The 6 Best Probiotics For Dogs

probiotics-finaldnmPlanning on giving your dog probiotics?  You need to check out this list before you do.

Find out how to give your dog some amazing health benefits – and save some money too!

  • Your dog needs probiotics … and she needs them every day. I’ll tell you why.
  • But probiotic supplements are expensive … and  that daily dose doesn’t have to come in an an expensive pill.
  • There are better ways to give them  … and if you want to know which are the best probiotics for dogs,  you’ll find my recommendations below.

Probiotics can be confusing. You may wonder, “Can I give my dog probiotics?” or “Can dogs take human probiotics?” And if so, how and when should you give them? Some people say only in certain situations, others say all the time.

I’m going to answer those questions. And then I’ll tell you about my favorite 6 ways to give your dog probiotics, along with some helpful recipes.

But first, here’s a bit of background on probiotics and prebiotics.

Helpful Definitions

Probiotics – Immune System Building Blocks

Probiotics are live microorganisms that live in various parts of your dog’s body, including the gastrointestinal tract, the oral cavity, vagina, nasal cavity, respiratory organs and even on the skin. The term probiotic literally means “for life.” The word comes from the Latin preposition pro meaning  “for” and the Greek word biosmeaning “life”. Probiotics are often called “good bacteria.” Keeping a good balance of good (vs bad) bacteria is vital for your dog’s health.

Prebiotics – Feed The Probiotics

Prebiotics are various types of preferred foods that nourish the probiotic bacteria and keep them active. Feeding prebiotics along with probiotics gives your dog symbiotics.

Symbiotics – The Perfect Couple

Symbiotic means a beneficial interaction (known as a symbiotic relationship) between two different things. Prebiotics and probiotics form a perfect couple by working together to keep your dog’s body super-healthy.

The pre and the probiotics are simply and naturally a beneficial boost to your dog’s diet. Your dog’s diet – that’s another platform to address. There are very tricky marketing terms that manufacturers use to confuse you when buying your pets food. This makes it extremely difficult to know if your dog is getting the wholesome diet he needs to stay healthy and active (and skip unnecessary and expensive trips to the vet).

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Important Hangouts for Probiotics

Your dog has trillions and trillions of friends in her body that you didn’t even know about! As many as 1,000 different types of bacteria and microorganisms form your dog’s microbiome (your dog’s “ecosystem”).

Let’s look at your dog’s gastrointestinal system to see where probiotics live in her body.

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Mouth

Beneficial bacteria live in the mouth and keep it healthy. Good bugs in your dog’s mouth can be the first line of defense against viruses and bacteria entering the body. Feeding carbohydrate foods to your dog creates the wrong kind of bacteria in the mouth, causing tartar and plaque to form on his teeth.

Pharynx

Good bacteria in the pharynx help maintain good health. When the pharynx contains pathogenic bacteria, they will cause pharyngitis and other signs of inflammation.

Stomach, Pancreas and Gallbladder

The enteric system (a system of neurons that control the gastrointestinal system) continues down the throat and into the stomach. Probiotic bacteria go through the acid in the stomach and need to survive the pancreatic enzymes and bile from the gallbladder.

Digestion takes place In the stomach and small intestine. Minerals are absorbed in the small intestine.

Colon

I call the colon probiotic headquarters! The colon is where probiotics exert their greatest effect. Studies have shown that probiotics can even help prevent colon cancer in humans.

Some experts question whether probiotics survive their journey to the colon (sometimes this is a marketing claim for probiotic brands with enteric coatings). In fact, most of the healthy bacteria can travel through the high acid situations, enzymes, and bile in the body.

Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) protocol, says that it doesn’t matter if the probiotics don’t arrive alive in the colon. Even if they’re dead, the body scan still use their genetic material to benefit the colon.

Anus – The “Back Door!”

Every time your pet has a bowel movement, hundreds of thousands of bacteria, yeast, and other microbes exit the body. This is part of the body’s detoxification process and probiotics help remove the toxins.

