In recent years, there have been a lot of advertisements that mention the benefits of us humans taking probiotics, namely in the form of daily supplements like Culturelle or in yogurt form like Activia. Yogurt is an easy way to take probiotics because most people like the taste of yogurt, and remembering to eat a snack is a pretty easy way to take your daily dose of probiotics.
Since probiotics can help keep us healthy, does this mean that probiotics in yoghurt can help our canine companions too? In this article we answer this question and explore some of the benefits that probiotics can offer our furry friends.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are supplements that contain live microorganisms like bacteria. These bacteria are similar to the species that can be found living in the digestive tract of people and animals. When supplemented, probiotics can provide various health benefits.
How can probiotics help our pets?
Animal studies have shown that probiotics can displace many harmful bacterial species that cause illness. This is achieved by competing for space to attach to inside of a dog’s intestinal tract. Probiotics can also improve immune system response times in dogs when dealing with intestinal infections1. Special probiotic cultures like that found in Purina’s Calming Care probiotic have been shown to reduce day-to-day anxiety in dogs, and other cultures have even improved tear staining2,3.
Probiotics can create substances that help to attack harmful bacteria, and they can also increase the ability of the immune system to seek and destroy these pathogens4. Research suggests that probiotics may improve survival rates in dogs with parvovirus, and they can decrease the shedding of eggs from intestinal parasites like hookworms4.
How are probiotics included in yogurt?
Yogurt is an example of a kind of food that has been fermented. The process of fermentation is a way to preserve food, and it involves using yeast and bacteria to break down carbohydrates. Yogurt can incorporate live bacterial cultures like species of Lactobacillus. In humans, probiotics in yogurt have been shown to improve digestive health and can minimize common gastrointestinal issues like bloating, constipation, and gas.
Can I give my dog yogurt as it contains probiotics?
Outside of the various probiotic tablets and powders available for dogs, yogurt is an excellent source of probiotic microorganisms. However, most veterinarians do not recommend giving dogs yogurt. This is because dogs make less of the enzyme responsible for digesting dairy products, an enzyme called lactase. Lactase breaks down the lactose found in dairy products like yogurt.
You can think of your dog as being somewhat lactose intolerant, thus feeding him yogurt may cause more harm than good. Not every dog who ingests yogurt will develop gas, bloating, and discomfort, but because there are so many other options available, it is best to avoid giving your dog yogurt.
What are some probiotics I can give my dog?
There are many probiotic options available. As mentioned above, Purina’s Calming Care probiotic is formulated with a special culture that can help improve gut health and has been shown to lessen anxiety in dogs. It is available in a tasty, powdered formula that can be sprinkled on top of your dog’s dry or wet food. Calming Care is given once daily, and it may take three to four weeks to reach its full effect.
Another probiotic supplement called Prostora Max is available in a tablet form. Its active ingredient is Bifidobacterium animalis, and it has been shown to improve digestive tract health. Anecdotal evidence supports that it may be effective in minimizing tear staining from excess tear production in dogs.
Ask your vet before starting your dog on probiotics
Probiotics are relatively safe for dogs of all ages, but there may be conditions where they are contraindicated such as in pets with inflammatory bowel disease. It is important to ask your veterinarian before starting any probiotics for your pup.
Yoghurt’s is not the best food for most dogs but that shouldn’t stop you giving them probiotics!
Probiotics are supplemented cultures of live bacteria, which studies show have multiple benefits for overall gastrointestinal health. The probiotics found in yogurt may be helpful to some dogs, but as many cannot break down lactose effectively, you should avoid giving your dog yogurt. For more information about probiotics for your canine companion, consult with your veterinarian.
- Schmitz, S. & Suchodolski, J. “Understanding the Canine Intestinal Microbiota and its Modification by Pro-, Pre-, and Synbiotics – What is the Evidence?” Veterinary Medicine and Science. Last accessed on 4/30/20, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5645859/
- McGowan, R. T. “A New Approach to Managing Dogs with Anxiety.” Nutrition Exchange. Last accessed on 4/30/20, https://www.purinaproplanvets.com/media/530875/nutrition-exchange-insert-dec2018.pdf
- Khuly, P. “Sad Eyes? How to Remove Tear Stains from Your Pet’s Eyes.” PetMD website. Last accessed on 4/30/20, https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/2009/August/05-4491
- Understanding the canine intestinal microbiota and its modification by pro-, pre-, and synbiotics – what is the evidence? Veterinary Medicine and Science, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/ articles/ PMC5645859/