Updated July 23, 2018
Digestive difficulties are common problems for many dogs, and, while rarely life-threatening, you’ll want to do everything you can to cure your dog’s troubling symptoms to ensure he enjoys a high quality-of-life. Fortunately, you can often help improve your dog’s digestive function by giving him one of the best probiotics for dogs.
Scroll down to learn more about the role bacteria plays in your dog’s digestive tract and some of the conditions that typically respond to probiotic regimens. But, we’ll begin by sharing the five probiotics for dogs we most strongly recommend.
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PET Ultimates Probiotics
VetriScience Vetri Mega Probiotic
NUSENTIA Probiotic Miracle
The following five dog probiotic supplements are great products, and they have received some of the best reviews in the product category. Any of these should give you a great chance at helping alleviate your dog’s intestinal issues.
Purina Fortiflora Canine Nutritional Supplement is a powdered supplement designed to be sprinkled on top of your dog’s food.
This supplement is made with a single bacterial strain to help promote proper digestion, as well as vitamins and minerals to help your dog recover more quickly following bouts with diarrhea.
Most owners were very pleased with Purina Fortiflora Canine Nutritional Supplement and noted that it helped to regulate their dog’s digestive function – often quite quickly. Most dogs appear to love the taste of the product (likely to the inclusion of animal digest in the formula), and it even helped resolve the tear-staining problems that afflict some dogs.
Purina Fortiflora Canine Nutritional Supplement is a very effective probiotic supplement that is easy to administer. It only contains one bacterial strain, which is a bit disappointing, but it is hard to argue with the results most owners report. It is also a bit expensive, but you often get what you pay for when shopping for probiotics.
PetVitalityPRO Probiotics for Dogs is a complete digestive aid and immune system booster that can help dogs recover from bacterial infections, stress-related diarrhea and digestive issues caused by a change in food.
And unlike some other probiotics, which dogs often find unpalatable, most dogs love eating these duck-flavored soft chews.
Most owners reported excellent results after providing PetVitalityPRO Probiotics to their pet. They appeared to help treat several different problems, ranging from antibiotic-caused diarrhea to yeast infections to excessive gas. Additionally, most dogs appear to find the soft chews very tasty and eat them willingly.
PetVitalityPRO Probiotics are some of the most effective probiotics available, and they not only contain five different probiotic strains, they are also fortified with vitamins, minerals and other health-supporting ingredients. And in addition to being effective, they are reasonably priced and appear to work very quickly.
PET Ultimates Probiotics for Dogs is a super-charged probiotic powder that contains a diverse array of beneficial bacterial strains.
But PET Ultimates Probiotics powder not only contains a number of different probiotic strains, it provides plenty of bacteria for your dog, as each scoop contains an incredible 2 billion colony-forming units.
Most owners raved about their experiences with PET Ultimates Probiotics for Dogs and used phrases like “amazing” to describe the results it provided. The vast majority of owners reported that it was easy to mix in with their dog’s food, and that their dog ate it without hesitation. But perhaps most impressively, PET Ultimates Probiotics for Dogs helped with a vast array of health problems, ranging from chronic diarrhea to itchy skin to impacted anal glands.
PET Ultimates Probiotics for Dogs is one of the most impressive supplements on the market. It provides more beneficial bacterial strains than any other product we’ve been able to find, and most owners have been very happy with the results it provided. It is a pricey supplement, but if you want a premium product, you must often pay premium prices.
VetriScience Vetri Mega Probiotic capsules are made with a variety of different bacterial strains to help keep your pet’s digestive system operating at peak efficiency.
They’re also easy to administer, as you can stuff these capsules inside a pill pocket, or you can simply open the capsules and sprinkle the powder onto your dog’s food.
By and large, most owners loved the results provided by VetriScience Vetri Mega Probiotics. A number of owners reported that these supplements helped eliminate problems like excessive gas, chronic diarrhea and constipation, and a few also noted improvements in their dog’s breath after a short period of supplementation.
VetriScience Vetri Mega Probiotics boast an impressive array of bacterial strains for such an affordable supplement. And while there may be one or two other probiotics that received better user reviews or provided more bacterial strains, VetriScience Vetri Mega Probiotics provide great value, thanks to their low price.
NUSENTIA Probiotic Miracle was one of the first probiotics for dogs on the market, and it remains a favorite of dog owners and vets to this day.
