Natural Probiotics (& Prebiotics) for Dogs: 16 Powerhouse Food Sources 

Several food sources contain natural probiotics and prebiotics for dogs. Learn which ones can benefit gut health and how probiotic food sources compare to probiotic supplements.

Jul 10, 2024·11 min read
Natural Probiotics (& Prebiotics) for Dogs: 16 Powerhouse Food Sources 

Bacteria and yeast that are good for your digestive system are called probiotics. While you can easily get probiotics from foods like yogurt, you might be wondering whether there are similar natural probiotics for dogs, too. 

Probiotics for dogs are growing in popularity, with studies showing they may have positive effects on the gut health of dogs. Probiotics help to restore a healthy balance of organisms in the intestinal tract and can support a dog’s stool quality.  

Learn more about natural probiotics for dogs, probiotic supplement options, and things to consider before feeding probiotic foods to your dog. 

Beneficial Probiotics for Dogs 

The following are examples of bacteria and yeast that have been shown to potentially be beneficial to dogs in studies [1]: 

  • Lactobacillus strains (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus planatarum) 
  • Bifidobacterium strains 
  • Enterococcus faecalis 
  • Enterococcus faecium 
  • Ligilactobacillus animalis 
  • Bacillus subtilis 
  • Bacillus licheniformis 
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
  • Bacillus subtilis 
  • Bacillus licheniformis 
  • Limosilactobacillus fermentum 

The types of bacteria predominantly found in dog feces include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Enterococcus, Streptococcus, and Pediococcus.  

While studies looking at probiotic use in dogs are limited, the most studied probiotics in dogs are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Enterococcus. 

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics for Dogs 

In your search for a natural probiotic for dogs, you may also come across something called “prebiotics.” Understanding the difference between prebiotics and probiotics is important in supporting your dog’s microbiome. 

While probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live bacteria or yeast to improve the balance of your pet’s gastrointestinal tract, prebiotics act as food sources for the bacteria. Foods with good prebiotics are often high-fiber foods. Both probiotics and prebiotics may be beneficial to your dog’s gut health. 

9 Sources of Natural Probiotics for Dogs 

Just like you can get your probiotics from yogurt, there are natural foods which could provide some probiotics to your dog. Before feeding any of these foods to your pet, make sure to get the food approved by your veterinarian. 

Keep in mind that research regarding natural probiotics for dog gut health has not been completed as thoroughly as research regarding probiotics for humans. Scientific studies looking into the use of these foods as a source of probiotics for dogs is lacking. For most of these foods, an ideal amount to feed has not been established.  

Kefir  

Kefir, which is a fermented milk drink, contains over 50 species of bacteria and yeast. Feeding dogs kefir has been shown to increase the population of lactic acid bacteria (such as Lactobacillus), as well as alter the balance of bacteria in the gut, without causing significant side effects [2].  

To feed kefir, you should start with ¼ teaspoon and slowly increase up to about 1 teaspoon per 16 pounds of body weight per day. If your dog is sensitive or allergic to dairy, they should not receive kefir. Do not give kefir if your dog is taking a tetracycline antibiotic, like doxycycline. 

Fermented Blueberries 

Fermented blueberries, which are prepared with bacteria of the genus Lactobacillus, may make good probiotics for dogs. If you intend to feed fermented blueberries, start with one blueberry twice daily. If your dog tolerates the blueberries well, please speak with a holistic veterinarian for further feeding instructions. 

Cottage Cheese 

Cottage cheese contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. If your dog does not tolerate or is allergic to dairy products, cottage cheese is not a good option for them. Stick to low amounts, such as a tablespoon, to start. Do not give your dog cottage cheese if they’re taking a tetracycline antibiotic, such as doxycycline. 

Fermented Bananas 

Fermented bananas may contain Lactobacillus and Streptococcus species. 

Fermented Carrots or Broccoli 

Fermented carrots and/or broccoli may contain Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species. Start with a small amount (about half a teaspoon) to see how the vegetable is tolerated.  

