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Bacteria and yeast tend to get a bad rap, but sometimes they have amazing health benefits in the form of probiotics for dogs and cats. Probiotics are considered to be the “friendly bacteria” of pets (and people, too).
If you’ve ever consumed yogurt when taking an antibiotic or added a probiotic supplement, you might have wondered whether it’s OK for dogs and cats to take them, too. In most cases, the answer is yes. For example, FullBucket daily probiotics support immune function and digestion in dogs and cats.
Like pets, no two probiotics are the same, so we’re breaking down the facts, benefits, and our selections of the best probiotic supplements for dogs and cats.
What Are Probiotics for Dogs and Cats?
Many traditional and holistic veterinarians recommend a probiotic for regular and occasional use in their canine and feline patients. Probiotics contain live, beneficial microorganisms, including bacteria and/or yeast, to support and replenish the pet’s body.
Probiotic supplements are generally used for gut health, to help restore healthy gut flora after taking antibiotics, for stress-induced events, and overall immune system support. Trends in the consumer marketplace often spill over into the pet space, and probiotics are commonly used in millions of pets every day.
The prefix pro- is Greek for promoting, while biotic means life. There are several formulations depending on your pet’s personal preference and needs. Probiotics are available in capsules, chews, powders, pastes, and even pet foods. Some pet parents prefer to give their dog unsweetened plain yogurt with live cultures.
Several pet food brands add probiotics to their diets, which some pet parents prefer for ease of administration. However, the type of prebiotics in the pet food matters as does the way the dog food is made and stored. For these reasons, probiotic supplements for pets are often the better choice and what we’ll focus on in this article.
Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs and Cats
“Probiotics are used to help promote the good bacteria forming in an effort to avoid poor gastrointestinal health (dietary indiscretion, diarrhea, etc.) according to Dr. Adam Christman, chief veterinary officer at MJH Life Sciences. “There’s a thought on probiotics supporting the gut microbiome, a collection of billions of bacteria in the intestinal tract.”
Some of the many benefits include immune modulation and increased adhesion to intestinal walls. This means helpful bacteria in probiotics may help a dog or cat with allergies, bad breath, diarrhea, flatulence, and even obesity.
There is a difference between digestive enzymes, such as Pancrezyme powder, and probiotics for pets. Christman explains that Pancrezyme is given to an animal who is unable to digest his or her food due to an insufficiency. Probiotics for dogs and cats, on the other hand, contain live microorganisms that provide health benefits to the host when ingested in adequate amounts.
Probiotics have helped my Cocker Spaniels on more than one occasion. When my first Cocker developed irritable bowel disease, her internal medicine veterinarian recommended long-term probiotic usage. The distress and trauma to her delicate GI system coupled with the antibiotics she was on for an extended period of time upset the delicate flora balance in her body.
Probiotics for Dogs and Cats: What to Look For
Pet parents should be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recognize dietary supplements for animals as a special category.
Christman shares these tips before administering probiotics to your dog or cat:
- Do not give a human product to dogs or cats, as their intestinal flora is different from that of a human.
- Look for a product backed by solid research.
- Ensure the probiotic contains a source of live, viable naturally occurring microorganisms, antibodies (IgY), and even antioxidants.
- Some probiotics may contain prebiotics (a healthy fiber), which include D-mannose, beta-glucans, and galactosamine.
When looking for a specific probiotic for your dog or cat, talk to an expert. Consulting with a canine nutritionist, your dog’s veterinarian, and/or a holistic vet you trust is essential in selecting the right combination. Not every probiotic is appropriate for every dog or cat, so what works for one pet may not have the same results on another.
Most probiotics for animals contain a variety of species and strains, such as Bifidobacterium animalis or Lactobacillus acidophilus. Labeling includes CFUs in the product, which means “colony forming unit,” and indicates how many live bacteria cultures are active and can divide so the helpful colonies form. Always check with your pet’s vet before starting any new supplements or medications.
6 Best Probiotics for Dogs and Cats to Try
Best Probiotic: Overall Winner
Hands and paws down, FullBucket tops our list with its 100 percent all-natural yeast strain probiotic for dogs. Sprinkle one 5-cc scoop onto an adult dog’s food daily or ¼ scoop for puppies. The complete transparency of 5 billion CFUs of a specific yeast strain coupled with prebiotics, probiotics, and L-glutamine make this a pet parent’s go-to product for their dogs. Given daily, FullBucket is designed to support a dog’s gut microbiome, help digest key nutrients, and boost overall health. The company also has a Daily Cat Probiotic, which offers the same features as the Daily Dog Probiotic but contains a lower amount of CFUs for our feline friends (2.5 billion).
- All-natural and vegan
- 100 percent overdose-free
- Micro-encapsulated probiotic to protect it from heat, moisture and digestive juices in the mouth and throat
- Manufactured in the USA
- 100 percent money-back guarantee
- Lab tested through third-party laboratories
- Developed and used by veterinarians
Things to Consider
- Fussy dogs may balk at the powdered format on their food
- Daily probiotic is only available as a powder, but FullBucket does sell a highly concentrated probiotic paste that can be used during periods of stress
Our Other Favorite Probiotics for Dogs and Cats
From the company behind Cosequin and Dasuquin joint supplements comes Proviable DC capsules for dogs or cats. Each capsule contains seven strains of beneficial bacteria, each with its own unique set of properties. Each strain has a higher potential to colonize versus a single strain probiotic product. Capsules are designed to give as-is or sprinkled over food.