Vagina

It’s not on the illustration, but probiotics live successfully in the vagina. When puppies are born, they get a first dose of healthy bacteria as they pass through the birth canal. (This is true of human babies too, and C-section babies miss out on this benefit.)

Why Your Dog Needs Probiotics

Good bacteria are crucial for the health of your dog’s gut. But they also support her brain, digestion, assimilation of nutrients and – best of all –  her immune system. Boosting your dog’s immune system is probably the most important role of probiotics.

Immune System

As much as 80% of your dog’s immune system is based in her gut. Different probiotics pair with almost every different part of the immune system that we know of.

Viruses and bacteria enter the body through the mouth and probiotics are present starting in the mouth and throughout your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Maintaining the good bacteria keeps pathogens in check and is your dog’s primal immune system.

A good balance of probiotics helps reduce inflammation throughout your dog’s  body – and that lowers her susceptibility to chronic disease.

Digestion

Probiotics support digestion as well as the assimilation of vitamins and minerals. They help your dog’s body process critical nutrients like vitamin B-12.

Brain

The intestinal microbiome is in charge of producing neurotransmitters and neuropeptides needed for brain health. The gut is filled with nerve cells so probiotics in the gut can also support brain function. One study showed that mice that lacked gut bacteria behaved differently from normal mice, engaging in “high-risk behavior.” Probiotics also synthesize some important hormones – serotonin, for example – and some strains are even effective in DNA repair.

They say that the gut is the “second brain” but when I see the links from the neurons in the gut to the brain, I’m beginning to think the brain is secondary and the gut is the first and biggest brain!

Probiotics Need Prebiotics

Prebiotics are insoluble fiber that feed the probiotics in the colon. Feeding your dog prebiotic foods helps the probiotics stay active and do their job.

Add some of the following prebiotic foods to your dog’s diet to nourish and support the probiotics you’re giving him. Except for garlic (which is very safe in moderation), the amount isn’t important – it’s just food! But start out slowly to avoid digestive upsets if your dog isn’t used to these fibrous foods.

  • Bananas
  • Green leafy veggies (dandelion leaves are especially good)
  • Garlic (feed fresh, organic US-grown garlic, up to 1 tsp per 30 lbs of your dog’s weight per day)
  • Apples
  • Mushrooms

When To Give Your Dog Probiotics

I say every day! This is a question many people disagree on. Some experts think you should only give your dog probiotics when she has a digestive upset, when she’s under stress, or if she’s been taking antibiotics or other conventional medication.

But I believe that probiotics are such an essential part of your dog’s health that you should give them all the time. That’s why (as you’ll see soon) I recommend varying your dog’s source of probiotics and feeding a lot of probiotic foods.

I also like to give probiotics at different times of day. They’ll work differently depending on what’s going on in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract at the time. Dr Campbell-McBride advises giving probiotics in between meals to avoid the environment of high gastric juices and acids caused by digestion.

A Note About Antibiotics

If your dog is taking antibiotics, it’s a good idea to alternate them with probiotics so you’re constantly trying to limit the damage done by the antibiotic. I recommend giving probiotics two hours after each antibiotic dose. I think this is more effective than trying to repair the gut after the antibiotics are finished.

My Top 6 Ways To Give Your Dog Probiotics

There are many ways to give your dog probiotics, and most of them don’t involve giving her a pill!  Probiotic supplements are really expensive, but probiotic foods are not! Here are some of my favorite ways to give your dog probiotics.

#1 – Supplements

The good news is that if you want the convenience of a probiotic supplement there’s a way to make your jar of pills last much, much longer. But first, how do you choose a good supplement?

Choosing supplements can be overwhelming. There are many probiotics available and it’s hard to know what to buy. You can buy probiotics made especially for dogs but it’s fine to use human ones too.

Good probiotic supplements are really expensive but there’s a way to make them go further!

Make Probiotic Supplements Last Longer

Just use your supplement to “inoculate” some raw goat’s milk, organic milk or even low-temperature pasteurized grass-fed organic milk that’s not homogenized. If you have to, you can use pasteurized milk, or even Lactaid.