Pickles 

Pickles contain Lactobacillus. Choose pickles without vinegar and without added seasonings, such as garlic, which is dangerous for dogs. Even low-salt pickles will have very high amounts of sodium for a dog. You can chop the pickle into a very small amount, such as one teaspoon, and feed it periodically over a week. 

Sauerkraut 

Sauerkraut contains several species of Lactobacillus which may be beneficial for a dog’s gastrointestinal system. 

Green Tripe 

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a natural probiotic in green tripe, which is the stomach lining of ruminant animals like cows. Do not give your dog green tripe if they have food allergies triggered by beef. Note that this is a raw animal component. You should wash the tripe prior to feeding and wash your hands afterwards. 

Yogurt 

Yogurt contains Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Use plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt if you will be feeding yogurt to your dog. If your dog does not tolerate or is allergic to dairy products, yogurt is not a good option for them.  Do not give your dog yogurt if they’re taking a tetracycline antibiotic like doxycycline. 

7 Sources of Natural Prebiotics for Dogs 

Probiotics are more effective in the presence of prebiotics. The following foods contain natural prebiotics for dogs and other nutrients that help the probiotic organisms flourish. 

  • Pumpkin 
  • Sweet Potato 
  • Oatmeal 
  • Carrots 
  • Broccoli 
  • Blueberries 
  • Bananas 

Precautions When Feeding Dogs Foods with Natural Probiotics 

You should always get natural dog probiotics approved by your veterinarian. If your dog is having gastrointestinal issues, it is best to consult with your veterinarian before turning to natural prebiotics and probiotics for dogs. Other things to keep in mind include: 

Risk of gastrointestinal upset: The introduction of any new food can lead to digestive upset. Make sure to introduce any new food slowly over the course of 7 to 10 days. 

Risk of obesity: Treats, including natural probiotic sources, should not make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s total caloric intake. Adding probiotic foods to your dog’s diet without changing the total amount you’re feeding them can easily contribute to weight gain. 

Food allergies: If your dog has food allergies, some of the recommendations may not be a good fit for them. Always check with your veterinarian before feeding a new food if your dog is being managed for food allergies. 

Lack of research: There is an overall lack of research regarding natural probiotics for dogs. Most of these foods don’t have established feeding guidelines, have not been studied for adverse effects or benefits in dogs, and cannot be guaranteed to be effective. A lot of the recommendations for natural probiotics in dogs are based on knowledge of human gastrointestinal health. 

Added ingredients: Some foods, especially fermented foods, may have other ingredients added. Some ingredients, such as garlic, onion, or xylitol (sugar substitute), are dangerous for dogs. 

Underlying conditions: A lot of the best natural probiotics for dogs have a lot of sodium in them, which may not be a good choice for dogs with certain health conditions. If your dog has a chronic health condition, make sure to double check that the foods are safe for your dog to consume. 

Can I Make Homemade Probiotics for Dogs? 

You should always consult with a veterinarian before making homemade probiotics for dogs. Adding any new foods can easily throw off the balance of your dog’s diet and contribute to obesity. 

However, you can mix and match dog-safe probiotic foods to give as treats in moderation. Just make sure to do this under guidance from your veterinarian. 

Keep in mind that homemade recipes featuring foods with probiotics will have a shelf life. Pet parents should store any homemade treats or food appropriately and be sure to avoid giving dogs foods past their expiration date.  

Homemade Frozen Probiotic Dog Treat  

An example of a frozen treat you could feed that would provide both probiotics and prebiotics would be a yogurt, peanut butter, and pumpkin puree frozen treat.  

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups of plain Greek yogurt 
  • ¼ cup plain peanut butter 
  • ¼ cup pumpkin puree 

Instructions: 

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Distribute the mixture into a mini muffin tin or ice cube tray. Freeze the mixture. Serve up probiotic treats to your dog! 

Make sure you have considered the previously mentioned precautions if you’re going to make homemade probiotics for your dog. Recipes created without the advice of a veterinarian can easily contribute to gastrointestinal upset in dogs, throw off the nutritional balance of their diet, and contribute to obesity. 

