The Benefits Of Probiotics For Dogs Australia
Just like humans, dogs have a rich microbiome consisting of beneficial microorganisms in their gut. And just like humans, they can often benefit from probiotic supplements. Probiotics for dogs in Australia come in various forms, and it can be difficult to tell which one is best for your dog.
Today, we'll try to demystify the topic of probiotics for dogs.
What Are Probiotics?
Before we get any further, let’s answer the basic question first: what exactly are probiotics? You’ve probably heard that those are the “good bacteria” that live in our bodies and help with digestion and other functions.
By common definition, probiotics are not just bacteria, but any kind of living microorganism culture that provides any kind of health benefit when ingested (1). That could also include yeasts and other microorganisms as probiotics, but pretty much any product on the market is focused on beneficial bacteria.
These days, probiotics are among the most popular food supplements and are widely believed to be the key to balanced health, from a healthy gut to better immunity and beyond. Taking all of this into consideration, it surely makes sense to think our canine companions should reap the same benefits from a probiotic supplement added to their diet.
But is this true? Do dogs benefit from probiotics, and if they do, from what kind? With so many products available, which one will help your pup? Let’s dig deeper into those questions.
Species Specific Good Bacteria for Dogs
The dog’s digestive tract (as well as that of humans, and pretty much every mammal) is inhabited by millions of microorganisms - many of them helpful.
While the principle is the same, the microbiomes of different animals consist of different bacteria. These are the most common bacterial strains that are used in probiotics for dogs:
Can Dogs Take Probiotics Made for Humans?
Many pet parents wonder if they can simply share a probiotic supplement made for human use with their dogs. And that’s a good question. After all, health supplements made for human use often adhere to higher standards than those made for pets.
The good news (especially if you’ve tried this already) is that there is no harm in feeding those supplements to dogs. However, they might not provide the species-specific good bacteria your dog needs.
No matter if we are talking about foods like yoghurt and kimchi or probiotic supplements, they will contain bacterial strains which might or might not be helpful to your dog. Still, there are multiple strains, mostly those from the Lactobacillus genus, that are good for the canine and human microbiome.
What Are Prebiotics?
Along with the word “probiotics”, you’ll often also see something called “prebiotics”. Prebiotics are basically food for the good bacteria in your dog’s gut.
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre, more specifically soluble fibre. This type of fibre cannot be digested by dogs, but it can be digested by the bacteria living in their bodies. Prebiotics are various oligosaccharides, and you’ll often find them listed in ingredient lists as FOS (fructooligosaccharides) or inulin .
Common natural sources of prebiotics for dogs include chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, beets, and pumpkin.
Prebiotics can be beneficial for gut health on their own (although, in theory, they could feed bad bacteria as well as the good ones. Moreover, it’s always a good idea to combine them with probiotics as it helps ensure a better chance of survival for the healthy bacteria you are introducing into your dog's stomach.
Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs
As you already know, probiotics are microorganisms that should live in your dog's gut. But what exactly do they do? Well, they are known to help break down food, produce various nutrients and help fight malicious microorganisms (2).
Based on these functions, probiotics could help dogs deal with various health issues like:
However, while there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of probiotics helping dogs, no particular strain or mix of probiotic strains has been shown to cure any of these problems, with many pet nutritionists still taking a sceptical stance towards probiotics:
“The best use for probiotic supplements based on our current knowledge is for intestinal disease – diarrhoea and other abnormalities, potentially including inflammatory bowel disease.” - Cailin Hanze, VMD, MS, DACVIM (Nutrition) for Petfoodology
Should Puppies Take Probiotics?
Yes, puppies can take probiotics. Most products that contain probiotics are suitable for puppies too. As puppies are usually even more prone to digestive issues than adult dogs, probiotics for puppies can often help them achieve a healthy and balanced gut flora.
Sources of Probiotics for Dogs
Probiotics come in various forms - from fermented foods like yoghurt to various dietary supplements made for dogs to dog foods that have probiotics included. So what is the best source available? Here are some things to take into consideration when choosing a probiotic for your pup.
Natural Probiotics for Dogs
As you probably know, there are various foods made for human consumption that contain probiotic cultures. So can your dog eat those?
