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Probiotics for Dogs – Digestive, Cognitive Health

The Definition of Probiotics 

The original meaning of the word probiotic is ‘benficial to life’. Probiotics are live microorganisms which when ingested in appropriate amounts (not to little, not too much) are beneficial to the host and help prevent disease…and in the case of this discussion ‘host’ is defined as dog! 
These micororganisims are live, friendly bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). Dogs have over 500 types of bacteria living in their GI tract, humans have just over 400. The most common good bacteria are L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterua bifidum.
The Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics can play a huge role in protecting your dog’s immune system. The good bacteria found in probiotics fight the un-friendly, 1pathogenic bacteria that are also found in the GI tract. Dogs and humans naturally have more seratonin in the GI tract than in the brain. When the gut is out of balance our moods and our brain function is directly affected. Keeping the GI Tract healthy is important to support normal seratonin levels.
The skin and the mucous membrane linings of the gastrointestinal, genitourinary and respiratory tracts are the first line of defense against invasion of microbes and parasites – the GI tract is the largest of these barriers.
When a dog does not have enough good bacteria residing in his/her GI tract, the bad bacteria flourish unchecked and take over – this condition can cause:
  • Cadidiasis (overgrowth of Candida albicans, a bad bacteria that causes yeast infections);
  • Digestive upset due to E. coli, which causes diarhea;
  • Lethargy.
On a daily basis physiological (real or perceived physical threat) and psychological (emotional threats i.e. anxiety) stress can cause fluctuations in the balance between good and bad bacteria in the GI tract.
Probiotics give the naturally occurring good bacteria found in the GI tract a population boost which in turn
  • Alleviates and helps prevent constipation, diarrhea and IBS;
  • Enhances immune system response (thus helping to fight cancer and other diseases, illness, viruses);
  • Encourages anti-tumour and anti-cancer activity in the body;
  • Increases the ability to absorb and utilize nutrients such as B complex vitmens, calcium, copper, iron, phosperous, zinc;
  • Increases the GI tract’s ability to digest food;
  • Helps fight bad breath; 
  • Helps reduce gas and reduces the odour of stools;
  • Helps prevent shedding and scratching caused by stress when GI tract good flora is compromised;
  • Helps in the fight against anxiety and depression;
  • Replenishes the good bacteria that are killed-off when taking antibiotics;
  • Reduces incidence of yeast infections (Candida), yeast related rashes and skin problems.
  • Replenishes good flora killed-off by antibiotics.
It is important to note that antibiotics are the premier over-subscribed drug for both humans and dogs alike. Enabling your dog’s immune system to work at optimum capacity helps to ensure that your dog will not require antibiotics. 

The two biggest issues with antibiotics are:

One – Antibiotics kill the kill the beneficial bacteria (in your dog’s GI tract) not just the  pathogenic bacteria. When this occurs the delicate but healthy balance of the tract is disrupted which can lead to the overgrowth of yeast enabling the formation of yeast colonies. Yeast bacteria (hyphae) can bore holes through the lining of the intestinal wall – resulting in a condition called ‘leaky gut’. This leaves your dog susceptible to a wide spectrum of health problems such as:

  • Allergies;
  • Arthritis;
  • Asthma;
  • Autoimmune Disorders (when the body mistakenly attacks healthy body tissue);
  • Digestive problems;
  • Kidney Problems, and;
  • Skin Problems.

Two – The more antibiotics your dog takes the more your dog’s risk of immunity to antibiotics rises. This can put your dog in grave and mortal danger. In addition, the over use of antibiotics has resulted in the appearance and increase of 1MRSA in dogs. 

To lesson the chance of your dog having to take antibiotics: 

