Probiotics have become somewhat of a health craze in recent years. And for good reason: by helping balance the friendly bacteria in our guts, they prevent all kinds of health problems, including digestive issues, allergies and even some mental health problems. But what about probiotics for dogs? Do they come with numerous health benefits for our pets as well? You bet! Canine probiotics can be a life-changer for pups suffering from digestive problems, skin and fur conditions, allergies and other health issues. To help you find the right probiotic for your dog, we reviewed dozens of different products, detailing the ones we liked the most down below. We also put together a comprehensive buying guide in which we cover everything you need to know about canine probiotics, so read on!
The 10 Top-Rated Probiotics for Dogs
1 Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora Powder
- Excellent combination of nutrients plus live culture of gut-friendly microorganism
- Enriched with powerful antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatories
- High protein, low fiber, and low-fat content
- 100 million live microorganisms
If you’re looking for a well-rounded, all-in-one product that incorporates digestive enzymes for dogs as well as vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals in addition to a sufficient number of gut-friendly bacteria, then Purina’s ProPlan Veterinary Diets Fortiflora is an excellent option. The formula comes in sachets, and each one contains guaranteed levels (3 billion of CFUs per pack) of a probiotic strain called Enterococcus faecium, a naturally-occurring living microorganism in the canine gut. Feeding this will help reduce flatulence and improve the overall gut health of your pup.
Another great thing about this canine probiotic is the fact that is packed with antioxidants: vitamins E, C, minerals zinc, magnesium and beta-carotene are all part of the formula, helping strengthen your pet’s immune system. The supplement is also easy to give as you can just sprinkle it on your dog’s food – and don’t worry, it won’t ruin the taste of the meal; in fact, it will even improve it as it tastes delicious! An all-around fantastic dog supplement
2 Nutramax Proviable-DC Digestive Health Supplement
- Contains 5 billion CFUs per capsule
- Synthesized from 7 different species of healthy bacteria
- Additional 2 probiotics
- Easy to administer breakable and sprinkable capsules
Containing 7 strains of beneficial bacteria and billions of good microorganisms, the Nutramax Proviable-DC is one of the best pet supplements on the market, and not just for dogs but cats too. The formula also contains two extra probiotics to further improve the health of the digestive tract while also enhancing the ability of the canine immune system in the synthesis of its disease-fighting cells.
The formula is ideal for pets with digestive issues, IBD and food sensitivities, but is particularly suitable for animals who’ve recently been through stressful events, such as traveling, surgery, or kenneling. Since the supplement comes in breakable capsules (and each one contains 5 billion CFU!), so you can easily sprinkle it over your pup’s food. There are 80 capsules in the pack and you should give your dog one per day, so the product should last a while.
3 PetHonesty Digestive Probiotics
- Contain 6 billion CFUs per two-chew serving
- Four Lactobacillus strains plus added enzymes
- Pumpkin as extra fiber for digestive health
- Improves the gut and eases IBS symptoms
- Boosts the immune system and all-round health
If your pup likes his treats or you find it a bit of a challenge getting your dog to take his probiotic supplement, then check out these tasty duck-flavored chews from PetHonesty. Just two of these delicious chewy treats a day will give your pet six billion CFUs, which is pretty impressive compared to some other brands. You get four different strains of Lactobacillus per chew, as well as added digestive enzymes and added pumpkin for increased fiber. This all adds up to a super gut-friendly daily dose for your furry friend and can really help smooth out any tum upsets, out-of-kilter bowel movements and bad breath as well as boosting his immune system and all-round condition. PetHonesty’s Probiotics may not be the cheapest you can buy but what we really like about these quality chews is that it turns them into a treat and only natural and tasty ingredients are used. Take a look at our review of the best dog treats for more options.
4 Amazing Nutritionals Probiotic Joint
- Contains 7 billion CFUs per dog chew
- Formulated with 4 digestive enzymes and 3 joint-friendly substances
- Improves digestive health, mobility, heart and brain health
- Easy to use
Formulated not only to ensure optimal digestive health for pooches, but also support their hips and joints, these supplements are ideal for older canines suffering from digestive issues and arthritis. The supplement contains 7 billion CFU per tablet, plus enzymes, yeast, glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM. Combined, these help improve your pet’s gut health and digestion, joint, heart and brain health, and mobility.
The formula is free from artificial additives, as well as wheat, corn, soy and eggs, making it suitable even for sensitive pups. It comes in chewable tablets that can be administered like treats – thankfully, the tabs really are quite tasty, so your dog shouldn’t have problems eating them.
Take a look at our review of Dog Joint Supplements.