Most of the time the answer is yes, in small quantities and with caution. The main issue with feeding your dog products made for humans is that they sometimes contain unexpected ingredients which aren’t suitable for dogs. These can include various sweeteners or preservatives, so always make sure to double-check the ingredient list before feeding something to your dog.
Yoghurt and Kefir
Yoghurt is probably the most popular source of good bacteria, and many pet parents like to offer some to their dogs. But does it work as a probiotic?
Plain yoghurt is made thanks to the activity of two bacterial cultures - Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. But, some yoghurts contain additional probiotic cultures.
It’s hard to say whether the yoghurt will have a positive effect on your dog’s microbiome, but at least your pup will have a delicious treat. Yes, dogs can have yoghurt, but it should be offered only in small quantities.
Fermented veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi are real powerhouses of bacterial activity. No one knows exactly how many microorganisms there are in a batch of sauerkraut, but a study has shown that there might be up to 28 different bacterial strains .
Fermented vegetables are generally safe for dogs to eat in small quantities. However, keep in mind that these can often be prepared with lots of spices like garlic and red pepper flakes (in the case of kimchi, in particular) as well as salt and various sweeteners - all of which are not very good for your dog.
Tripe is the stomach lining of a ruminant animal. It is most commonly harvested from cows and sheep, but other grazing livestock also has the same lining in the stomach.
Tripe is used in some ethnic dishes after it has been washed and bleached. The word “green” simply refers to the absence of this process. Green tripe is a fresh tripe from the stomach of a cow or sheep (or another animal), complete with remnants of grass and digestive juices.
Research has shown that green tripe is full of beneficial bacteria, most notably Lactobacillus Acidophilus. That’s why green tripe has been touted as a superfood and the best natural probiotic for dogs.
There is a problem there, though - there is no guarantee that the L. acidophilus bacteria will survive very long once the tripe has been harvested. These bacteria are used to propagate inside living organisms, and they can be sensitive to air. In short - green tripe is good for your dog, but the probiotics might not be there.
Probiotic supplements for dogs are available in various forms including powders, capsules, liquid solutions and treats with added probiotics. Either way, the active ingredient is the same: live cultures of good bacteria that should help your pup’s gut work better.
Whichever probiotic supplement you are feeding to your dog, you should look for bacterial strains listed on the ingredient list.
The most common strains in probiotic products for dogs in Australia are Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Enterococcus Faecium, which are the two strains that have been most studied by scientists and shown to have some benefits in dogs.
However, you’ll often find various other strains from the list at the beginning of this article included in probiotic products. Some contain only one or two bacterial strains, while others have a more diverse microbial profile with multiple bacterial strains.
Is one strain or multiple strains better? It’s hard to say. Each bacterial strain has unique effects, but there is not nearly enough research to show how exactly they work and interact with each other. There is always the potential for good results, but it’s hard to predict how exactly a probiotic will work on your dog.
One thing to look out for when choosing a probiotic is the number of bacteria contained in the product:
“Because lactic acid bacteria are easily destroyed in the gut, you will need a product with a large number of colony-forming units (CFU). You’ll usually want to see at least 10 billion CFU for any live probiotics to survive in your dog’s gut” - Dana Scott from Dogs Naturally 
As long as the product contains live probiotic cultures in sufficient numbers, it doesn’t matter what type of product you choose. For example, dog probiotic powder is a great choice because you can simply sprinkle it onto your pup’s food, but some pet parents might find treats that contain probiotics even more convenient.
Dog Food With Probiotics
Wouldn’t it be great if the probiotic cultures were included in your dog’s kibble?
Total Lactic Acid Microorganisms
Wellness Core - 3.5 Star Rating
- Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Meal, Pea Protein, Peas, Chickpeas, Tomato Pomace, Ground Flaxseed, Canola Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Lamb Flavor, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Spinach, Broccoli, Carrots, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Kale, Zinc Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Biotin, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
- Named Protein First: Yes.
- Dog Food Type: Grain-free
- Recipe Range: Regular and grain-free kibble, wet food, toppers.
- Suitable For:
- Cost: $$$
- Australian Owned: No.
Wellness Core is one of the rare kibbles that includes probiotics and lists the exact bacterial stains that should be inside. These are Lactobacillus plantarum, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus “in equal amounts”, according to Wellness. They also state that the food contains 80,000,000 CFU/lb (1 lb = 454 g); which is really not bad.