Foods With Probiotics Vs. Probiotic Supplements for Dogs 

There are some key differences between feeding dogs foods containing natural probiotics and using a probiotic supplement. Here are a few things that set them apart: 

Research: Probiotic supplements for dogs have more research backing them than natural probiotics. 

Number of CFUs: Supplements will usually contain a higher volume of colony-forming units (CFUs) than your dog will get from natural dog probiotics, meaning they provide more probiotics. The supplements will usually tell you a minimum number of CFUs contained in the supplement, which you will not find on most natural foods. 

Difference in calories: Providing probiotic supplements will also have a minimal impact on the number of calories your dog consumes in a day. Natural probiotic sources, on the other hand, are likely to add significantly to your pet’s total caloric intake. To see the same benefits that you’d see from probiotic supplements, you may need to feed an excessive amount of natural probiotics, risking obesity and an imbalanced diet. 

Made for dogs: Keep in mind that probiotic supplements for dogs are made with canines in mind while natural probiotic foods are not. If you’re considering feeding your dog probiotics, supplements may meet your pet’s needs better than using natural sources. Many probiotic supplements also include prebiotics to maximize the beneficial impact of the supplement. 

Other Sources of Probiotics for Dogs 

You have several options for purchasing dog probiotics, including probiotic soft chews, probiotic powders or capsules, and probiotic dog foods. 

Probiotic Soft Chews 

Soft probiotic chews, such as PetLab Co.’s Probiotic Chew, are designed to be tasty and easy to administer. Dogs will generally receive one to three chews per day. PetLab Co. also has an Allergy & Immune Probiotic Chew, which may be a good alternative to natural probiotics for dogs with seasonal allergies. 

Probiotic Powders and Capsules 

Probiotic powders are usually sprinkled over your dog’s food. Probiotics in capsule form may be opened and poured over the food, though you should always check the administration instructions. In some cases, probiotic powders enhance the palatability of your dog’s food. Other times, dogs may be resistant to eating food with powder placed on it. 

Probiotic Dog Food 

Some dog foods specifically contain probiotics and prebiotics. If you are interested in a probiotic dog food, ask your veterinarian if it’s a good fit for your pup. 

A Final Word on Natural Probiotics 

There are many natural probiotics you could consider for your dog. However, the research regarding natural probiotics for dogs is not sufficient to widely recommend adding these foods to your dog’s diet.  

If you’re looking to add probiotics to your dog’s daily regimen, you may have more success using a probiotic supplement. You should speak with your veterinarian if you’re interested in giving your dog probiotics. 

Sources

  1. Yang Q, Wu Z. Gut Probiotics and Health of Dogs and Cats: Benefits, Applications, and Underlying Mechanisms. Microorganisms. 2023; 11(10):2452. doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms11102452 
  1. Kim DH, Jeong D, Kang IB, Lim HW, Cho Y, Seo KH. Modulation of the intestinal microbiota of dogs by kefir as a functional dairy product. J Dairy Sci. 2019;102(5):3903-3911. doi:10.3168/jds.2018-15639 
Rhiannon Koehler, DVMR
WRITTEN BY

Rhiannon Koehler, DVM

Dr. Rhiannon Koehler is a veterinary writer who aims to provide accurate, veterinarian-written content that pet parents can use to make better health decisions for their pets. As the founder of Evergreen Medical Writing, LLC, her writing is exclusively in the veterinary and biomedical spaces. In addition to writing new content, Dr. Koehler also provides her veterinary expertise as a medical reviewer, ensuring content is medically accurate and reflects the most current veterinary practices. Clinically, Dr. Koehler mostly works with animal shelters, low-cost clinics, and wellness clinics. She believes strongly in the mission of such organizations to provide affordable care to underprivileged pets and families. She graduated from the University of Missouri with her Doctor in Veterinary Medicine and her Masters in Public Health and has over a decade of experience in the veterinary industry.

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The information contained within this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or veterinary advice. PetLab Co. is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your pet has, or you suspect your pet has any medical condition, you are urged to consult your veterinarian. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Results May Vary. Not intended for human consumption. Please consult your veterinarian regarding any change in treatment or supplementation.
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