5 Nusentia Probiotic Miracle Premium Blend Dog & Cat Supplement
- 360 billion of CFUs per jar, 1 billion per scoop
- 6 probiotic strains work in harmony for digestive health
- Veterinarian approved and recommended
- High-quality, powerful supplement suitable for dogs of all breeds and ages
Containing 360 billion of CFU per jar and 6 probiotic strains that work in harmony with each other, the NUSENTIA Miracle is one of the best dog probiotics in the market today. Formulated specifically for pets, this powerful supplement is guaranteed to improve your dog’s gastrointestinal health and reduce, if not completely eliminate, many of the symptoms related to poor digestive health such as diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes, fur loss and body odor.
Importantly, this probiotic is as natural as they come, free from any and all artificial additives, as well as sugar, gluten and dairy, making it a great choice for dogs and cats of all breeds and ages. It comes in a powder form, and for optimal results, you should sprinkle one scoop (which contains 1 billion CFU) over your dog’s food once a day.
6 VetriScience Vetri Mega Probiotic Capsules Digestive Supplement For Dogs
- Contains 8 strains of beneficial bacteria from non-dairy sources
- 5 billion CFUs per capsule
- Improves digestion, reduces bloating and flatulence
- No additives or harmful ingredients
If you’re looking for a probiotic to reduce your dog’s flatulence, check out VetriScience’s Vetri Mega Probiotic. Containing 5 billion CFU per capsule and a variety of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, plus fructooligosaccharides, this supplement will not only reduce gassiness but also improve your pooch’s digestive health and overall well-being.
The formula boasts 8 strains of beneficial bacteria from non-dairy sources, so it’s guaranteed to help all dogs (and cats) suffering from digestive problems such as loose stools, vomiting, bloating, gassiness, food intolerances, and even skin and coat issues. The bottle comes with 120 capsules, but dogs weighing over 40 pounds should consume two daily.
7 PetVitalityPRO Probiotic Premium Plus
- Great combination of probiotics and phytonutrients, nucleotides, and FOS
- 2 billion of CFUs per soft chew
- Improves digestive health and overall well-being
- Available in tasty duck flavor
Available in a palatable duck flavor that your pup is sure to appreciate, the PetVitalityPRO’s Probiotic Premium Plus Health Booster with natural digestive enzymes offers quite a different approach in the boosting of canine immunity, gastrointestinal health, vitality, and general wellbeing. Instead of simply manufacturing a highly concentrated form of beneficial microorganisms, this formula incorporates other nutrients into its blend as well to give your dog the best possible results in terms of health and vitality.
Alongside 5 different live microorganisms, the supplement also includes the extracts from papaya and maqui berry as well as a proprietary blend of green superfoods. The net effect is that you get 2 billion CFUs per dog chew complete with antioxidants, fructooligosaccharides, digestive enzymes and nucleotides, bringing the total number of active ingredients to 20. A fantastic health booster for dogs of all ages!
8 NutraPet Probiotics For Dogs
- 200 billion of CFU per bottle
- Enriched with antioxidants and prebiotics
- Chicken liver flavor that dogs love
- Good option for sensitive dogs of poor digestive and overall health
Containing 200 million CFUs of 4 different live cultures per jar, plus prebiotics and vitamins and minerals, the NutraPet Probiotics are a good choice for dogs of poor and generally sensitive health. Besides stabilized probiotics, this supplement contains inulin, vitamins E, A, B12 and D3, and a host of minerals, including calcium, zinc, iron, and more.
The formula is pretty easy to administer too as each tab (60 in total) has a chicken flavor that dogs love. Overall, a great supplement for pups who, aside from probiotics, could use added vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants in their diet.
9 Finest For Pets TummyWorks Dog Probiotic Powder
- Contains 10 live culture strains and 6 digestive enzymes
- 2 billion CFUs per scoop
- Improves digestion and gastrointestinal health
- Tasteless powder, easy to mix with food
Looking for a soy-free supplement for your dog’s digestive health? Check out TummyWorks – an all-natural, effective powder formula that contains 10 different strains of probiotics and 6 digestive enzymes. This vet-recommended formula helps relieve all kinds of digestive problems, including diarrhea, flatulence and vomiting, as well as body odor, itchiness and hot spots.
This is an inexpensive product that is suitable for both dogs and cats of all ages, making it a fantastic option for pet parents on a budget. It contains 160 scoops in total, so it should last quite while.
