To learn more about how to best use probiotics for your dog, Bustle reached out to JoAnn Morrison, DVM, MS, DACVIM, a veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital. "Probiotics primarily help with achieving or maintaining a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract," Dr. Morrison explained in an email. "Potential benefits outside of the GI tract may include reduced inflammation and improved behavior or cognition." Some can even help with anxiety, according to Dr. Morrison.
However, Dr. Morrison recommends that they primarily be used as a supportive therapy rather than the primary one since they do not directly protect against common parasites or viruses. “If your dog is otherwise healthy and is fed a complete, nutritionally balanced diet appropriate for their life stage, there should not be a medical need for additional probiotic usage. However, there are certain medical and physical conditions in pets that may cause your veterinarian to recommend pre/probiotics as part of treatment,” she explains.
How to find the best probiotics
When you’re shopping for a probiotic for your dog, it can be beneficial to look for one with many strains of bacteria and a large number of them. The number of active units is called CFUs or colony forming units. “The higher number of strains of bacteria and the higher the number of CFUs, the more effective they can be,” says Dr. Morrison.
Dr. Morrison points out that the probiotic supplement market is not well-regulated, so it's especially important to do your research when it comes to which probiotic to choose. To find a quality product, it helps to talk to your vet and look for supplements with the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal. "For probiotics to be effective, they must survive the acts of chewing and swallowing and the very acidic environment of the stomach to reach the small intestine. If probiotics are not of sufficient quality, they may deteriorate before reaching the small intestine and might not have a beneficial effect,” she explains. Once you've decided on your dog probiotic, it's a good idea to discuss dosing size with your vet too.
To help you select the right supplement for your pet, here’s my roundup of the best probiotics for dogs on Amazon. These picks are all top-rated and from NASC-approved companies to ensure your dog’s digestive system is on track.