Making sure your dog’s immune system is in top shape is an important part of keeping your dog healthy. Your dog’s immune system can be weakened by processed diets, vaccines, drugs, and other toxins. Genetic issues, pollutants, and stress also wear on immunity.
One way to boost immunity is to give your dog natural foods that are good for his digestive health. Probiotics strengthen the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, to help maintain a strong immune system. Many people give dogs yogurt as a source of probiotics. But is yogurt good for dogs?
Is Yogurt Good For Dogs?
That’s a yes and no answer. Dogs can eat yogurt .. but there are several reasons it’s not an ideal food for dogs. And if you’re feeding yogurt for the probiotics … probiotic yogurt isn’t the best way to get these friendly bacteria into your dog.
Why Do Dogs Need Probiotics?
Adding probiotics to your dog’s diet can be an important part of keeping his immune system strong. Probiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut to support your dog’s gastrointestinal health. And, because around 90% of your dog’s immune system is in his gut, probiotics can boost his immune function and overall health.
Probiotics can … .
- Protect the body against harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi
- Produce digestive enzymes that help your dog absorb nutrients
- Act as a barrier against toxins, heavy metals and allergens.
- Produce B vitamins that play essential roles in metabolism and cellular health
- Help the body absorb calcium, magnesium, iron and other nutrients.
- Prevent dental disease.
- Support brain functions
There are many ways to give your dog the healthy bacteria he needs and yogurt is a popular choice. But yogurt isn’t the best way to get these into your dog.
What Are The Dangers Of Yogurt For Dogs?
Here are three main reasons why your dog should avoid eating yogurt.
1. Pasteurization Kills Good Bacteria
The main problem with yogurt is that it is usually pasteurized. Pasteurization involves heating foods to high temperatures to kill off harmful pathogens and bacteria. In theory, this makes the food safe for humans to eat.
The reality is that some research shows pasteurized dairy may cause more stress to the immune system. A 1984 study at Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital and Department of Microbiology demonstrated that pasteurizing milk made infants more susceptible to infections.
Dr Guylaine Lanctôt also named two issues with pasteurization in her book, The Medical Mafia:.
- The temperature is not high enough to kill dangerous bacteria
- The temperature is too high so it destroys things make milk good for you – like enzymes that help with digestion, and good bacteria.
So the pasteurized yogurt you feed your dog could contain harmful bacteria … while healthy bacteria and enzymes are destroyed.
2. Many Dogs Are Lactose Intolerant
The lactose in yogurt could also cause trouble for your dog. Like humans, some dogs don’t make enough of the digestive enzyme lactase that’s needed to digest milk. While raw milk is full of these enzymes, the pasteurization process destroys them.
If your dog is lactose intolerant, he may experience digestive upset when he eats yogurt. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
- Constipation (usually with cheese)
- Stomach cramps
If you give your dog dairy products and he experiences these symptoms, cut out the dairy.
3. Yogurt May Contain Added Sugars Or Artificial Sweeteners
Small amounts of sugar are safe for your dog if it comes from natural sources like berries, carrots, or other fruits and vegetables.
But too much can be a problem ….especially when it’s in the form of starch or added sugars. Stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhea are common side effects. And over time, too much sugar can also lead to chronic inflammation that causes issues like:
- Dental problems
Yogurt often has sugar added … especially low-fat yogurt or frozen yogurt. But don’t buy “sugar-free” yogurt. Because that can be worse … due to sugar substitutes that can harm your dog.
Some artificial sweeteners may be potentially carcinogenic. Or you may find xylitol-sweetened yogurt. Xylitol is a deadly substance to dogs and even small amounts can be very dangerous. Xylitol is a common sugar alternative that’s safe for humans but can cause fatal liver failure or hypoglycemia in dogs.
Research also shows artificial sweeteners can harm gut bacteria and lead to glucose intolerance. This can increase your dog’s blood sugar levels and his risk of obesity and diabetes.
Is Plain Yogurt Good for Dogs?
You may think that if you avoid nonfat or flavored yogurts with artificial sweeteners, plain yogurt can benefit your dog. After all, yogurt can be a source of calcium, protein and more. And products like Greek yogurt can be a creamy and delicious treat for your dog
But the truth is, even if you feed your dog natural yogurt, the risks of pasteurization and lactose intolerance are still there. Why take the risk when there are more effective ways to make sure your dog gets probiotics?
How to Get Your Dog the Probiotics He Needs
While yogurt may be off the table, that doesn’t mean probiotics are. There are other safe alternatives. If you want to give your dog a probiotic boost, your safest option is to use a probiotic supplement.
For a daily probiotic, choose one that is soil-based over other traditional probiotics like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and other more fragile probiotic species. They may not survive the acids in your dog’s digestive tract.
Soil-based probiotics are more resilient. They have a protective shell that helps them survive the trip through your dog’s digestive tract to the colon. They also pack a much more powerful punch. If you can’t find a soil-based probiotic, make sure you find a supplement that :
- Contains more than one strain of bacteria
- Has a minimum of 20 billion CFUs (colony forming units – usually shown on the label)
This will help your dog get the most out of his probiotic supplement.
Why You Should Avoid Kibble With Added Probiotics
If you feed kibble, you may think the solution is to give your dog a food with added probiotics. But these may not be effective.
First, kibble is heated to extreme temperatures during processing and that kills off good as well as bad bacteria. Second, many probiotic strains need to be refrigerated … so even if they’re added after processing, probiotics may not survive long-term storage at room temperatures or higher. Food companies may tell you how many active bacteria were in the food when it was packaged … but are they still alive when you open the bag? And even if they’re intact in the food, they may not survive the journey to your dog’s the colon … where probiotics do their work.
So it’s always best to add your dog’s probiotics separately and not rely on packaged foods to provide the good bacteria.
Of course, it’s even better to avoid kibble in the first place, and feed your dog a whole food, raw meat based diet.
RELATED: Learn how to feed your dog a raw diet …
Even as an occasional treat, yogurt isn’t a great health food for dogs. So next time you think of yogurt to help boost your dog’s health, take a pass. Instead, choose a probiotic supplement that will keep his gut in tip-top condition.
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Suez J, Korem T, Zilberman-Schapira G, Segal E, Elinav E. Non-caloric artificial sweeteners and the microbiome: findings and challenges. Gut Microbes. 2015;6(2):149-155. doi:10.1080/19490976.2015.1017700
Suez J, Korem et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6.
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