- Helps reestablish intestinal health with live microorganisms.
- Designed for long-term support to help a dog or cat’s digestive system get back on track.
- Contains seven key probiotic species with billions of live microorganisms per capsule.
- One capsule per day administration.
- Helps cats and dogs with digestive upset due to antibiotic use, dietary indiscretion, food sensitivities, stresses due to travel and kenneling, weaning of puppies and kittens, metabolic disturbances, immune system-related gastrointestinal conditions.
Things to Consider
- Proviable DC is available from many pet supply retailers, but advanced formula Proviable-Forte is available from veterinarians only.
- Some reviews note diarrhea continued in their pets while taking Proviable DC, but every experience is different.
Designed for usage in puppies and adult dogs with diarrhea, FortiFlora is touted as the number one probiotic brand recommended by veterinarians. Each packet contains a liver flavor and dried Enterococcus faecium probiotic to promote normal intestinal microflora. The liver flavor is designed to enhance palatability when sprinkled over the dog’s food. A separate feline probiotic formula is available in powdered packet format.
- Designed specifically for dogs with diarrhea.
- May reduce flatulence.
- Easy-to-administer packets.
- Also available in chewable tablets.
- Created in conjunction with nutritionists, researchers and veterinarians.
- Designed for all canine life stages.
- Simple to use under the direction of your pet’s veterinarian.
Things to Consider
- Can be given as a preventative measure but check with your pet’s vet first.
- Some dogs may be averse to the liver flavor.
Zesty Paws grain-free soft chews are designed to support histamine, immune, and digestive health in dogs who suffer from skin, environmental, and seasonal allergies. Dogs think they are getting a treat, but pet parents can feel good giving this pro- and prebiotic complex. Each chew contains wild Alaskan salmon oil, five strains of probiotics, a powerful prebiotic, and other natural ingredients.
- Contains 80 mg of EpiCor, comprised of polyphenols, fibers, beta glucans, and metabolites for immune system support.
- Contains colostrum, a pre-milk designed to help allergies.
- Composed of 250 million CFUs in five strains for immune health and proper digestion.
- Combined with apple cider vinegar that may support GI bacteria and immune system response plus organic licorice root.
- Natural peanut butter or salmon flavoring
- Zesty Paws is a member of the NASC (National Animal Supplement Council) and passed its stringent independent quality audit.
Things to Consider
- Some dogs may not like the taste of peanut butter or salmon.
- Available in chewable format only.
- Number of chews per day depends on the dog’s weight
Visbiome Vet formula is a high-potency probiotic for dogs and cats that contains eight strains of live bacteria in a high concentration of 112.5 billion CFUs per 0.475 grams. The easy-to-use pull-apart capsules are packaged in an “advanced technology” Activ-Vial to absorb ambient moisture, since moisture can affect live bacteria. Made in the USA and dosed according to the weight of the pet.
- Non-GMO and gluten-free.
- Shipped in an insulated container with ice packs and a temperature monitor sensor.
- Visbiome is a member of the NASC (National Animal Supplement Council).
- Supports normal inflammatory responses in the GI tract.
- Helps maintain gut flora and normal kidney function.
- May help reduce occasional loose stools from stress or dietary changes.
Things to Consider
- Visbiome Vet should be refrigerated but not frozen.
- Available for purchase from many veterinarians or direct from the company.
Dr. Mercola’s powdered probiotic combines 14 powerful probiotics to support digestive and immune system health in cats and dogs. Each serving provides over 38 billion CFUs that can easily be mixed into your pet’s meal. The unique formula includes both dog- and cat-friendly strains to survive a pet’s stomach acidity.
- Contains no wheat, gluten, corn, or soy.
- Dr. Mercola’s formula is designed to prevent heat, air, and moisture from damaging delicate organisms without refrigeration.
- Manufactured in a facility that is GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified.
- Ingredients sourced from the United States.
- Each 3.17-ounce jar contains about 45 scoops.
Things to Consider
- Scoop dosage depends on the size and species of the pet.
- Available in powdered formula only.
Probiotics for Dogs and Cats: Tips and Advice
“Veterinarians support products that are safe and effective for their patients,” says Christman, adding that probiotics are available at pet retailers, online, and directly from veterinarians.
Always follow safe storage instructions found on the probiotic label. Because probiotics for pets are considered to be supplements and not drugs, their efficacy varies. A positive impact should occur within the period of time listed on the product’s label, but tends to take a few days.
Probiotics aren’t a cure-all but they can be safe and effective when used under the guidance of your pet’s veterinarian. It’s an exciting time to share life with a dog or cat, so be sure to consider probiotics for digestive and immune health in your feline and canine family members.
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