Prebiotics & Probiotics For Dogs

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Prebiotics & Probiotics For Dogs

In this article you can find information about beneficial food ingredients called prebiotics and probiotics that are added to commercial dog foods or can be supplemented to prepared dog foods.

Prebiotics and probiotics produce health benefits related to their interactions with the microflora (minute organisms) in the dog’s digestive system. Additionally, both prebiotics and probiotics actually have health-providing actions of their own.


Probiotics are “live good bacteria” that help promote the digestibility of ingredients and are a vital part of the immune system. They help to restore bacterial balance within the intestine. To find if Probiotics are included to a dog food you should look for species of:

  • Lactobacillus
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Enterococcus
These “good bacteria” settle in the large intestine and take over so there is no space left for bad bacteria to growth.

Probiotics in dogs also activate dog’s immune system. They help to increase natural antibody levels and white cell activity in dogs, as well as control and raise hormone levels. Probiotics can help to prevent digestive problems and support your dog’s body in fighting illnesses.


PreBiotics are complex sugars that selectively stimulate growth of good bacteria in the intestine. Sometimes, prebiotics can be specialized forms of fiber – non digestible fiber. Mainly, the prebiotics provide nutrition for the health and performance of the “good intestinal bacteria” in dog’s digestive tract. Some examples of prebiotic ingredients included in your dog’s food are:

  • Beet pulp
  • Soybeans
  • Raw oats
  • Inulin
  • GOS (galactooligosaccharides)
  • TOS (trans-galactooligosaccharides)
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes

My advise is:

Prebiotics are present naturally in some foods (see above). However, it would take a large amount of these foods to exert a useful prebiotic outcome. Plus, some of these foods may be poisonous to dogs in large quantities. So you should not feed your dog these foods as prebiotics. Researchers have found ways to isolate the prebiotics from these natural foods so dogs can with no trouble benefit from them.

Some prebiotics have been used to complement the treatment of a diversity of diseases, including the following:

  • Intestinal infections
  • Constipation
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diabetes mellitus, they have a glucose-modulatory effect (the ability to help maintain normal blood glucose levels)
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • A variety of tumors

When do I need to feed foods with added prebiotics or probiotics to my dog?

The answer for this question is: you should feed foods with added prebiotics or probiotics to your dog in a regular basis. All dogs are likely to benefit from recipes with added prebiotics and probiotics.  There have been no adverse reactions reported with long-term feeding of these products.  Though intestinal bacteria are restricted to the digestive tract they exert powerful effects on health.

Special situations:

  • Antibiotics have the potential to cause digestive upset due to an imbalance of “good” and “bad” intestinal bacteria. Supplementing prebiotics and probiotics, while your dog is taking antibiotics, can help re-establish the correct balance of intestinal bactéria.
  • Stressful conditions (moving, new dog/cat, new family member, etc), diet changes, age and illness can disturb the fragile balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria within the intestine. These changes can occur at any time and habitually feeding your dog a food including prebiotics and probiotics can help preserve their digestive health long term.
  • Dogs presenting a sensitive digestion, like soft feces or diarrhea may benefit greatly from a food containing prebiotics and probiotics. Generally, these dogs have inflammation within their small intestine which causes bacterial overgrowth.
Lot’s of the premium dog foods found in the market contain prebiotics, probiotics, or both. Dry foods have probiotics added to it after it is cooked and dried, which allows it to live. Canned food is cooked at high temperatures, so you will not find probiotics in any canned food.

About the Author:

Hi! I'm Dora Mancha, DVM. I am graduated for the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon (2009). My degree is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I completed my degree in Veterinary Medicine in July, 2009. Over the first years as a veterinarian my work was closely related to the animal health field. I have gained some average experience having worked in Barcelona University (UAB) Equine Hospital and by working with veterinarians in Portugal. In addition, in 2009 - 2010 I was in Madrid at the University Alfonso X el Sábio doing an internship in the equine service. I am also very interested in small animal medicine and surgery. In fact I worked in several small animals clinics in Portugal improving my knowledge about small animal behavior and health. Dogs always have been present in my life, since I was a child. At the present moment I have four dogs a Labrador, a Epagnheul Breton, a Whippet and a mixed breed dog.

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