When Should your Dog Take Probiotics?
Probiotics are essential to the maintenance of optimal health therefore…
  1. Probiotics should be included as part of a healthy puppy, teenage and adult dog’s daily diet;
  2. If your dog is on antibiotics you should be supplementing your dog’s diet with Probiotics as antibiotics kill bacteria in the GI tract – bad flora and good flora alike, which puts your dog’s immune system at risk;
  3. Your dog will be better protected against the side affects of other common stressors (such as vaccinations) when he/she has a back-up system to replace good GI tract flora.
 When Should Your Dog Not Take Probiotics?
If your dog is undergoing treatment for disease (i.e. cancer and is receiving chemotherapy) taking probiotics may be too much for the dog’s weakened system. If your dog is suffering from any disease you must speak to your veterinarian before adding any supplement such as probiotics to your dog’s diet.
Don’t Be Fooled By Advertising
Many dog food manufactures promote their kibble, canned food and treat products as containing probiotics.
To be effective, probiotics must be live. The beneficial micro-organisms and probiotics required by the GI tract are susceptible to heat damage. Most commercially made dry pet food is sterilised or pasteurized – canned food is prepared using dry heat. The only way in which the manufacturers can add probiotics to these foods is by coating the products with a liquid or powder after processing is complete. This presents two fundamental problems:
  • The coating is inconsistent, and;
  • Preservation of the probiotic is difficult.
Advertising that the food contains probiotics is just a means to market the product, however the actual benefit derived from the ‘probiotics’ added to these foods is minimal if any.
In order to ingest enough probiotics on a daily basis your dog requires a high quality concentrated source of probiotics.
Options for Providing Probiotics to Your Dog
  1. You can purchase probiotic supplements, or;
  2. You can feed your dog food that is rich in naturally occurring probiotics.
Probiotic Supplements:
Probiotic Supplements for dogs are not regulated in many countries. Like everything else in the pet food industry, not all probiotic supplements are created equal, therefore you really need to know how to choose a good supplement.  
There are some very good probiotic supplements among the many average and poor ones – to identify the good supplements you really need to know what to look for. Do you know how to tell which of the supplements shown below is a really good product, which are average and which provide little benefit?
Beware! Just because a manufacturer says the product is probiotic does not mean that it is a probiotic.  
Some products labelled ‘probiotic’ do not include any clinically validated strains. Tests carried out on multiple products have revealed that many manufactures and retailers are selling probiotic supplements that do not include ingredients as noted on the product label and/or include dangerous contaminants. Another thing to keep in mind – a probiotic supplement is not cheap to purchase, especially if you have multiple dogs.
If you would like to understand how to choose a good probiotic supplement you can read this article
Foods That Are Rich in Naturally Occurring Probiotics
You can make sure that your dog receives very high quality probiotics by adding these dog-safe amazing foods to your dog’s diet…
1. Kefir
2. Sauerkraut
If you would like to learn about the amazing benefits of these two foods and how to incorporate them into your dog’s diet, etc. you can read this article.

Additional Assistance

If you require additional support and guidance I would be pleased to assist you via my In-Person or On-Line Services…

Dog Obedience Training and Behavior Modification Services:

Diet, Nutrition Wellness Services:

  • Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice is available via this service
  • Holistic Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans are available via this service

About Karen Rosenfeld

My name is Karen Rosenfeld. I am an holistic diet nutrition health and wellness practitioner for dogs and cats. I am an holistic behaviorist for dogs. I offer a wealth of real-time, real-life experience. 30 years working and living with dogs and cats. Companion animals are my life, my work, my passion. Maintenance of Health Health Issues and Conditions Custom designed whole food diets, raw and cooked. Recommendations for commercial whole food diets. Consultations available worldwide via FaceTime, FaceBook video and voice, Skype, Phone and email Recommendation and specification of... Species Appropriate: Whole foods Treats Herbs Alternative medicines Supplemental foods Treatment and Remedy Holistic Behaviorist Services for Dogs Include: Obedience Training Behavior Modification Psychological Rehabilitation In-person Sessions Sessions available worldwide via FaceTime, FaceBook video and voice, Skype, Phone Affiliations to Companies None. I don’t sell food or supplements. I am NOT aligned with any companies. I prefer to select best solutions for my individual clients’ situation. My client services are available around the world. 🇺🇸USA 🇨🇦Canada 🇬🇧UK 🇦🇺Australia 🇪🇺Europe 🇨🇷Costa Rica and other Central American Countries 🇦🇪United Arab Emirates 🇸🇪Sweden and other Scandinavian Countries 🇸🇬Singapore and other Countries in Asia etc. Consultations and Sessions 📧Email: karen@ottawavalleydogwhispererer.ca 📞Phone: 1-613-293-3707 📱FaceTime 📱FaceBook video or voice 💻Skype 📖Holistic Wellness eBooks custom designed to suit 🚶In-person Sessions only available in Ontario, Canada.

