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Health & Wellness

Probiotics for dogs: How do they work?

A possible solution to your dog’s upset stomach

Did you know that dogs' bodies create natural probiotics? According to Fetch’s on-staff vet Dr. Aliya McCullough, a dog's natural probiotics are good bacteria and yeasts that help the gastrointestinal tract and immune system stay healthy and function properly.

However, some dogs don't create enough of these natural probiotics. Luckily, there are probiotic supplements for dogs who need a boost. 

How can probiotics benefit dogs? 

According to Dr. McCullough, one of the main benefits of probiotics is that they speed up the recovery time for stomach issues. Probiotic supplements also enhance the immune system and help dog's maintain their general stomach health. 

How do I know if my dog needs probiotics? 

If your pup struggles with constant stomachaches, it could be a sign that their body lacks natural probiotics.

Stress can cause stomachaches — so if your dog is stressed by a situation, like a move, travel or a boarding facility stay, a probiotic supplement may help them feel better, Dr. McCullough says.

Antibiotics can reduce good bacteria in the body, Dr. McCullough adds. So, it's smart to ask your vet if your dog's antibiotics should be complemented by a probiotic supplement.

A dog's breed and age don't generally impact a their need for probiotic supplements. However, dogs that experience chronic diarrhea, are taking antibiotics that cause diarrhea, have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or struggle with allergies are more likely to take probiotics as part of their treatment for those conditions, Dr. McCullough says.

What probiotic can I give my dog? 

Probiotic supplements for dogs come in several different forms that are administered orally, including powder, tablet or paste. Some probiotics are even incorporated into dog food. But, not all probiotic-supplement brands are safe for dogs — that's why you should always talk to your vet before treating your pet.

“Avoid products with additives like sweetener, preservatives and artificial ingredients,” Dr. McCullough explains. “Your veterinarian can recommend a reputable product.”

Safe probiotics generally have minimal side effects, but they can cause loose stool or gassiness. Talk to your veterinarian if you notice any other changes after in your dog after giving them probiotic supplements. 

How long can dogs be on probiotics? 

Ask your veterinarian about how long your pup should take probiotic supplements. According to Dr. McCullough, probiotic treatment typically ranges from 1 to 2 weeks to months, so it’s important to talk to your vet about your dog’s individual needs. 

Probiotics vs. prebiotics

Prebiotics are supplements that stimulate the growth of good bacteria, Dr. McCullough says. They can be found in foods, like oats, soybeans, fruits and vegetables, or in supplement-form and dog food. “Prebiotics increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, reduce the amount of harmful bacteria and support the immune system,” Dr. McCullough says. 

Ask your veterinarian if adding prebiotics to your pet’s health regimen is a good idea, too.

If your dog has constant stomachaches, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about how probiotic supplements can benefit their individual needs. Once you’ve gotten the OK from your veterinarian to give your dog probiotic supplements, make sure you’re looking for products that are safe and reputable.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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