The product of years of research, testing and development, NUSENTIA Probiotic Miracle is effective and easy to administer, so your dog can begin feeling better quickly.
A few owners reported shipping-related problems (such as receiving products that were already expired), which reduced the NUSENTIA’s overall score, but the majority of owners who tried this supplement were very pleased. Most noted that it was easy to administer, and it quickly eliminated their dog’s excessive gas and diarrhea.
NUSENTIA Probiotic Miracle is clearly one of the leading probiotics available on the market. It is a bit more expensive than many other products, but you’ll often have to pay a bit more to obtain the best products in any category. The shipping-related problems (which appear to have been resolved) likely dragged down the product’s overall customer rating, meaning that the product is likely even better than its rating indicates.
The world is home to an astonishing number of bacteria – they pretty much cover every inhabitable surface of the planet. Scientists aren’t sure exactly how many different species exist, but estimates range from 10,000 to over 1 million.
As you’d expect, there is considerable diversity among this group. Different species live in different environments, subsist on different resources and go about life in different ways. Many are completely benign and ubiquitous, while others are rare and exceedingly dangerous. Some are actually vital to other species.
The point being, while some bacteria are “bad,” others are quite important and can be generally considered to be “good” bacteria. Probiotics are comprised of one or more species belonging to the latter category.
Healthy dogs (and most other animals) harbor an entire microbial ecosystem inside their digestive tracts. The vast majority of these bacteria are either beneficial or fail to have any appreciable effect on the dog’s health. The beneficial bacteria perform a number of important functions, such as assisting in the digestion of food and maintaining a proper pH in the digestive tract.
However, these beneficial bacteria can be wiped out by a number of different things. Broad-spectrum antibiotics, for example, often kill off these bacteria, while poor-quality dog foods may fail to provide the crucial nutrients the beneficial bacteria need to survive. In either case, your dog ends up with a depleted gut biome.
Normally, these beneficial bacteria help outcompete problematic bacteria, but when the beneficial bacteria die off, they provide an opening for the harmful varieties. If these bad bacteria set up shop in your canine’s intestinal tract and start reproducing, vomiting, diarrhea and other digestive problems will often follow.
However, by providing probiotic supplements to your dog, you can usually restore the gut flora to its original state. This will typically help alleviate intestinal symptoms and make your dog feel better.
Several probiotic supplements also contain prebiotics, which are also helpful for restoring proper digestive function. Prebiotics are not bacteria; instead, they are food sources for beneficial bacteria.
They are often included in supplements to help support the probiotic bacteria being delivered, to ensure that the bacteria do not starve once inside your dog’s intestines. Additionally, because it is likely that some beneficial bacteria are already present inside your dog’s digestive tract, prebiotics can help support these populations too.
Prebiotics are typically fibrous substances that your dog’s body cannot digest. This ensures that they will survive passage through the stomach to reach the small intestine. Inulin – a type of polysaccharide produced by many plants – is one of the most commonly used prebiotics for dogs. It is typically harvested from chicory root.
As referenced earlier, the world is full of different bacterial species (or strains, as they are often called), and each interacts with its environment in different ways. And this holds true for those in your dog’s digestive tract too – there are likely dozens of different beneficial bacteria that help to keep him healthy.
Some of these strains are undoubtedly more helpful than others in restoring proper digestive function, but the scientific data on the subject is not conclusive. Although there is some data demonstrating the efficacy of a few strains, such as Bifidobacterium animalis and Enterococcus faecium, the efficacy of others remains unknown.
Given this uncertainty, some of the best probiotics for dogs include several different bacterial strains to help achieve the best possible results. However, some studies have demonstrated that different bacterial strains can actually work against each other, so much more research is necessary.
Probiotics have proven helpful for treating a vast array of health problems -- this is part of the reason that many people are excited about probiotics. However, a few of the most common ailments they’re used to treat include:
Digestive problems – especially diarrhea – are the most common reasons that probiotics are administered to dogs. Often, dogs suffer diarrhea because the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria in their intestines have died off. This not only prevents proper digestion, it also allows harmful bacteria to proliferate – both of which can cause diarrhea and other digestive problems, such as excessive gas.
But, by administering a good probiotic, you can restore the beneficial bacteria that should be present in your dog’s intestines, which will usually solve the problem. The bacteria will not only help restore proper intestinal function, but they will help out-compete the harmful bacteria, so your dog’s body can eliminate them.