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  1. Hi Karen,

    Do you have any tips and suggestions for my dog Louie who doesn’t want to eat his food after I’ve added powered Digestive Enzymes (I just purchased Mercola)? A little weary as I’ve also purchased Mercola’s Probiotics and I’m worried that I’ve spent so much money on something that my dog won’t take 🙁


  2. I think I killed my dog by stopping his probiotics after 2 months. He was doing really well on then but I guess I thought after 2 months it would be okay to stop. For 2 weeks he was fine, then for two weeks he had loose stool so I double dosed his probiotics for a couple of days. A month after I stopped probiotics and 2 weeks after I started them again my dog passed away. I never thought that stress and stopping the probiotics would kill the most precious living being in my life. I’m sickened by the fact I let myself stop hos probiotics and made him die. How can I forgive myself such inconsolable actions?

    • Hi Jessica, you have to forgive yourself. By forgiving yourself you allow yourself to help others. No animal – including a human is perfect. We all make mistakes – sometimes we suffer becasue of an accidental mistake we make and sometimes our mistake also has an impact on someone we love. We learn and evolve by our mistakes, we can learn to help others through the mistakes that we make or we can choose to simply punish ourselves and never recover. My dogs have taught me much of what I know. My first dog – who is the inspiration for what I do today – she was my best friend and soul mate – she would not have died of cancer if I knew back then what I know now. You should read here bio it will help you understand how you feel now and how to evolve what you feel into something that further enables the love you have your boy – go to this link to read her story http://www.ottawavalleydogwhisperer.com/My-Pack_Shanny.html#.UmBMLz-Om64

      When Shanny passed away I turned my grief to work with dogs that deserved a second chance at life. My own dog pack consists of 10 dogs – 8 rescues, many from death row.

      To honor her I learned from what I went through with her and have gone on to share my knowledge with people around the world. I also am a behavourist and make me living working with dogs who other trainers, behavourists either give-up on or make worse.

      Here is one way you can forgive yourself – go to a high-kill shelter and adopt a rescue dog – there are so many wonderful dogs of all breeds that get dumped at these high-kill shelters for no fault of their own. Then take your old and new knowledge and give a rescue dog a new home, a new lease on life. This will owner your boy and allow you to give back. His passing will be honored and your great and deep love of dogs can grow to help another dog. Grieve but do not punish yourself, and then reach out to another dog – for you, for your boy and for the other dog. Paw hugs, Karen

  3. Hi Karen, I’m wondering if I need to feed Kefir once or twice daily, currently I’m doing twice, mixed into their food. Should I leave it on top rather and if their food is slightly warmed, does it affect the Kefir?
    Many thanks for your very informative site, Ann

    • Hi Ann,

      You can choose to add Kefir either once a day or twice a day.

      Heat does destroy the micororganisims so you might want to try giving them the Kefir in another dish beside their warmed-up food.

      You can mix a little raw unpasturized honey or fruit into the kefir if they will not be interested in eating the kefir plain.

      Raw unpasturized honey has many health benefits and dogs love the taste. Raw unpasturized honey can be given once or twice a day – daily dosage is 1/4 tsp for every 20 pounds of body weight. Cheers, Karen

    • Thanks Karen, they love their Kefir, can’t keep them away from it 🙂

  4. Hello, I have a 2.5 yr old female Boxer who I’ve discovered is severely allergic to grains and sugars of any kind. Eating these foodstuffs causes a terrific yeast infection and, of course, she scratches until she scratches big hunks of skin away and bleeds a lot. About a year ago when I figured out the problem I put her, and her little sister also somewhat mildly affected by same yeast infection issue, on a raw foods diet. Ground beef, fish, chicken, ground broccoli. I’m an American living in Ecuador and find broccoli cheap and plentiful year round. I do serve other vegetables once in awhile but they’re happy with broc. I mix it in the food processor sometimes with plain, no sugar/unflavored yogurt or hard boiled eggs or a splash of lemon juice. But – my older Boxer still is not entirely over the yeast imbalance. I’ve bought $150/bottle 11-strain acidophyllus – not the answer. What else can I do?? I’m in a country with limited resources.


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