What Are The Types Of Probiotics? Are they Effective For Dogs?

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The use of probiotics in dogs is becoming quite common. Recently many vets have started to routinely prescribe a probiotic to be taken while a dog is on a broad spectrum antibiotic such as amoxicillin.

Find out about probiotics, and when and if, they might be a good idea for your dog.


What is a probiotic?

The accepted definition of a probiotic is a living organism that is used to promote health.

More commonly the term probiotic is used to mean one type of probiotic – that is bacteria (or less commonly yeast) that are taken by mouth to increase the numbers of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Probiotic and prebiotic are not the same

Sometimes the term prebiotic is confused with probiotic. The term prebiotic refers to (non-living) food that can help digestive health by stimulation of bacterial activity and/or growth.

An example of a prebiotic is inulin (not insulin) which is found in high levels is several plants including chicory. Some dog foods now contain chicory with the aim of promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Degraded inulin is fructooligosaccharide (FOS) which is also a prebiotic. Some of the probiotic products also contain prebiotics.

Which bacteria are used for dog probiotics?

Currently the most effective probiotic for dogs is Enterococcus faecium. This is a bacterium that is found naturally in the gut, and is considered to be beneficial. If you get a probiotic from your vet, it will be contain Enterococcus faecium. Currently there are two products that contain Enterococcus faecium, Fortiflora and Bactaquin, both of these are routinely prescribed by vets.

The remainder of the probiotic products that can be purchased contain the same types of bacteria that are found in human probiotics, such as the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There is some evidence that when a dog has diarrhea that use of these types of probiotics may increase the speed of recovery. There is less evidence for long term effectiveness for any of the individual bacteria in dogs. A product with a mix of different types of organisms may be more effective.

For more information about probiotics products see What probiotic products are available?.

Are probiotics effective in dogs?

There is more evidence for long term effectiveness of probiotics in dogs than there is in humans.

One of the problems seems to be in humans that a probiotic has to be taken every day. There is little evidence that bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, remain at high levels after probiotics are stopped. Most studies indicate that the level of probiotic bacteria in the gut drops quickly. In just a few days, the bacteria numbers have decreased to very low numbers.

In dogs, however, there are studies that have shown that after a course of Enterococcus faecium, for at least for a few weeks the number of Enterococcus remain high and may even increase. This can make probiotics very effective in dogs.

What are the most common uses of probiotics in dogs?

During and after antibiotic therapy

In dogs the most common use of probiotics is to restore the gut to a good balance of bacteria during, and after antibiotic therapy.

If an antibiotic is given by mouth, rather than applied externally such as in the ear, there will be antibiotic distributed throughout the whole body. The antibiotic may have been given for something that has nothing to with the gut, such as a bladder infection or after surgery. However, the antibiotic is also going to be killing bacteria in the gut.

Bacteria such as Enterococcus faecium will help with replacing the bacteria that have been killed with “good” bacteria.

Probiotics can help reduce a dog having diarrhea,a common side effect of antibiotic therapy, by helping maintain a good balance of bacteria in the gut.

For diarrhea

A probiotic can stop the development of antibiotic-associated diarrhea that can occur due to changes in the bacterial balance in the gut.

Many cases of diarrhea in dogs are due to “dietary indiscretions”. Some of these are eating foods, dead animals etc that have a high level of bacteria that cause the diarrhea. Probiotics can help restore the balance in the gut.

Another cause of diarrhea is an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria. Probiotics may help control the overgrowth. Probiotics can help reduce the numbers of the certain species of bacteria that are in too high numbers. (More information about diarrhea)

Stressful situations

When dogs are in stressful situations, such as being adopted, changes in their home situation or boarding, this can cause digestive upset. Probiotics may be helpful in both preventing and reducing any digestive problems due to stress.

Change in diet

Often when a dog has a change in their diet, it takes a few days for their digestive system and the bacteria in the gut to adjust to the new food. Giving probiotic can help minimize the digestive disturbances.

For inflammatory diseases of the gut

In some cases probiotics can help reduce the level of inflammation, and hence reduce the pain and discomfort from inflammatory diseases.

For general digestive health

It is becoming much more frequent for dog owners to give their dog supplements since they feel that they will help keep the dog in the best health. Many people reason that probiotics will help prevent the development of problems.

In senior dogs

When any animal gets older, humans, cats, dogs, whatever, the body is not so good at maintaining many parts of the body. Older animals are more likely to have problems with overgrowth of bacteria in their guts and the negative health consequences, particularly when they get sick or stressed.

Preventative treatment with probiotics may help maintain a high number of good bacteria and reduce the risk of an overgrowth of less desirable bacteria.


Next Page – Probiotic Products: & Will A Probiotic Benefit Your Dog?