Not all microorganisms are potential pathogens – some bacteria and yeasts are health-boosting and available in the form of probiotic supplements. But are dog probiotics safe for suitable for young puppies?
Yes, when used responsibly and in the right amounts, good bacteria are safe for puppies. Studies show that probiotics support a healthy GI tract, improve food intake, help with weight management, and strengthen the immune system.
In this article, we will talk about probiotic supplements for puppies. We will review the different strains of beneficial bacteria and their different roles, the potential side effects, and buying considerations.
What are Probiotics for Puppies?
The World Health Organization’s definition is pretty clear – “probiotics are living microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.”
In simpler terms, probiotics are live bacteria (but sometimes also yeasts and fungi) that support the puppy’s population of beneficial microbes. These good microorganisms are primarily concentrated in the gut but can be found in other places of the body.
Are Probiotics Safe for Puppies?
Yes, the use of probiotics does not have an age limit. A study evaluating the safety and tolerance of probiotics in growing pups concluded that the supplementation is “well tolerated with no safety concerns.”
What do Probiotics do for Puppies?
In puppies, probiotics support the population of healthy gut microbes. In addition to introducing new beneficial microbes, probiotics release substances that help the good bacteria and lower the pH balance in the GI tract, thus creating non-favorable conditions for the harmful bacteria.
When to Give Puppies Probiotics
You can give your puppy probiotics when dealing with a digestive issue that can benefit from the supplementation – for example, diarrhea bouts, gassiness, or constipation. You can also give your puppy probiotics if suffering from certain atopic skin diseases and allergies.
Probiotics can also be used to promote general health and to prevent stress-related diarrhea. For example, you can give your puppy probiotics before a potentially stressful event like a car ride, vet visit, moving away, etc.
Last but not least, a puppy can start enjoying the benefits of probiotics even before birth. Supplementing the pregnant dog with probiotics “increases the immune power of the colostrum.” This makes the puppies stronger and more likely to develop a healthy immune response to regular vaccinations.
Benefits of Probiotics for Puppies
There are many health benefits of adding probiotics to your puppy’s health regimen. These are some of the most thoroughly researched and proven effects:
- Healthier and more efficient digestion. Probiotics improve the overall digestive tract health, increase nutrient absorption, and enhance vitamin synthesis. Therefore, they can be used to prevent and treat various gastrointestinal diseases in puppies.
- Diarrhea control. Probiotics can decrease the diarrhea duration and intensity and, in some puppies, even eliminate the need for antibiotics. Different probiotics have the ability to manage different types of diarrhea (stress-related, drug-triggered, infectious).
- Stronger and more robust immune system. Puppies are born with fully developed immune systems but immature immune responses. Probiotics have immune-boosting properties and can protect puppies from potential pathogens.
- Improved oral health. Probiotics can affect the bacterial population in the puppy’s mouth, thus preventing overgrowth of the microorganisms responsible for plaque build-up and gum disease. Managing good oral hygiene prevents bad breath and dental issues later in life.
- Protection against parasites. A groundbreaking study found that probiotics can help manage infestations with hookworms (common intestinal parasites in puppies). There is also interest in establishing the effects of probiotics for pups with Giardiasis.
- Skin disease management. Probiotics are commonly used in puppies with dermatological issues. They can help relieve symptoms associated with atopic skin diseases and allergic dermatitis.
- Enhanced mood and anxiety prevention. There is an established link between the gut and the brain (gut-brain axis). In more practical terms, a healthy gut is critical for improved mood and preventing stress-related problems in puppies.
Potential Side Effects of Probiotics for Puppies
As with any other supplement, probiotics have the potential to trigger some side effects when introduced to puppies for the very first time or in high doses.
Luckily, the side effects are rare, benign, and include issues like diarrhea, stomach bloating, constipation, nausea, or gassiness. Most of these adverse reactions are short-lasting and easily manageable through probiotic dosage modifications.
We should note that side effects are more likely to occur when switching to a different probiotic brand, adding a new probiotic strain to the menu, and in immuno-compromised puppies.
Types of Probiotics for Puppies
There are different types of probiotics for dogs, and each type or, better said, the strain has a specific role. The best dog probiotics formulated for puppies should feature several of the following types of live cultures:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus supports the dog’s digestive system by soothing GI tract upsets, increasing the absorption of nutrients, and enhancing vitamin B synthesis. L. acidophilus can also alleviate dermatitis symptoms and help with skin allergies.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus is beneficial for puppies susceptible to yeast overgrowths and is also effective in fighting off potential pathogens. In addition to providing immune support, L. rhamnosus helps with manage the symptoms of food allergies.
- Lactobacillus salivarius has antimicrobial effects, thus acting like a toxin targeting harmful microorganisms. L. salivarius is also helpful for reducing inflammatory processes in the intestines and decreases the risk of GI tract ulcers.
- Lactobacillus casei has anti-inflammatory properties and protects the lining of the Gi tract. It also has a bactericidal effect against microorganisms contributing to dental plaque formation. Plus, L. casei can improve the puppy’s mood.
- Lactobacillus fermentum inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and protects from urinary tract infections. It also supports the overall gut health and provides symptomatic relief for pups with different forms of gastrointestinal disorders.
- Lactobacillus reuteri is the perfect strain for puppies overcoming the effects of prolonged medication usage, particularly antibiotics. L. reuteri is considered to be a novel probiotic with strong immune-enhancing properties.
- Lactobacillus plantarum is a highly resistant bacterium that survives the travel through the dog’s digestive system and improves GI function. It is extra efficient in managing diarrhea and supporting liver health.
