We know you want nothing more than maximum health for your four-legged friends. As pet guardians, you’ll do everything to help them live longer and happier lives. You might even consider offering them probiotics.
You might know probiotics as “friendly” or “beneficial” bacteria. But what exactly are the benefits? We will look at all the wonders your pup could get from probiotics and which ones are the best probiotic foods for dogs.
There are plenty of vets who recommend giving dogs probiotics to improve their overall health We’re here to help you figure out why these probiotics are beneficial for your pup and where you can find them. Read on to find out more!
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics
To begin, let’s look at the difference between probiotics and prebiotics to avoid any confusion.
- Prebiotics are nutrients that promote the growth of good bacteria that are already living in the colon.
- Probiotics are referred to as “direct-fed microbials”. This means that probiotics themselves are the good bacteria that can provide an array of benefits.
We will focus more on probiotic products for your dog rather than prebiotics.
Animals eat foods that contain bacteria in the wild, but the food we give them now is pretty much clean. Still, we have learned that there is a real benefit to supplementing animals with beneficial bacteria through probiotics.
These live microorganisms are usually in the form of bacteria and yeasts. They live inside your pooch’s body including the gastrointestinal tract, keeping it healthy by counteracting the bad bacteria.
Good-to-Bad Bacteria Ratio: Why It Matters
Just like us dog lovers, our furry friends can benefit from a healthy gut. The digestive tract of your dog is the largest immune organ in the body which contains more bacteria than yours! What factors can disrupt the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria?
- Inappropriate diet
- Emotional stress caused by a change in routine or environment
- Change in diet
- GI disease.
Probiotics can help alter the effects of a bad ratio caused by the situations mentioned. They can help prevent pathogenic bacteria from taking over. Some signs of excessive bad bacteria in the GI tract of your dog include:
- loose stools
- rapid weight loss
- skin allergies and ear infection
- periodontal disease
- bleeding from the nose
- inflammation of eyes
A diverse gut flora is healthiest for your dog’s immune system as it can help protect them from diseases and infections. A balanced microbiome in your dog means they will be more able to handle fluctuations in their diet as well.
Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs
When a balanced ratio of good-to-bad bacteria is established by bacteria, there are various essential physiological advantages for your dog. Some of these are:
- nutrient absorption
- vitamin synthesis
- toxin removal
Probiotic therapy can also ease many diseases like:
- Diarrhea. A study published in 2006 shows how probiotics can help manage diarrhea in dogs. It can also decrease the duration, and help lower the incidence of acute diarrhea.
- Allergies. Probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties that may help alleviate symptoms of skin allergy and lower risks of atopic dermatitis.
- High cholesterol levels. Oral administration of probiotics may also help reduce serum cholesterols in healthy dogs as well in those with GI issues.
Additionally, probiotics may help reduce levels of fecal bacteria, improve vaccine response, and promote growth rate in puppies.
Are Probiotics for Dogs Necessary?
It must be noted that if your dog is on a balanced, high-quality diet, they may need no additional support from probiotic products. However, it won’t hurt to keep your dog’s digestion healthier and for them to avoid certain diseases related to poor gut health.
There is a trend where people feed their dog a raw diet, in this case, you may want to consider adding probiotics to aid digestion.
Also, senior dogs sometimes develop problems with their digestion, so they may need probiotic supplements.
Lastly, dogs on antibiotics tend to have their good bacteria killed off, so probiotics are highly recommended for them.
Dairy Probiotics: Yay or Nay?
Dairy probiotics for dogs that are widely available include kefir and yogurt.
- Kefir. Made from the mixture of raw milk and live culture of beneficial yeasts called kefir grains, this beverage contains 10 to 20 strains of probiotics. The advantages of adding this to your furry friend’s diet are the reasonable price and quality.
- Yogurt. We all know that yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics. It also provides your dog with calcium, B vitamins, and cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid.
You may also consider soft cheeses like Swiss, Gouda, and Cheddar for your dogs, as well as powdered buttermilk.
In choosing the best dairy probiotic for dogs, consider the following:
- The number of beneficial bacterial strains that your dog needs. 10 or more strains are helpful enough for your pooch for optimal health.
- The number of good bacteria that a product can provide per gram.
- Viability, potency, and purity of the probiotic.
- Easy to give your dog.
Last but not least, an important thing to consider whether you want to add dairy probiotics to your dog’s diet, in case they suffer from lactose intolerance. After consuming these products, you might notice symptoms like:
- stomach pain
So, it’s up to the quality of the product and the condition of your dog whether dairy probiotics are a good idea for their diet! You can discuss this matter with your pet’s veterinarian for further clarification.
