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  • Writer's pictureKarley

Does my Dog Need to Take Probiotics to be Healthy?

Are probiotics unnecessary? There is a plethora of products out there that are marketed as providing health benefits, but be it from experience or looking at active ingredients, they don’t actually do anything for your dog’s health. Some may argue that probiotics fall into this category and that if you just feed your dog the right food, they won’t need additional supplements or products. 

While this may be true in certain circumstances, in others, dogs would greatly benefit from the addition of probiotics into their diet. Probiotics are microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, that can aid digestion, support immune system function, and contribute to skin and coat health. In my experience fostering numerous dogs, some come to me malnourished and scared as heck. Probiotics have helped calm their stomachs and improved their digestion of proper meals. Food change, especially in scary circumstances, can lead to runny stools, and in consequence, picky eaters. With the help of probiotics, their stomachs settle and they have better appetites.  

Not all dogs come from neglectful situations, so do they still need probiotics? Yes, in certain circumstances. 

Food Transition 

My dogs and foster dogs eat Just Food for Dogs, and at times when they transition between different kinds of food (say, Macaroni and Turkey to Lamb and Brown Rice), their stool can be a bit runny. A combination of pumpkin and probiotics while the dog adjusts to the food helps them transition smoothly with a minimal amount of fuss to their guts. Before, without using probiotics, it may take a week or more for my dogs to successfully transition over to the new diet. After, however, with the use of probiotics, it is a matter of a day or two that my dogs successfully transition.  

Just Food for Dogs transitioning your pet to Whole Foods calculator and recommendations.

How are probiotics at work here? According to Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA, CVJ, probiotics stimulate the “growth of beneficial flora in the intestinal tract”. Thus, all those little things in their stomach lining that ensure their food is digested properly and the nutrients are acquired, they are plentiful and ready to work. 

Using Antibiotics 

If your dog ever gets sick, say they have an infection and require antibiotics to get better, you may notice that their stomach is upset by their lack of eating or abnormal stools. Antibiotics are great for treating infections, but they can kill some of the bacteria in the gut that is useful for digestion. Thus, probiotics are a great way of replenishing their gut health and preventing further discomfort than what they are feeling from the illness. 

Allergy Symptoms 

Every dog may experience allergy symptoms at one point, it may be minor itching and sneezing after a day at the park or a more severe reaction to food they are sensitive to. In some dogs, probiotics may alleviate itching and sneezing during those seasons with higher pollen counts.  

Some veterinarians agree that “Probiotics work by reducing histamine levels and inflammation in the gut, which can in turn, reduce itchiness, sneezing, and other allergy symptoms.” Gut health is incredibly important for the health of your dog in general. Allergies seem like they are unrelated to the gut, but in fact, there are strong links between your dog’s gut microbiome and the strength and hydration of their skin. If your dog is experiencing dry and itchy skin, it is worth it to also treat the source of the problem (poor gut health) than simply the symptoms of the problem (dry skin or itchiness).  

Immune Support 

If you are a foster parent and frequently work with dogs who have been malnourished, probiotics are a useful resource. Many times, my new foster will have skin problems, which is evidence of poor gut health; not to mention, they lack alertness, are underweight, and have some kind of illness. All of these problems are brought about because of malnourishment, so using probiotics helps them not only transition to the healthy meals they are now receiving, but they become alert and happy and gain some weight.  

Probiotics offer a broad fix for immune system problems, so issues with digestion, skin health, and energy levels can be remedied quite easily.  

How long should a dog be taking probiotics? 

Probiotics are generally safe taken for extended periods of time. Consult with your veterinarian, of course, to determine the right probiotics for your dog’s health. It may take a few days for the probiotics effects to be clear.  

In my experience, I have used probiotics as needed, and when the complications are resolved, I stop using them. I have found that using probiotics with pumpkin also helps when dogs are transitioning foods or have an upset stomach. 

Which probiotics are effective? 

Purina Pro Plan Fortiflora Powder is my go-to probiotic. As a foster, I am getting many dogs in and I have zero idea what they were afflicted with beforehand or what they can or cannot handle. This seems to be a generally accepted probiotic amongst the dogs, and I have yet

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements FortiFlora Probiotic

to have a dog who has not benefitted from this product. Even my own dogs for when they get stressed or after antibiotics, this has been useful. It is also easy to find at any pet store or on Chewy. 

Zesty Paws offers numerous probiotics and supplements that my fosters enjoy. For picky dogs, taking chewables can be difficult; however, Zesty Paws offers a few flavors that even my picky eaters like, such as chicken or peanut butter. Their gut health supplement is pretty useful, but it can be more difficult to find in the store and it is not always rapidly effective like the Purina brand for some dogs.  

These are the two I have personally used, so there may be other brands that are good, or you may disagree with the efficacy of either. The thing with probiotics is that they work best when you find the right fit for your dog and their needs.


Probiotics are a worthwhile product to invest in for a healthy dog. Be it that you have a nervous dog, a dog with seasonal allergies, or a dog who is trying some new food, throw some probiotics in there to keep their stomachs happy and their body sufficient with all the right nutrients that they need. 


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