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Key Points

  • Human probiotics can be given to dogs but it’s best to consult your veterinarian on how to use them with your unique pet.
  • Dog-specific probiotic supplements may provide micro-organisms that are unique to dogs.
  • When giving a probiotic to a dog, it is important to consider the product’s potency, ingredients, and storage recommendations.

Probiotic supplements have made their way into the lives of many humans. Dog lovers wonder, “If it’s good for humans, shouldn’t we give it to dogs, too?”

Researchers have identified some benefits of probiotics for dogs. But do dogs need their own version or can dogs have human probiotics? 

In this article, I’ll discuss the use of human probiotics for dogs and some things to keep in mind before you decide to share your supplements with your pup.

You can give dogs probiotic supplements made for humans. The microorganisms used in human products are similar to those in veterinary products. However, probiotics made for humans might not be the best choice for dogs.

Human Probiotics for Dogs

Culturelle® is the human probiotic supplement I recommend most often for my client’s dogs. It has been extensively tested for humans for decades. Culturelle has also been recommended by veterinary internists for many years. 

You can easily find the product in your local grocery store or buy it from online retailers. Heck, you might already have some for your own use!

Here’s a look at the most common human probiotic supplement veterinarians recommend for their dog patients:

iHealth Culturelle®

Micro-organisms10 billion CFU’s per dose; 1 bacterium strain (Lactobacillus rhamnosus)
Prebiotic Included? Yes
FlavorNeutral (can be sprinkled on food)
Other IngredientsInulin (prebiotic), hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, sucrose, maltodextrin, sodium ascorbate, magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide, and titanium dioxide.
RefrigerationNot necessary
Dose for Dogs1/2 capsule once a day for 10 lb. and under, 1 capsule once a day for over 10 lb.
ProsReadily available in stores and online, low price, extensive research for use in humans and dogs.
ConsContains only one bacterial strain.

What’s the Difference Between Human and Dog Probiotics?

Can a dog have human probiotics? Yes, but you’ll notice some different micro-organism species feature prominently in probiotic supplements for dogs. The main one is Enterococcus sp. Which is not included in the human probiotic products discussed above. 

The truth is that we don’t have enough information about the organisms in a normal dog’s gut bacteria population. But there are some studies showing the benefits of Enterococcus-containing supplements for some conditions in dogs. (15,16) So it makes sense to consider dog-specific probiotics over human-targeted products that don’t contain Enterococcus.

Probiotics Specifically for Dogs 

There are hundreds of pet probiotic supplements on the market today. But without the support of clinical trials and quality assurance, you don’t know what you’re getting. 

Why not stick with the tried and true products that thousands of veterinarians use every day? Here are two probiotics made specifically for dogs that I use and recommend to my clients…

Nutramax® Proviable®-DC

FormCapsule filled with probiotic powder or chewable tablets
Micro-organisms5 billion CFU’s per dose; 7 bacterial strains (Enterococcus faecium,  Bifidobacterium bifidum, Enterococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum)
Prebiotic Included? Yes
FlavorNeutral (can be sprinkled on food)
Other IngredientsFructooligosaccharide (prebiotic), gum arabic, gelatin, maltodextrin, magnesium stearate, ascorbic acid, and titanium dioxide. 
RefrigerationNot necessary 
Dose for Dogs1 capsule per day for all sizes of dogs 
ProsMultiple bacterial strains, some clinical research to support efficacy, supported by clinical trials and recommended by veterinary internal medicine specialists, affordable price. 
ConsNot flavored, fewer CFU’s than high-potency products.

Purina ProPlan FortiFlora®

FormPacket of powder or chewable tablets
Micro-organisms100 million CFU’s per dose, 1 bacterium strain (Enterococcus faecium
Prebiotic Included? No
Other IngredientsAnimal digest, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, brewers dried yeast, vitamin E supplement, zinc proteinate, beta-carotene, salt, manganese proteinate, ferrous sulfate, copper proteinate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite.
RefrigerationNot necessary
Dose for Dogs1 packet per day for all sizes of dogs 
ProsDogs love the flavor, clinical trials show positive effects for GI issues, FortiFlora.
ConsOnly 100 million CFU’s per dose, only one bacterium strain, higher-priced than alternatives.

What Are Probiotics?

Dogs have millions of helpful bacteria and yeast in their guts that aid in digestion. Probiotic supplements contain live microorganisms and are designed to improve gut bacteria balance. They do this by increasing the good bacteria and crowding out the bad bacteria. 