- Bifidobacterium animalis supports a healthy gut by preventing inflammatory activity in the digestive tract. It is efficient in managing idiopathic canine diarrhea and can help puppies recover from illness and after prolonged use of antibiotics.
- Bacillus coagulans is efficient in managing antibiotic-caused, rotaviral, and “traveler’s” diarrhea. B. coagulans forms spores that coat the intestinal lining, thus protecting them from Clostridium difficile infections, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Enterococcus faecium helps puppies overcome the effects of stress-triggered diarrhea. In young pets, E. faecium has an immune-stimulating effect and inhibitory impact against enteropathogens like Escherichia coli and Salmonella.
- Saccharomyces boulardii is a healthy yeast that can boost the puppy’s immune system and help manage chronic enteropathies. The yeast is also helpful for puppies with antibiotic-triggered diarrhea and Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea.
Probiotics for Puppies: Buying Guide
There are plenty of probiotic products for puppies available on the market. However, quality control is an ongoing issue when it comes to supplements.
One study found discrepancies between probiotic product labels and the actual content, and another study revealed that many supposedly probiotic-enriched dog foods do not contain live beneficial microbes.
Therefore, finding the best probiotic for your puppy can be tricky. To ensure a safe and efficient supplement, pay attention to the following factors:
- Overall Probiotic Profile. The right product must feature several probiotic strains. This is because different good bacteria have different health benefits. For example, Bifidobacterium members boost the immune system while Lactobacillus bacteria support digestion processes.
- Colony Forming Units (CFU). Indicate the number of each bacterium included in the supplements. Generally speaking, the more CFU, the better. However, the CFU number should not be sky-rocketing high since the good bacteria start competing with each other in such cases.
- Quality of the ingredients. All ingredients must be of premium, human-grade quality and supportive of the probiotic’s goal (for example, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, vitamins, and minerals). Probiotics for puppies must be free from GMO ingredients, fillers, and allergens (corn, soy, wheat, gluten).
- Form and flavor. Puppy probiotics are available in various forms (powder, chews, pills, capsules, liquids) and dog-friendly flavors (beef, chicken). Considering the frequency of use, it is best advised to choose the probiotic that fits your and the puppy’s criteria best.
- Reputable brand. A reputable brand will be transparent about the ingredients and manufacturing practices and publicly display the reviews from previous customers.
The Honest Paws Pre + Probiotic Supplement checks all boxes for quality and efficacy. Plus, it is perfectly safe and suitable for puppies.
Our Final Thoughts on Probiotics for Puppies
Probiotics for puppies are not just safe but also beneficial. In fact, veterinarians recommend the use of probiotics for various conditions as well as for overall health and wellbeing.
If you are a new puppy parent, talk to your vet about probiotics and get your pup started on a high-quality probiotic supplement.
Probiotics for Puppies Frequently Asked Questions
Are probiotics good for puppies?
Yes, probiotics are suitable for all dogs regardless of age. In puppies, probiotics can help with various issues, from improved digestion and weight management to robust immune response and enhanced oral health. Just make sure you use a high-quality probiotic formulated specifically for dogs.
What is a natural probiotic for puppies?
Certain foods are rich in probiotics serving as natural probiotic sources. Common examples include plain yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, goat milk, and fermented veggies. There are also natural sources of prebiotics for puppies like mushrooms, dandelion greens, asparagus, chicory root, and oats.
How often should I give my puppy probiotics?
The answer depends on why you are using probiotic supplementation. For example, for diarrhea, you can give your puppy probiotics daily until the condition resolves. For overall health or immune boosts, you can give every other day for several months. Finally, if anticipating a stressful event, you can start giving probiotics a few days before the event.
When should I give my puppy probiotics?
It does not matter at which point of the day you are giving your puppy probiotics. What matters is to be consistent, use a high-quality product, and be correct in terms of dosage. If you are not sure whether your puppy needs probiotics in the first place, talk to your trusted veterinarian.
Is yogurt good for puppies?
Yes, yogurt is good for puppies because it contains bacteria of the Lactobacillus group (L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, and L. casei ), which are essential for preventing diarrhea and strengthening the immune system. Just make sure you use low-fat and plain yogurt (preferably Greek yogurt), free from artificial sweeteners and other added ingredients.
How long should I give my puppy probiotics?
Based on why you are supplementing your puppy with probiotics, you can give them daily for shorter timeframes (until managing the issue) or every other day over the course of several months. The length of the probiotic supplementation is something you should discuss with your trusted vet.
How do you give a puppy probiotics?
Probiotics for puppies come in different forms allowing different administration methods – probiotic powders and liquids are sprinkled or mixed with dog food; pills and capsules can be given directly into the mouth or hidden in treats; and for fussy eaters, there are probiotic chews. Finally, you can also give your puppy some natural probiotic-rich foods.
What probiotic is good for puppies?
The best probiotic for puppies contains the correct number of bacteria strains and in the right amount of colony-forming units. It should also be made using high-quality ingredients and preferably include prebiotics too. Finally, the right probiotic supplement is formulated by a reputable brand and produced in a GMP-certified facility.
How long does it take for probiotics to work in puppies?
On a local level, probiotics start working as soon as they reach the intestines. However, in more generalized terms, how long it will take to see improvement in your puppy’s condition depends on why you are using the probiotic – for stomach upsets, probiotics are fast-acting (a couple of days). Still, they need up to several weeks for immune system boosts.
Evaluation of graded levels of Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 on apparent nutrient digestibility, stool quality, and intestinal health indicators in healthy adult dogs | Journal of Animal Science | Oxford Academic (oup.com)