Mix 1 capsule of the probiotic into 1 pint of whichever milk you choose. I keep a pint jar of this in the refrigerator for my animals and make a new pint each week. You could inoculate a quart jar if feeding more mouths.

#2 – Kimchi And Other Fermented Veggies

Fermented veggies are an extraordinarily nutritious and highly bioavailable way to give your dog probiotics.

Your dog might not have eaten kimchi unless she’s been raiding the garbage and found some fermenting vegetables. Fermented foods mimic the gut contents of prey. They’re already predigested and the fermenting process multiplies the good bacteria and enzymes that are naturally in the food.

Kimchi Recipe

You can adapt this recipe many ways to suit your (and your dog’s) taste!

You’ll need:

  • Two large glass bowls
  • Chef’s knife
  • Grater, mandolin slicer or food processor
  • Wooden vegetable masher
  • Two or three 24 to 34 oz canning jars OR a large 50 to 60 oz glass jar (avoid metal and plastic containers)

Vegetable Ingredients:

Kimchi is traditionally made with cabbage but you can use whatever veggies you like. Here are some suggestions:

  • 1 small head cabbage
  • Red pepper
  • Radishes (Daikon)
  • Carrots
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Burdock root
  • Apples

Seasoning Spice:

  • 2 Tbsp ginger
  • ¼ to 1 tsp crushed red pepper*
  • 1 to 4 chili peppers*
  • 5-6 cloves garlic

* Lots of dogs love spicy food, but you can give less or more peppers and chiles depending on your dog’s taste for spicy.

Brine:

  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 tsp sea salt (Celtic or Himalayan is best as they contain more minerals)

Instructions:

  • Shred and chop all the veggies. This creates more surface area for the beneficial bacteria to romp around and work their magic. You can use a mandoline slicer to shave certain vegetables thin (like the radishes, which look especially pretty in paper-thin rounds) or use a food processor or grater to shave carrots.
  • Use the wooden vegetable masher to break down the veggies and press the liquid from the vegetables.
  • Place them in the jars.
  • Add enough brine to cover the vegetables. You can also add seaweed for extra nutrients.
  • Close the jar and set it out on the countertop until you like the taste of it (this will usually take about 4 days).
  • Once your kimchi is made, refrigerate it to stop the fermentation process.

Start your dog out slowly and work up to 1 tsp for dogs up to 15 pounds, 2 tsp for dogs 16-30 pounds and increase 1 tsp for each additional 30 pounds). Add it to food or feed as a snack.

# 3 – Raw Goat Milk

Raw goat milk is abundant in natural probiotics. It has very little lactose (the sugar that’s in cow’s milk) so doesn’t cause the same digestive issues as regular dairy.

You can also add your probiotic supplement to goat milk as I described above, to provide extra probiotic benefits.

Give goat milk to your dog daily according to her weight:

  • Up to 20 lbs – 2 oz
  • 20 to 50 lbs – 4 oz
  • Over 50 lbs – 6 oz

To find a local source of raw goat milk, go to localharvest.com

# 4 – Kefir

Kefir’s another fermented food that’s packed with natural probiotics and most dogs love it as a topping on their food or as a separate snack. You can buy kefir at the grocery store but be careful it’s unsweetened. Again, goat milk is a better option for dogs than cow’s milk.

You can also make your own kefir. For dogs I like making water kefir or coconut kefir and my recipes are below. You’ll need to get some kefir grains. Kefir grains look like little pearlescent pieces of cauliflower and they contain a colony of probiotics which you can use to make water or coconut milk kefir. You can also use nut milks like hemp or cashew.

If you can find a local fermenting group, you will probably find someone willing to share their grains with you. Otherwise you can buy them at Cultures for Health or Gem Cultures.

Water Kefir Recipe

You’ll see many water kefir recipes that use sugar as a starter. This recipe uses coconut water so you don’t need sugar. If you don’t want to use coconut water, you can substitute 2 tsp of sugar.