Bacteria play important roles in a variety of biological systems. So, while probiotics are normally used to help solve problems involving the digestive system, they can also help solve problems that appear to have little to do with the digestive tract. One good example of this phenomenon involves your dog’s skin and coat health.
By administering probiotics to your dog, you help ensure that his digestive tract is functioning properly, which, in turn, will often help improve the condition of his skin and coat. It also reduces the chances that harmful bacteria will colonize your dog’s skin, as fewer harmful bacteria will be found in your dog’s digestive system (because of the way dog’s groom themselves, they’re likely to become coated in any bacteria found in their intestines).
A large portion of your dog’s immune system resides in his digestive tract. This helps to ensure he doesn’t become sick if he eats something contaminated with harmful bacteria. By administering probiotics to your dog, you can help support his immune system, thereby helping to protect him from threats.
Yeast infections can be extremely troubling medical conditions, which cause constant and severe itching. Some also cause skin irritation or pain, and – depending on where they occur – they can even cause your dog to develop terrible odors. Serious yeast infections may require anti-fungal medications to treat, but probiotics may help alleviate mild cases.
Yeast infections often occur because the beneficial bacteria living on or inside your dog’s body die off. This creates an opening for yeast organisms to move in and colonize your dog’s body. But, by administering probiotics to your dog, you can help restore the populations of beneficial bacteria, which will then out-compete and supplant the yeast organisms.
Skin allergies often occur in response to allergens present in the environment, but for reasons nobody quite understands, probiotics often help to alleviate them. It may be that by adding beneficial bacteria back to your dog’s digestive tract, you can help “reset” a dog’s immune system and stop it from overreacting.
Regardless of the reason probiotics help to treat skin allergies, they are safe, easy to administer and natural, so they’re often worth trying.
Anytime your dog switches foods, it can upset his stomach – particularly if you don’t transition between the two foods slowly enough. Among other things, an abrupt switch in your dog’s food can wipe out the bacteria present in his intestinal tract, causing him to suffer diarrhea and excessive gas.
But, if you administer probiotic supplements while changing your dog’s food, he’s much more likely to remain healthy while making the switch.
Note that beneficial bacteria are a normal part of your dog’s gut flora, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t give probiotics to your dog (unless, for some reason, your vet advises against it). Even if it turns out that your dog already has a healthy population of beneficial bacteria in his intestines, any excess bacteria will just pass through his system.
So, probiotics are high-upside/no-downside products that are almost always worth considering for your pet.
A few of the other reasons people often administer probiotics include:
Now that you understand the role beneficial bacteria play in your dog's health, you'll want to compare the various products available so you can select the best probiotic for dogs.
Although it is impossible to guarantee that a given product will alleviate your dog’s symptoms, you can increase your odds of success by considering the following recommendations.
Because scientific data regarding the efficacy of various probiotics is somewhat limited, one of the best ways to find the best probiotics for dogs is by reading the reviews of other dog owners. Chances are, the better the reviews of a given probiotic are, the more likely it will help your dog feel better.
Unfortunately, some supplements may be contaminated during the manufacturing process or include ingredients not listed on the label. To avoid this as much as possible, stick with supplements made in countries and regions with strict safety- and quality-control standards.
If your dog won’t eat a probiotic, it won’t do him any good, so you should always look for probiotics that feature dog-friendly flavors, such as beef or chicken. This is especially important for tablets or chews, as you’ll want your dog to accept them like a treat.
Your dog’s digestive tract is a harsh environment that is designed to kill most bacteria that enter it, including those in many probiotics. To help prevent this from happening, the best manufacturers encapsulate the bacteria in a type of shell that protects it from stomach acids and digestive enzymes.
The bacteria in a probiotic supplement cannot live forever, and all probiotics will eventually contain nothing but dead bacterial cultures, if not used by a given date. Most of the best probiotics for dogs will provide information on the label that indicates the length of time that the cultures will remain alive as well as an expiration date.
It is not only important to ensure the beneficial bacteria in a probiotic survives its passage through the stomach, you also want to make sure that the bacteria have the best chance of thriving once in the small intestine. One good way to do this is by providing them with prebiotics – food – to help them grow and reproduce.
Have you ever treated your dog with probiotics? How did it work out for you? Did you begin the probiotic regimen to treat a specific problem or as a preventative? Do you feel like you selected one of the best probiotics for dogs?
Let us know all about it – including your favorite product – in the comments below.