Other than that, this is also a very nice formula, especially for more active dogs. It has a very high crude protein percentage (33%) which does not come as a surprise considering that the first ingredient is lamb, followed by lamb meal.
This is a grain-free formula, so the bulk of the carbs come from peas and chickpeas. Those are combined with some healthy fruits and veggies which are always nice to see. The formula is also quite rich in fibre, which, combined with probiotics, can help dogs who have trouble with digestion.
Canidae - 3 Star Rating
- Ingredients: Chicken meal, turkey meal, brown rice, peas, oatmeal, barley, whole grain sorghum, lentils, suncured alfalfa meal, chicken fat, flaxseed, white rice, lamb meal, salmon oil, natural flavor, salt, Threonine, potassium chloride, taurine, choline chloride, mixed tocopherols (a preservative), Tryptophan, zinc sulfate, DL-Methionine, vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, niacin, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, vitamin A supplement, sodium selenite, riboflavin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, zinc proteinate, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, pyridoxine hydrochloride, ethylenediamine dihydroiodide, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product.
- Named Protein First: No (but chicken meal is ok)
- Dog Food Type: Grain Inclusive.
- Recipe Range: Salmon & Sweet Potato or Wild Boar & Garbanzo Bean or Chicken, Sweet Potato & Garbanzo Bean or Real Bison, Lentil & Carrot + More.
- Suitable For: All life stages
- Cost: $$$
- Australian Owned: No
Canidae All Life Stages is another interesting option that includes probiotics. This formula introduces an interesting concept - a kibble that you can feed any dog in your home, regardless of age and size.
Truth be told, this is not the kibble with the fanciest ingredients out there, but it does have a decent nutrient profile. The first two ingredients are chicken meal and turkey meal. While not as nice as actually meat and offal, chicken and turkey meals are very rich in protein and indicate that a lot of the protein listed in the guaranteed analysis comes from animals.
On top of that, the kibble includes probiotics from the strains Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei and L. plantarum in a concentration of 220,000 CFU per gram.
Probiotics are a bit of a controversial topic - no matter if we are talking about humans or canines. While beneficial bacteria play a role in every dog’s body, the research on probiotics is still in its infancy and it's difficult to predict the effects each strain of probiotics will have on each individual dog.
The good news is that probiotics usually don’t cause any adverse side effects, so it doesn’t hurt to try them out and see if they can help your pup.
If your dog is perfectly healthy, there is no reason to introduce probiotic cultures into their diet. Probiotics can be helpful with various gastrointestinal issues so they might help dogs suffering from diarrhoea, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, inconsistent poop schedule, and according to some researchers even anxiety.
There is mostly no harm in giving your dog probiotics every day, but it might not be necessary. Probiotics are helpful for dogs with digestive and other issues in certain cases, but most dogs won’t need probiotic supplements all the time.
Yoghurt does contain beneficial bacterial strains, but it is not perfectly adapted for the canine gut. Even yoghurts that are enriched with additional probiotic cultures are not created with dogs in mind. In the end, yes, yoghurt might help, but it might not be as effective as a probiotic supplement designed specifically for dogs.
- “Probiotics 101: A Simple Beginner’s Guide”. Healthline. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/probiotics-101
- Manucy, T. November 03, 2020. “Probiotics for Dogs: Do They Work?”. PetMD. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/probiotics-dogs-what-you-need-know)
- Wortinger, A. February 28, 2019. “Prebiotics and Probiotics for Dogs and Cats”. Today’s Veterinary Nurse. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://todaysveterinarynurse.com/nutrition/prebiotics-and-probiotics-for-dogs-and-cats/
- Heinze, C. R. “Good Bugs/Bad Bugs – The Confusing World of Probiotic Supplements”. Petfoodology. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2017/06/probiotics/
- “8 Surprising Benefits of Sauerkraut (Plus How to Make It)”. Healthline. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-sauerkraut
- Scott, D. June 27, 2922. “Probiotics for Dogs: The Ultimate Guide”. Dogs Naturally. Retrieved February 25, 2023. https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/6-best-probiotics-for-dogs/