7 Signs Your Dog Needs Probiotics

Probiotics offer plenty of benefits for dogs. But what are the signs your dog needs probiotics? A vet explains what to watch for.

May 31, 2024·6 min read
7 Signs Your Dog Needs Probiotics

With so much buzz about probiotics in human health, it’s no surprise that they’re also a hot topic in the pet world. 

Although research on probiotics for dogs is still in its early stages, we do know that they can be beneficial for a dog’s overall health and well-being, including supporting gut and stomach issues. 

Don’t rush out to the pet store just yet, though. Keep reading to learn more about how probiotics work, signs your dog might need probiotics, and how to choose the right probiotic supplement for your pet. 

What Are Probiotics and How Do They Benefit Dogs? 

Probiotics are live, beneficial microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, yeast) found in food, such as yogurt, and are commonly packaged as dietary supplements. They resemble the microorganisms found naturally in the gut, which comprise the gut microbiome. The microbiome is a collection of bacteria, yeast, viruses, and fungi that help keep the gut and body healthy. 

Generally, probiotics support a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, leading to numerous positive effects throughout the body. They have various, and sometimes opposing, properties. For example, some probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties, while others stimulate the immune system. 

Probiotics have been studied for decades in human health, but their popularity and availability for pets began just a few years ago. 

People take probiotic supplements to support many aspects of human health, such as: 

  • Promoting healthy digestion 
  • Maintaining healthy body weight 
  • Supporting the immune system 
  • Improving mood and emotional regulation
  • Supporting overall gut and digestive health

Probiotics can have similar benefits for dogs. 

Does Your Dog Need Probiotics? 7 Signs They Might 

Probiotics are good for dogs but are not always necessary, especially for dogs already in good general health. Your veterinarian can help you decide whether a probiotic supplement would help your dog. 

Here are some signs that indicate your dog may need a probiotic: 

Gas and bloating. While occasional gas is normal in dogs, frequent (and stinky) gas, stomach noises, or bloating may indicate gut health that may need support. in dogs. Probiotics can help balance the bacteria in your dog’s gut and help with occasional digestive issues. 

Inconsistent stools. Dogs who experience loose stools or periods of constipation may be dealing with a gut imbalance. While a visit to your veterinarian is recommended to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on, a probiotic supplement can support dogs who have occasional stool inconsistencies.  

Poor immune health: Dogs with poor immune health could benefit from probiotics’ ability to support the immune system. 

Seasonal allergies: Seasonal allergy discomfort in dogs can be linked to an imbalanced gut. Since probiotics balance out the microbiome and support gut health, dogs with seasonal allergies may benefit from a probiotic supplement. 

Overweight: Probiotics may help manage weight, so an overweight dog could benefit from a probiotic supplement. 

Bad breath: Harmful bacteria in the mouth can release toxins that cause bad breath. Probiotics have been found to support the oral microbiome and help bad breath. 

Stress: Major changes to a dog’s environment or routine can cause stress. A probiotic supplement can help regulate mood and, thus, help reduce stress in your canine companion. 

Be aware that dogs with severely weakened immune systems should not be given probiotics or only with extreme caution. A weak immune system might be unable to handle the bacterial load in a probiotic supplement. 

How to Choose a Probiotic to Fit Your Dog’s Needs 

If your vet thinks your dog could benefit from a probiotic, it’s time to start thinking about choosing the right one for your dog. 

Here are a few general considerations to keep in mind: 

Select Only Dog-Safe Probiotics  

Human probiotics are formulated for the bacteria in the human gut, which is a different bacterial mix than what’s found in a dog’s gut. So, a human probiotic supplement would not help your dog. Additionally, human probiotic supplements and human foods that contain probiotics may have ingredients like xylitol that are toxic to dogs. 

Plus, even if they’re healthy, new human foods can upset your dog’s tummy — something you’re probably trying to relieve in the first place. 

Consider the Formulation 

Probiotic supplements for dogs come as tablets, chews, powders, and liquids. Powders and liquids can be mixed into your dog’s food. Tablets can be opened and poured onto food. And probiotic chews for dogs can be given directly, like a tasty reward. Decide which formulation will appeal most to your dog. 

Familiarize Yourself with Supplement Labels 

Understanding a probiotic supplement’s label is also important. Here’s what to look for: 

Specific probiotics and strains: Different probiotics have different functions. Your veterinarian can guide you on which probiotics best suit your dog. Read this information on the label to ensure you’re getting the probiotic that will target your dog’s needs. 

Expiration date: The expiration date indicates the date a supplement should be used by. Pet parents should not give their dogs probiotics that are past the expiration date.  

Other ingredients: Usually, probiotics aren’t the only ingredient in the supplement. Other ingredients may include yeast, enzymes, and other nutrients. 

Storage instructions: Storage conditions, like temperature and moisture, can affect probiotics. Follow the storage instructions to ensure the bacteria stay alive until the expiration date. 

NASC quality seal: NASC stands for National Animal Supplement Council. An NASC seal indicates that the manufacturer follows strict quality control measures to ensure their products are consistently high quality.  

Dog Probiotics: A Helpful Tool, Not a Magic Pill 

Probiotics serve many valuable functions in dogs but are not a magic pill or cure-all. Instead, they are a supplement that compliments a dog’s overall wellness regimen. Use a probiotic supplement as an add-on to healthy routines like daily exercise, a well-balanced diet, adequate hydration, and regular vet visits. 

Remember to talk with your veterinarian before starting your dog on a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are safe for dogs but can cause side effects like bloating and gas. If your dog experiences side effects or their symptoms do not improve, contact your vet.

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVMJ

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. As the founder and owner of JPen Communications, JoAnna is passionate about educating pet parents and empowering them to make informed health decisions for their pets. Since 2016, she has written hundreds of articles on a variety of topics in pet care, including behavior, wellness, and nutrition. In her free time, JoAnna enjoys playing the viola, baking, and seeing the world through the eyes of her fearless toddler.

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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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