Kefir and Yogurt for Dogs
Kefir and yogurt are the best whole-food dairy products for dogs who need probiotics. Here are some of our favorites!
Milk kefir is one of the most popular varieties available, as well as water kefir and kombucha. Milk kefir can be hard to find for some, or it may be too expensive. However, it can be easily made at home using starter grains or a powdered starter culture and a cow or goat milk.
Another advantage of making your own milk kefir over buying it is the guaranteed freshness of the product with its live culture. It’s also will save you money in the long run!
That is why we recommend Mr. and Mrs. Kefir’s Live Milk Kefir Grains which is a great product that guarantees the survival of the live culture despite weeks of shipping to you. It is packaged in water-sealed double bags with little for safety.
The fundamental difference between water kefir and milk kefir is the culture medium, where the microflora develops and carries out its natural fermentation process.
Water kefir is dairy-free and often made with water, fruit juice or coconut water. Milk kefir, on the other hand, contains dairy and does not include additional flavorings.
If you want to give manufactured milk kefirs a try for your dog because you don’t have the time to make one your own, try out BioKefir’s Organic Non-Fat Milk. It is organic and it also offers vitamins A, D3, and Palmitate for your dog.
If you feel like making your own milk kefir, then this VIVO Real Kefir Starter also does a great job! It boasts 100 billion live and active bacteria for every 100 grams of serving. It also makes up to 30 liters of kefir.
Another kefir starter we love are these Organic Water Kefir Grains from Florida Sun Kefir. It contains 1/4 cup of kefir grains with recipes, uses, and care!
Watch this video on how to make milk kefir at home!
If you decide to feed yogurt to your dog, make sure to read the ingredients carefully. Avoid flavored yogurts, those with xylitol, and artificial sweeteners. A packed yogurt that we suggest is Oikos Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt. Since it is non-fat and it contains lean protein, so your dog gets more benefits!
However, if you want to be assured of the number of good bacteria in your yogurt, you can try making one your own for your pal! Yogourmet’s Freeze-Dried Yogurt Starter is easy to use and helps produce yogurt with creamy texture!
Here’s how you can make your own yogurt!
Non-Dairy Probiotics for Dogs
If your dog is lactose intolerant, non-dairy probiotics are also a great idea. Usually, they come in the form of fermented veggies. These contain a wide variety of beneficial bacteria, potent chelators, and detoxifiers.
These substances boost your pet’s immunity and protect them from diseases. They’re also cheaper and readily available.
Some great non-dairy probiotic foods are:
- Sauerkraut. These produce up to 10 trillion colony-forming units (CFU), unlike probiotic supplements that often only have 10 billion CFUs.
- Pickles. Also known as gherkins, these are sour cucumbers that have been pickled in a solution of salt and water.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. This superfood not only keeps your dog healthy, but it also helps dogs with bad breath, dull coats, and prevention of UTI.
You can also consult your vet regarding miso, kombucha, and tempeh!
There are many other fermented veggies with probiotics out there, but some of them might not be suitable for your dog, like kimchi and blue-green algae. The latter is poisonous and can cause death in just 15 minutes to an hour by damaging your liver.
Also, you have to make sure they don’t include onions and that you choose the lowest sodium content you can find.
Superkraut’s Healing Sauerkraut promises to improve your digestive tract with the help of probiotics and herbs. It is onion-free, making it great for dogs, and it doesn’t have vinegar or preservatives.
These tiny dill pickles from Gedney are ideal for your dog’s diet. The jar contains crunchy and yummy which are just the right snack for your furry pet.
Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is the most popular apple cider vinegar out there. Add a tablespoon or two of this to your dog’s water to keep them healthy.
When adding fermented foods to your pooch’s meals, make sure to start with small amounts before gradually increasing the serving once they are used to it.
Commercial Dog Food
Probiotics are sensitive to heat and moisture, so if they are added to dog food production, then the process will just kill most of them. That is why we don’t recommend commercial dog foods with probiotics.
If you want to provide your dog with food rich in probiotics, then it is best to feed them natural sources instead.
Feeding probiotic foods to your dog will create a big difference in their physiological health. These natural products contain many strains of good bacteria and yeasts that help them become more resistant to parasites and pathogens.
Health is wealth, and being able to maintain your dog’s health by adding these whole foods to their diet is a treasure. Talk to your vet about these products and make sure to offer your good dog the best foods to ensure their good health.