10 Doggie Dailies Probiotics For Dogs
- Duck-flavored, grain-free easy to eat chews
- Helps to alleviate digestive upset, gas and diarrhea
- Contains five live probiotic strains, perfectly balanced for dogs
- Cold-pressed formula with one billion CFU per chew
- Safe for young pups as well as senior dog
Easy to feed and pretty tasty, Doggie Dailies also gives your pooch one billion CFUs in each delicious to eat probiotic chew. Doggie Dailies chews are carefully formulated to tackle the symptoms of an upset digestive system, as well as boost their immune system and help to reduce any allergy symptoms. You get five of the most effective probiotics for canines, including L. Acidophilus and Lactis, which balanced together work quickly to sooth and health your pet’s gut. And these chews are safe for all dogs, whether they are still a pup or in their senior years. Each tub contains 225 chews so on paper they are good value, although the larger your dog, the more they will need to eat a day – for very large dogs, that means six chews a day. However, add in the real duck flavor and the succulent, grain-free chewy texture and your pooch will be literally eating out of your hand.
Probiotics for Dogs: Buying Guide
With so many pet supplements to choose from and terms like CFUs, strains, and live cultures baffling the mind, finding the right probiotic for your pup may be quite challenging. But not to worry as we’ve got you covered. In this buying guide, we talk about everything you should know about canine supplements and probiotics so you can gain a better understanding of what these products are and what they bring to the table. We also talk about the things you should look for in effective pet probiotics and touch on the topic of human probiotics for dogs.
Are probiotics for dogs really necessary?
Just as probiotics provide us with exceptional benefits by improving the overall functioning of our digestive tracts, live cultures of beneficial bacteria given to pets can also spell the same amazing benefits. But do they really need it? This question is often asked by those who are relatively new to pet parenting. Before we explore the different reasons why you may want to give your pooch a probiotic, let us first cover some basics.
Probiotics are essentially live microorganisms, bacteria to be more specific, that are safely cultured in the lab and then packaged in easy-to-administer supplements for pets. You may wonder why we need to introduce bacteria into the canine gut. It has something to do with balance. There are countless bacteria in your pet’s (and yours!) body, especially their gastrointestinal tract. These are microorganisms that secrete certain substances that aid in the digestion of food, as well in modulating the responses of the immune system.
While most microbial flora in the gut is useful or beneficial, some are quite the opposite. Many of these ‘bad bacteria’ are not inherently harmful, however, in the process of their growth, they tend to secrete substances or metabolic byproducts that significantly lower the pH levels of the gut, making it easier for other pathogenic microorganisms to settle in. These can come from contaminated food or even from other sources introduced into the gut when dogs chew on things or accidentally eat something they shouldn’t.
The good thing is that the beneficial bacteria are known to synthesize and release short-chain fatty acids or SCFAs. It is these fatty acids that help inhibit the activity as well as the growth of harmful gut bacteria. The important thing to understand is that these bad bacteria can be essentially rendered harmless and effectively flushed out by the colony of beneficial bacteria if the latter is in majority.
Sadly, there are instances when the number of harmful microorganisms is sufficiently greater than the population of friendly gut bacteria. This is often characterized by the following clinical manifestations.
- Bad breath
- Skin rashes and hot spots
Probiotic supplements essentially “add” to the population of good bacteria in the gut to reestablish balance and enable these microorganisms to release more SCFAs to fight and inactivate the bad bacteria. Manufacturers of these supplements have to be very careful in the formulation of their products, though, as introducing more than a sufficient number of strains could potentially result in the different good bacteria fighting against each other. That is why the American Kennel Club strongly recommends putting only a few strains of beneficial bacteria in any given product to help prevent such a phenomenon.
Some of the more common good bacteria that are often included in supplements include the following.
- Enterococcus faecium
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Bacillus coagulans
- Bifidobacterium animals
- Lactobacillus casei
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Lactobacillus plantarum
There are other beneficial bacteria that can be ‘re-introduced’ into the gut of our canine friends to help re-establish balance. What you need to remember is that your dog simply cannot have all of these microorganisms at the same time as the risk of “infighting” among these species can undermine their effectiveness.
Benefits of dog probiotics
- Treatment of intestinal inflammation and IDB Since one of the essential causes of intestinal inflammation as well as irritable bowel syndrome (IDB) is the presence of toxins that irritate the intestinal and colon lining, introducing live cultures of beneficial bacteria can help suppress, if not totally eliminate, the activity of offending microorganisms. Again, this is done by increasing the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) that produce SCFAs.
- Boosting of the immune systemThere is another reason why probiotics are well-regarded when it comes to ensuring optimum canine well-being. Along the entire length of the digestive tract are tracts of lymphatic vessels which are primarily known for carrying a variety of disease-fighting cells. These cells fight the pathogens present in the gut which can include bacteria and even viruses. However, they can only do this if the integrity of the intestinal lining is maintained. Beneficial bacteria help improve the integrity of this lining to help boost the functioning of the lymphatic cells, and the entire immune system.