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg or 3 Tbsp water kefir grains
  • ½ cup young Thai green coconut water from inside the coconut, or use organic coconut water without any additives.
  • 3 cups spring water (never use fluoridated water as it can kill the cultures)
  • ¼ Tbsp unsulphured blackstrap molasses* (recommended, but optional). I recommend Plantation Organic Blackstrap Molasses.

* Water kefir tends to ferment better when minerals are present. Blackstrap molasses yields a strong taste that some like and others don’t.

Instructions

  • Warm the water gently in a glass, ceramic or stainless steel pot.
  • If using sugar, place it in the mason jar.
  • Place the water and molasses into the mason jar and stir with a non metallic utensil.
  • Stir in the coconut water, if using.
  • Add in the kefir grains. Cover with a dishcloth or paper towel and secure with an elastic band.
  • Let sit for 24 to 48 hours in a warm spot in your kitchen.
  • Strain out the kefir grains using a non-metallic sieve.
  • You can now reuse your kefir grains and your kefir is now ready to be consumed

Keep refrigerated and give your dog ¼ cup per 25 lbs daily.

Coconut Milk Kefir Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 Tbsp of milk kefir grains
  • 4 cups of coconut milk (or two cans of organic coconut milk)

Instructions

  • Place the milk kefir grains and the coconut milk in a half gallon glass mason jar.
  • Cover lightly (I use cheesecloth) and leave at room temp (70-75 degrees) for at least 12 hours.
  • After 12 hours, start tasting the kefir until it reaches desired level of fermentation.
  • Strain out the milk kefir grains and add new coconut milk to repeat the process.
  • Store the fermented coconut milk kefir in the refrigerator until you drink it.

Note: Milk kefir grains may take a few batches to adjust to the coconut milk and may not make the desired consistency or taste at first.

# 5 – Kvass

Kvass is a Baltic or Slavic fermented beverage that’s rich in probiotics – and it couldn’t be easier to make.

Kvass Recipe

  • Chop up some beets (fresh from the garden if you can!) to fill a mason jar. You can use other root vegetables such as burdock root, ginger, dandelion root or turmeric.
  • Add filtered water, a spoonful of whey* and a pinch of unrefined (no iodine) sea salt.
  • Let it sit on a counter for three or four days (a bit longer in the winter), giving it a shake or stir daily.
  • You can leave the beets in the jar, and it will keep in the fridge for 10 days or more. If you see mold in the liquid or it has a rancid odor, discard it completely and start again.
  • Once you’ve consumed the liquid, you can add more water, whey and salt, and brew up another batch.

The process is lacto fermentation. It’s very fast because you’re introducing the beneficial lactobacillus and acidophilus microbes into the liquid. You can even see tiny bubbles rising in the jar of this living tonic drink. If you see any foam on the top, feel free to just skim it off.

I don’t make strong kvass and this recipe tastes a little like pickle juice. Give your dog ¼ cup per 25 lbs daily.

Whey: To make whey, add your probiotic supplement to milk (even pasteurized milk) and leave it on the countertop. After two days, you’ll see it separate: part will be cheese curds and the liquid is whey. It’ll look almost like green Gatorade (but is much healthier). It’s a great idea to keep a pint of this in the fridge at all times because you can also use it to jumpstart your fermented vegetables (kimchi) instead of adding salt.

#6 – Let Your Dog Be A Dog

Finally, one of my favorite ways to let your dog get soil based microorganisms into her system … and that is:

Let her play in the dirt!

Dogs love digging and romping in the mud, drinking filthy water and yes, eating various kinds of poop (pigeon, rabbit and goose poop are some family favorites).

Indulge her nature and let her do it. It’s a great way to help your dog build a healthy immune system as well as enjoy some fun and play doing a natural activity. Share her joy at being out in nature and get a little muddy yourself while you’re at it!

When it comes to probiotics for dogs, there are lots of different ways to give them.  Using probiotic foods as well as supplements boosts your dog’s diet with a myriad of nutritional benefits to keep your dog glowing with health.


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