Planning on giving your dog probiotics? You need to check out this list before you do. Find out how to give your dog some amazing health benefits – and save some money too!
And yes, I get it, probiotics can be confusing. You may wonder, “Can I give my dog probiotics?” or “Can dogs take human probiotics?” And if so, how and when should you give them? Some people say only in certain situations, others say all the time.
I’m going to answer these questions and tell you about my 6 favorite ways to give your dog probiotics, along with some helpful recipes.
But first, here’s a bit of background on probiotics and prebiotics.
Probiotics – Immune System Building Blocks
Probiotics are live microorganisms that live in various parts of your dog’s body, including the gastrointestinal tract, the oral cavity, vagina, nasal cavity, respiratory organs and even on the skin. The term probiotic literally means “for life.” The word comes from the Latin preposition pro meaning “for” and the Greek word bios meaning “life.” Probiotics are often called “good bacteria.” Keeping a healthy balance of good (vs bad) bacteria is vital for your dog’s health.
Prebiotics – Feed The Probiotics
Prebiotics are various types of preferred foods that nourish the probiotic bacteria and keep them active. Feeding prebiotics along with probiotics gives your dog symbiotics.
Symbiotics – The Perfect Couple
Symbiotic means a beneficial interaction (known as a symbiotic relationship) between two different things. Prebiotics and probiotics form a perfect couple by working together to keep your dog’s body super-healthy.
The pre and the probiotics are simply and naturally a beneficial boost to your dog’s diet. Your dog’s diet – that’s another platform to address.
There are very tricky marketing terms that manufacturers use to confuse you when buying your pets’ food. This makes it extremely difficult to know if your dog is getting the wholesome diet he needs to stay healthy and active (and skip unnecessary and expensive trips to the vet).
Important Hangouts for Probiotics
Your dog has trillions and trillions of friends in her body that you didn’t even know about! As many as 1,000 different types of bacteria and microorganisms form your dog’s microbiome (your dog’s “ecosystem”).
Let’s look at your dog’s gastrointestinal system to see where probiotics live in her body.
Beneficial bacteria live in the mouth and keep it healthy. Good bugs in your dog’s mouth can be the first line of defense against viruses and bacteria entering the body. Feeding carbohydrate foods to your dog creates the wrong kind of bacteria in the mouth, causing tartar and plaque to form on his teeth.
Good bacteria in the pharynx help maintain good health. When the pharynx contains pathogenic bacteria, they will cause pharyngitis and other signs of inflammation.
Stomach, Pancreas And Gallbladder
The enteric system (a system of neurons that control the gastrointestinal system) continues down the throat and into the stomach. Probiotic bacteria go through the acid in the stomach and need to survive the pancreatic enzymes and bile from the gallbladder.
Digestion takes place In the stomach and small intestine. Minerals are absorbed in the small intestine.
I call the colon probiotic headquarters! The colon is where probiotics exert their greatest effect. Studies have shown that probiotics can even help prevent colon cancer in humans.
Some experts question whether probiotics survive their journey to the colon (sometimes this is a marketing claim for probiotic brands with enteric coatings). In fact, most of the healthy bacteria can travel through the high acid situations, enzymes, and bile in the body.
Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) protocol, says that it doesn’t matter if the probiotics don’t arrive alive in the colon. Even if they’re dead, the body can still use their genetic material to benefit the colon.
Anus – The “Back Door!”
Every time your pet has a bowel movement, hundreds of thousands of bacteria, yeast and other microbes exit the body. This is part of the body’s detoxification process and probiotics help remove the toxins.
It’s not on the illustration, but probiotics live successfully in the vagina. When puppies are born, they get a first dose of healthy bacteria as they pass through the birth canal. (This is true of human babies too, and C-section babies miss out on this benefit.)
Why Your Dog Needs Probiotics
Here are 3 things you need to know about probiotics:
- Your dog needs probiotics … and she needs them every day.
- But probiotic supplements can be expensive … and that daily dose doesn’t have to come in an expensive pill.
- There are better ways to give them to your dog.
Good bacteria are crucial for the health of your dog’s gut. But they also support her brain, digestion, assimilation of nutrients and – best of all – her immune system. Boosting your dog’s immune system is probably the most important role of probiotics.
As much as 80% of your dog’s immune system is based in her gut. Different probiotics pair with almost every different part of the immune system that we know of.
Viruses and bacteria enter the body through the mouth and probiotics are present starting in the mouth and throughout your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Maintaining the good bacteria keeps pathogens in check and is your dog’s primal immune system.
A good balance of probiotics helps reduce inflammation throughout your dog’s body – and that lowers her susceptibility to chronic disease.
Probiotics support digestion as well as the assimilation of vitamins and minerals. They help your dog’s body process critical nutrients like vitamin B-12.
The intestinal microbiome is in charge of producing neurotransmitters and neuropeptides needed for brain health. The gut is filled with nerve cells so probiotics in the gut can also support brain function. One study showed that mice that lacked gut bacteria behaved differently from normal mice, engaging in “high-risk behavior.” Probiotics also synthesize some important hormones – serotonin, for example – and some strains are even effective in DNA repair.
They say that the gut is the “second brain” but when I see the links from the neurons in the gut to the brain, I’m beginning to think the brain is secondary and the gut is the first and biggest brain!
Probiotics Need Prebiotics
Prebiotics are insoluble fiber that feed the probiotics in the colon. Feeding your dog prebiotic foods helps the probiotics stay active and do their job.