The microbes used in probiotic supplements are healthy bacteria and yeast such as

  • Bifidobacterium animalis, breve, infantis and longum
  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Lactobacillus paracasei, plantarum and acidophilus
  • Saccharomyces boulardii 

Qualities of a Good Probiotic Supplement

There have been some studies on the types of bacteria and yeast found in dogs but we still need a lot more information on the topic. Scientists also need to do more work to determine the right dosage of probiotics for dogs.

Here are some general guidelines to help you choose a good probiotic supplement for your dog based on the scientific data collected so far. These recommendations apply to products targeted to humans as well as those for dogs.

Properties of a Good Probiotic Supplement

Number of colony-forming units (CFUs)Look for at least 100 million CFUs per dose.
Multiple micro-organism strainsMultiple species increase the chance that at least one will colonize the gut.
Prebiotic ingredientsIndigestible foods like inulin and fructooligosaccharides feed beneficial bacteria.
Shelf stabilityRefrigerated products might not have viable organisms if stored improperly. Look for shelf-stable probiotic supplements.
Quality controlChoose products made by reputable companies with a long history of strict quality control. 

The Role of Probiotics in Dog Health

A dog’s gut naturally has these organisms in varying numbers. It’s unknown exactly how a probiotic bacterium benefits health, but some theories are that

  1. Beneficial bacteria help crowd out pathogenic harmful bacteria.
  2. Good bacteria reduce bacterial translocation (bad bacteria moving outside of the gastrointestinal tract to other parts of the body).
  3. The good bacteria in probiotics produce beneficial antimicrobial products that limit the growth of bad bacteria.

There is little information to prove the efficacy of probiotics for most diseases. Researchers believe the following conditions may benefit:

A dog’s gut microbiome is home to the largest part of his immune system and that’s where probiotics work! Beneficial bacteria influence the immune system and decrease inflammatory chemicals in the body.

Does Your Dog Need Probiotics?

Most supportive scientific studies on probiotics for pets have looked at gastrointestinal health. I’ve seen the best results when using these beneficial bacteria for GI problems like diarrhea, constipation and chronic vomiting. 

People talk about using probiotics for all sorts of other problems including skin allergies and kidney disease. We have less evidence to support these uses. 

Still, it doesn’t hurt to give a trial of supplements to your dog with your vet’s approval. If you haven’t seen much improvement after a month or two, it’s probably not worth continuing. 

There is no reason to believe that probiotic supplements will improve the health of an already healthy dog. I personally don’t recommend my clients give probiotics to their healthy dogs.

Fresh yogurt (can I give my dog human probiotics?)
It takes a lot of yogurt to equal a probiotic supplement.

Can Dogs Have Yogurt, Kefir or Fermented Foods?

Fermented foods probably don’t have enough CFUs to treat acute health problems in dogs. It’s possible that chronic feeding of fermented foods could improve a dog’s microbiome. But we just don’t have the data to support making that recommendation at this time. 

Be careful because many fermented foods have strong flavors, lactose or a lot of fiber. Dairy foods, kimchi and sauerkraut can cause diarrhea in dogs. 

Studies suggest that humans need 10 billion CFUs per serving of yogurt in order to see a benefit for GI problems (11). Yogurt usually contains about 1 billion CFUs per serving. So you’d need to eat 10 servings of yogurt to get a good dose of healthy bacteria. That amount of dairy food would be way too much for most dogs!

Can Dogs Take Probiotics With Antibiotics?

It’s OK to give your dog probiotics while he is taking antibiotics. There is some risk that some of the beneficial organisms could be killed by antibiotic medication.

To avoid this, give the supplement about 4 hours apart from when you give the antibiotic. 

How Long Should You Give Your Dog Probiotics?

Here’s another question that we don’t know the answer to! Veterinarians usually recommend you give your dog probiotics for 1-2 weeks for mild, acute GI upsets. 

Chronic problems may require a longer duration of treatment up to several months. Since each dog is unique, ask your vet for guidance on how long to continue the supplement. 

How Long Does It Take Probiotics to Work in Dogs?

A 2017 study of dogs with a severe form of acute hemorrhagic diarrhea found dogs fed probiotics recovered after three days (13). 

Most cases of acute diarrhea in dogs improve within a day or two. That’s with or without probiotics. So if your dog is not improving after 48 hours with the supplement, you definitely need to see your veterinarian. 

Side Effects of Probiotics in Dogs

Probiotics rarely cause side effects in dogs. Dogs with serious illnesses and immune-system abnormalities have a higher risk. Side effects could include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Whole-body infection (theoretical, never documented in dogs)

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    Can I Give My Dog Human Probiotics? (& Should You?)


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Can I Give My Dog Human Probiotics?