- Help in the prevention of urinary tract infectionsWe mentioned above that beneficial bacteria can help boost the immunity by strengthening the interface between the gut and the lymphatic vessels. This helps prevent the entry of viruses and bacteria from the gut and into the lymph where these can be drained into the general circulation. And since blood circulates through the kidneys, these harmful microorganisms can attach to the urinary tract, which is how the infection starts. Preventing infection is made possible by the addition of probiotics to your pet’s diet.
- Aid in the reduction of allergic reactionsThe inhibition of the activity of offending microorganisms can also lead to a reduction in allergic reactions which is further strengthened by a fully functioning immune system. Technically, this is ensured by the reduction in intestinal permeability as the probiotics strengthen the lining of the intestines, lessening the contact between allergens in the gut and hyper-reactive immune system cells in the lymph vessels.
Aside from these, dog probiotics are also known to reduce the occurrence of bad breath by reducing the number of pathogenic microorganisms in the gut. They also help improve the appearance and health of your dog’s coat and skin while reducing gassiness. Some studies also point to the potential benefit of probiotics in the reduction of incidences related to yeast or fungal activity.
So, does your dog need a probiotic? Based on what we have discussed so far, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
What you should look for in the best probiotic for dogs
Now that you know the importance of dog probiotic supplements, as well as their benefits, it’s time to get right down to the business of selecting the correct product for your pup. Unfortunately, there are no clear guidelines on what constitutes the ‘ideal’ probiotic for canines. However, the following guidelines are something to keep in mind.
- Number of colony forming units (CFUs)All probiotic products come with different numbers of colony forming units or CFUs. Some come in the hundreds of millions while others boast of billions for each serving. This can be quite misleading since getting a product that says it contains 400 billion CFUs can be easily interpreted as very exceptional. However, you need to read between the lines as this value often encompasses the entire product and not a single serving. For example, you may have a 400-gram jar saying it contains 400 billion CFUs. What this means is that the entire 400 grams are equivalent to 400 billion CFUs, or simply 1 billion CFU per gram.
The main issue is not really in the amount of CFUs these products contain, but rather the lack of knowledge on how much our pooches need. There really is no way for us to determine if 1 billion CFUs is sufficient to produce the much-desired benefits for our pets, or if 100 million is already enough. Given that we have no idea just how many naturally beneficial bacteria are present in our dogs’ guts, it is often wise to start with a smaller number of CFUs, say 100 million. If there are no beneficial effects within a given time frame, then you can try to increase the dose to 200 million and up in time. The idea is to establish a minimum quantity of CFUs that provide desirable health outcomes and benefits.
- The diversity of bacterial strainsWe mentioned that including too many bacterial strains in any given product may have the opposite effect of what you desire for your pooch’ digestive health. That is why the AKC recommends starting off with fewer strains then gradually work your way up. However, it is a must that the product contains a good mix of both Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli species as these two have been extensively studied for their effects.
- Guarantee of potency and shelf stabilityIt’s crucial to select a product that is not only potent but also stable. The reason for this is that these supplements come from living microorganisms that tend to decay and lose their potency over time. Look for reputable manufacturers, and preferably products made in the USA.
- Clean and clear labelingRelated to the guarantee of potency and shelf stability is the transparency of the labeling. Products should disclose all of their ingredients, including any additives used. This is important because if your dog is allergic to any ingredient or substance, you want to be able to avoid supplements that contain it. Another thing to pay attention to is whether the product provides a guaranteed analysis of its ingredients.
Can I give my dog probiotics for humans instead?
You might be inclined to think that the Lactobacillus casei present in your favorite probiotic can also be beneficial when given to your pooch. While it is true that these human products have not been proven to be harmful to dogs, it should be noted that the digestive system of humans is inherently different from that of dogs. There are differences in digestive enzymes, stomach fluid acidity, and even the unique features of the gut. Human probiotic products have never been formulated and tested to work specifically on dogs. As such, it is a lot safer to simply stick with dog probiotic supplements.
Dog probiotics are exceptionally useful microorganisms that provide a host of benefits for our pets including a boost in their immune system, the reduction of many gastrointestinal problems, the improvement in their coat and skin, and so much more. It is thus imperative that you look into the products’ quantity of CFUs and various strains, as well as potency guarantee, and clarity of labeling to help you choose one that is best for your furry friend.
- Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, Probiotics, VCA
- Dr. Jenna Ashton DVM, MS, The Pros and Cons of Pet Probiotics, Vetstreet
- Teresa Manucy, DVM, Probiotics for Dogs: Do They Work?, PetMD