Add some of the following prebiotic foods to your dog’s diet to nourish and support the probiotics you’re giving him. Except for garlic (which is very safe in moderation), the amount isn’t important – it’s just food! But start out slowly to avoid digestive upsets if your dog isn’t used to these fibrous foods.
- Green leafy veggies (dandelion leaves are especially good)
- Garlic (feed fresh, organic US-grown garlic, up to 1 tsp per 30 lbs of your dog’s weight per day)
When To Give Your Dog Probiotics
I say every day! This is a question many people disagree on. Some experts think you should only give your dog probiotics when she has a digestive upset, when she’s under stress, or if she’s been taking antibiotics or other conventional medication.
But I believe that probiotics are such an essential part of your dog’s health that you should give them all the time. That’s why (as you’ll see soon) I recommend varying your dog’s source of probiotics and feeding a lot of probiotic foods.
I also like to give probiotics at different times of day. They’ll work differently depending on what’s going on in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract at the time. Dr Campbell-McBride advises giving probiotics in between meals to avoid the environment of high gastric juices and acids caused by digestion.
A Note About Antibiotics
If your dog is taking antibiotics, it’s a good idea to alternate them with probiotics so you’re constantly trying to limit the damage done by the antibiotic. I recommend giving probiotics two hours after each antibiotic dose. I think this is more effective than trying to repair the gut after the antibiotics are finished.
My Top 6 Ways To Give Your Dog Probiotics
There are many ways to give your dog probiotics, and most of them don’t involve giving her a pill! Probiotic supplements are really expensive, but probiotic foods are not! Here are some of my favorite ways to give your dog probiotics.
#1 – Supplements – Make Them Last!
The good news is that if you want the convenience of a probiotic supplement there’s a way to make your jar of pills last much, much longer. But first, how do you choose a good supplement?
Choosing supplements can be overwhelming. There are many probiotics available and it’s hard to know what to buy. You can buy probiotics made especially for dogs but it’s fine to use human ones too.
I’ve been using Garden of Life’s Primal Defense for 30 years because it’s non-dairy, is made from whole foods and contains soil-based organisms. All mammals – and probably all birds and reptiles that live on land – benefit from soil based organisms. They lay the basic groundwork that allow our bodies (and those of our dogs) to be able to work for health.
Some supplements made for dogs are limited to just one or two strains of bacteria as there’s a theory dogs need different bacteria from humans. But it’s not true that you have to have certain probiotic strains for dogs and I prefer to give dogs a variety of probiotic strains.
Good probiotic supplements are expensive but there’s a way to make them go further!
Make Probiotic Supplements Last Longer
Just use your supplement to “inoculate” some raw goat’s milk, organic milk or even low-temperature pasteurized grass-fed organic milk that’s not homogenized. If you have to, you can use pasteurized milk, or even Lactaid.
Mix 1 capsule of the probiotic into 1 pint of whichever milk you choose. I keep a pint jar of this in the refrigerator for my animals and make a new pint each week. You could inoculate a quart jar if feeding more mouths.
#2 – Kimchi And Other Fermented Veggies
Fermented veggies are an extraordinarily nutritious and highly bioavailable way to give your dog probiotics.
Your dog might not have eaten kimchi unless she’s been raiding the garbage and found some fermenting vegetables. Fermented foods mimic the gut contents of prey. They’re already predigested and the fermenting process multiplies the good bacteria and enzymes that are naturally in the food.
# 3 – Raw Goat Milk
Raw goat milk is abundant in natural probiotics. It has very little lactose (the sugar that’s in cow’s milk) so doesn’t cause the same digestive issues as regular dairy.
You can also add your probiotic supplement to goat milk as I described above, to provide extra probiotic benefits.
Give goat milk to your dog daily according to her weight:
- Up to 20 lbs – 2 oz
- 20 to 50 lbs – 4 oz
- Over 50 lbs – 6 oz
To find a local source of raw goat milk, go to localharvest.com
# 4 – Kefir
Kefir’s another fermented food that’s packed with natural probiotics and most dogs love it as a topping on their food or as a separate snack. You can buy kefir at the grocery store but be careful it’s unsweetened. Again, goat milk is a better option for dogs than cow’s milk.
You can also make your own kefir. For dogs I like making water kefir or coconut kefir and my recipes are below. You’ll need to get some kefir grains. Kefir grains look like little pearlescent pieces of cauliflower and they contain a colony of probiotics which you can use to make water or coconut milk kefir. You can also use nut milks like hemp or cashew.
# 5 – Kvass
Kvass is a Baltic or Slavic fermented beverage that’s rich in probiotics – and it couldn’t be easier to make.
#6 – Let Your Dog Be A Dog
Finally, one of my favorite ways to let your dog get soil based microorganisms into her system … and that is:
Let her play in the dirt!
Dogs love digging and romping in the mud, drinking filthy water and yes, eating various kinds of poop (pigeon, rabbit and goose poop are some family favorites).
Indulge her nature and let her do it. It’s a great way to help your dog build a healthy immune system as well as enjoy some fun and play doing a natural activity. Share her joy at being out in nature and get a little muddy yourself while you’re at it!
When it comes to probiotics for dogs, there are lots of different ways to give them. Using probiotic foods as well as supplements boosts your dog’s diet with a myriad of nutritional benefits to keep your dog glowing with health.
NOTE: It’s also important to make sure that your dog’s current diet is giving him what he needs to begin with. Boosting a diet that is already missing any vital nutrition, isn’t really boosting at all.