more quickly into the digestive tract (maybe give them after your dog takes a big drink). Probiotics may be given short-term or long-term.
When using products intended for dogs, follow label suggestions for dosage. When using human products, give the full dosage to dogs weighing 40 pounds or more. Reduce the dosage for smaller dogs or if you see loose stools.
Probiotics can be added regularly to food or water, for maintenance of digestive health, or on occasion to provide support during stress, digestive imbalance or other challenging conditions. Many dog owners put off purchasing probiotics until dogs are older or when problems arise, but dogs of any size and breed can benefit from even occasional supplementation with effective probiotics at any stage of life.