Can Dogs Take Human Probiotics?

Owning a dog that’s as inquisitive as a 3-year-old kid is hard. I can’t even begin to imagine the endless questions I’d get if they can speak. Literally always wanting to stick their noses into everything. This is why I like to equip my ever-inquisitive pup with probiotics. It boosts his immune system, promotes gut health, and helps firm his stool when he has diarrhea. 

What kind, you ask? Probiotics for dogs, of course. While I know human-grade probiotics are safe to use, my dog won’t be able to get the maximum benefit from them. Here’s why. 

medicine

Dog-specific bugs 

There are several existing natural flora bacteria in your dog’s body. I don’t mean the ‘bad’ bacteria he gets when he sniffs dirty surfaces, but the ‘good guys’ that keep him free from infection. Your pet’s gastrointestinal tract, vagina, oral cavity, respiratory organs, nasal cavity, and skin have these good bacteria. It’s important to know, however, how easy these good bacteria can be outnumbered by the harmful bacteria. Resulting in digestive problems and loose stool. 

Related: How Do I Firm Up My Dog’s Stool? 

Luckily, probiotics can quickly increase these good guy’s numbers. This is why you must give your dog probiotics. But what’s the deal with human probiotics anyway? There are strains of bacteria scientifically proven to benefit dogs. These are: 

  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bifidobacterium animalis
  • Bacillus coagulans
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus

These species-specific strains have been known to help improve stool quality in dogs. Studies show that Enterococcus faecium, specifically, helped improved their gut flora and increased the number of antibodies in their gut lining. Bacillus coagulans also protects our dogs against common digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Unfortunately, not all of these can be found on human probiotics. And while it’s safe to give dogs human probiotics, he’s not getting the best of it. Totally takes away the purpose if you ask me. 

Furthermore, dogs have a pH level lower than humans. This means that dogs produce higher levels of acid in their stomach. That said, using human probiotics might not be as effective as you’d expect it to be.  

pitbull mix dog

Size matters! 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to give your dog human probiotics. But truth be told, it’s not the best option, especially when you have probiotics made for canines. If you need more reason why they are better, this next one might convince you. 

Dogs have different weights. Some dogs are smaller in size. Thus, they require a smaller dose. Large breeds, on the other hand, might need a larger quantity for the supplement to be potent. Plus, most human probiotics come in pill form. This means we take it with a glass of water. And unless your dog doesn’t mind pills shoved in his throat, it might work. However, if your dog is like mine – who spits it out and runs away – you need another plan. 

Thankfully probiotics for dogs come in chewable and powdered form. You can simply sprinkle it on their food or mix it with their water, and voila! You’re done. Additionally, if your dog won’t take the powdered type, the chews are flavored with chicken or beef. Which can be irresistible even for picky dogs. 

Side effects

Usually, there are no side effects to probiotics. But there can be adverse effects when too many probiotics are given. Probiotics can multiply quickly. Causing inflammation and infection. Furthermore, extreme diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting may also occur. In fact, this is another reason why choosing probiotics formulated for dogs is better. Apart from asking your veterinarian for his recommended dosage, you can follow the suggested dose written on the label. 

Signs your dog needs probiotics 

When your dog is sick or going through a stressful situation, it’s easy for the balance between good and bad bacteria to be disrupted. You can expect diarrhea, gas, cramping, and bad breath. According to the American Kennel Club, triggering situations can be: 

  • An infection 
  • Stress such as moving to a new home or losing a home. 
  • A change in diet
  • Old age 
  • Undergoing antibiotic treatment
  • Parasites 

Dogs who have a viral infection, excessively scratching, food allergies, constipation, smelly stool, flaky skin (loss of shine and good texture of coat), or ear infections can benefit from a daily supplemental probiotic. 

dog lying on the floor

Criteria for a good probiotic supplement

When choosing your pet’s supplement, there are 3 things you must keep in mind. 

  1. There should be at least 20 million beneficial bacteria in a serving. This ensures that enough bacteria will survive through the acids found in your dog’s stomach. Remember: the more ‘good’ bacteria there are, the better! 
  2. There should be 10 or more ‘good’ bacterial strains. Each strain does something different. The more bacterial strain there is, the more benefits your dog gets.  
  3. Take note of the expiration date and storage. Probiotic supplements are sensitive products. The live bacteria present in the product may die when exposed to air, moisture, or extreme temperatures. This would make the product useless at this point. Secondly, use the product before the expiration date.

Tip: Freeze-dried probiotics have a longer shelf life than refrigerated or powdered form probiotics. Many commercial dog foods claim to have probiotics in them. But the bacteria strains cannot survive through the manufacturing process and storage. 

Other natural dog probiotics 

If it’s a Monday and you can’t go to the pet store just yet, you might want to look for these probiotic-rich foods in your pantry. They have good live bacteria present that can help your dog -at least until you can buy dog probiotics. 

  • Kimchi (Just make sure it’s not too spicy.) 
  • Raw goat’s milk 
  • Yogurt. Although it’s deemed safe for dogs, there are do’s and don’ts you must know before sharing some with your dog. Yogurts with artificial sweeteners should not be given as they can be dangerous. You can read more of this on Can Dogs Eat Vanilla Yogurt? 
  • Kefir. Get the ones without the sugar. A mix of coconut milk and kefir is a healthy and delicious treat for your pet. 
  • Cottage cheese 

Conclusion 

Human probiotics can be given to dogs. But it’s better (and I can attest to that) to get the probiotics specifically made for our furry friends. While it’s true that they can still get some of the benefits, it won’t be as effective as using dog probiotics. As a fellow pet-parent myself, I understand how we just want our pets to be healthy. But knowing that there is a better option out there that’s safer and more effective, why not? 

I’ve tried it, and it hasn’t failed me. It just might work for you too. 

Becky Roberts

Becky Roberts

One of Becky's favourite things to do every morning is to browse the top pet-related forums, looking for issues and questions that people have. She then shortlists the most common ones, and turns them into blog posts for Fuzzy Rescue. She's had over 4 cats and 2 dogs over the past decade, so she does know a thing or 2 about raising/training, and more importantly, loving them. She's the only one on our team that doesn't like coffee, but it seems to us she really doesn't need more energy :). We're very fortunate to have her on board as she does most of the heavy listing for the site, outputting an insane amount of content each month. Read More

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