What do Probiotics do for Dogs?

Image of a border collie dog looking up for a treat

If you’re thinking about giving probiotics to your dog or if you’re already giving probiotics to your dog, you may be wondering “what do probiotics do for dogs?”

In short, probiotics promote gut health in dogs, which in itself has many overall health benefits for dogs. Keep reading to learn more in-depth about what probiotics do for dogs.

1) Probiotics Have Similar Health Benefits in Dogs and Humans

There are exceptions of course, but many of the health benefits that probiotics have for humans are the same for dogs. That being said, there have been many more studies testing probiotics in humans than in dogs, so there’s still a lot to learn about what probiotics do in dogs.

2) Probiotics Improve Gut Health in Dogs

The first thing to note about probiotics in dogs is there benefits on gut health.

A dog’s gut is populated by trillions of microorganisms. This collection of microorganisms is called the “microbiome” and the health or balance of the microbiome has a significant impact on a dog’s health.

The microbiome consists of both good microorganisms (a.k.a. probiotics) and harmful microorganisms. These microorganisms include bacteria, yeast, viruses, and more.

When the microbiome is full of good microorganisms, digestive health improves. When the microbiome is overrun by harmful bacteria, viruses, and pathogens, digestive health suffers. Not only that but if there are too few probiotics in the gut and too many pathogens, harmful and even deadly infections can occur.

That’s not the only reason to want your dog to have a healthy gut though; gut health is inextricably linked with all other aspects of health.

3) Stronger Immune Health

Probiotics help strengthen the immune system in a number of ways.

First, probiotics promote immune health by crowding out bad bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in the gut. By simply having more probiotics in the gut, pathogenic microorganisms have less opportunity to cause infections.

Additionally, probiotics strengthen immune health by regulating host immune response. (1) What this essentially means is that if there’s a harmful microorganism in the body, the body’s immune response will be stronger to the invading pathogen.

4) Probiotics May Make Your Dog Happier

Dogs get stressed out and anxious just like humans do. Dogs can experience stress situationally, like from being home alone too long without being let out while you’re gone, to being boarded, to being groomed, environmental changes, etc. They can also experience stress simply due to their psychological makeup.

As it turns out, there is scientific evidence that indicates that probiotics relieve stress and anxiety in dogs, in turn making your dog happier and healthier psychologically.

A 2012 study found that supplementing with probiotics helped support “optimal stool production and may help to prevent stress-related gastrointestinal upsets and diarrhea”. (2)

A 2017 systematic review that reviewed 10 studies on probiotics and their effects on psychological effects in dogs found “positive results on all measures of depressive symptoms”. This study did mention though that “the evidence for probiotics alleviating depressive symptoms is compelling” but that more studies are needed. (3)

5) Probiotics May Relieve the Side Effects of Antibiotics

Antibiotics are necessary for treating bacterial infections in dogs just as they are in humans. However, antibiotics can cause side effects in your dog that cause discomfort, the most common being diarrhea, also known as antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD).

Giving your dog probiotics while he or she is on a treatment of antibiotics can help to reduce the severity and duration of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Another negative side effect of antibiotics is that they kill most bacterial microorganisms in their path, whether good or bad, leaving the microbiome virtually totally wiped out. By giving your dog probiotics while on antibiotics, you’re helping to replenish the healthy side of your dog’s microbiome, which will help bring it back into a healthier balance.

6) Probiotics May Help if Your Dog Has a Digestive Disorder

Dogs can have digestive disorders just as humans do, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

The good thing is that probiotics are beneficial in relieving the symptoms of digestive disorders.

There are many studies in humans showing that probiotics improve symptoms of digestive disorders. This study found that a lactobacillus probiotic “positively altered intestinal microflora” in dogs with gastrointestinal disorders. Probiotics also helped regulate cholesterol levels in this study.

So, What do Probiotics do for Dogs?

In summary, probiotics have these benefits and more in dogs:

  • Probiotics improve gut health in dogs
  • Stronger immune health
  • Probiotics may relieve stress, anxiety, and make your dog happier
  • Relief from side effects of antibiotics
  • Relief from digestive disorders

As you can see, there are a lot of benefits to giving your dog probiotics. But it’s not just these specific health benefits that are so good for dogs.

As mentioned previously, gut health and health, in general, are inextricably linked. When a dog has good gut health, it’s more likely they’ll be healthy in general. If a dog has poor gut health, the more likely they’ll be unhealthy in general.

A big reason for this is the connection between the brain and the gut. This connection is called the ‘gut-brain axis’ and links “emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions”. (4) In other words, gut health is so important because it has so many implications for a dog’s psychological physical well-being.