Probiotics are all the rage in the human health world. Turns out people are also giving them to their dogs. But is this a good idea? Let’s look a bit more closely.

First of all, what exactly is a probiotic? In simple terms, a probiotic is a type of friendly bacteria that when ingested provides health benefits such as the production of certain vitamins and other substances that are helpful to the body.

A dog’s immune system, just like a humans, resides mostly in the gut, which is the largest immune organ in the body. A balanced and healthy digestive system is essential to your dog’s health and wellbeing.

While there has been extensive research on probiotic use in humans, the research on dogs and probiotics is in its infancy. This early research supports the use of probiotics in dogs and finds they may have a positive effect on obesity, mood and behavior disorders, liver disease and chronic gastrointestinal abnormalities.

Probiotics are given as a daily supplement and can also provide benefits such as better coat and skin health, intestinal gas reduction, regulation of bowel function, better breath, and improvement in allergy symptoms. There are different types of probiotic supplements and each of these may contain one or more types of bacteria such as Bifidobactrium or Lactobacillus. Both of these have been shown to have beneficial effects on dogs’ digestive tracts.

Most veterinarians carry probiotic supplements and can consult with you to decide if a probiotic is right for your dog and which one would be best. These particular strains do have evidence to support beneficial effects as well as safety in dogs: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium animalis.

Dog probiotics are given by mouth and are usually wrapped in a treat. Be sure to follow the advice of your veterinarian and to observe the written instructions that come with the probiotic you use, as each product is different and may have different instructions for administration.

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