I remember, years ago, when that probiotic yogurt was first advertised on television. For me, it was the first I’d heard of “probiotics” or “bacterial cultures” in relation to the food I should be eating. Now, years later, I understand just how important this tiny microbes are to my health. And not just my health, my dogs’ health too!
In our house, we know the value of probiotic foods for dogs, and so we add different things to our dogs’ bowls on the regular.
What are Probiotics (& Why Does Your Animal Need Them)?
Probiotics are beneficial or “friendly” gut-dwelling microbes (bacteria) found naturally in the digestive tract and other areas of the body. There are literally billions of them in the gastrointestinal system of all animals, and they aid in the digestion of food, fight off potential pathogens, make nutrients and vitamins, and boost the immune system. See, they’re pretty important!
Even the World Health Organization encourages us to eat our probiotics, noting that probiotics are “live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
There’s a ton of research on the benefits of probiotic foods for dogs. Studies show that adding probiotics to your animal’s diet can help with all kinds of things, including:
- Stronger digestive system
- Healthier immune system
- Absorption of nutrients
- Increased metabolism and energy
- Better smelling breath
- Healthier weight
Probiotic Foods for Dogs (and Cats)
Probiotics come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can find a bunch of different supplements that provide a range of bacterial cultures (some are better than others). You should be looking for different strains of probiotics to get the most benefits. These strains have the most evidence to support their value in supporting pet health:
- Enterococcus faecium
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium animalis
That said, you don’t have to stick with the supplements. You can also add several different types fo fresh food to your animal’s bowl as well. These are some of the ones we like best:
Rich in live and active cultures, kefir is one of the richest sources of probiotics. Kefir is a cultured, fermented beverage that looks and tastes a lot like yogurt. It’s made using “starter” grains, a combination of yeasts, milk proteins, and bacteria.
Kefir is most commonly made with dairy milk, but it can also be made with non-dairy alternatives like coconut milk, goat’s milk, or coconut water. These are good options if your pet struggles with dairy.
You can find it at your local health food store, or even your local grocery might carry it. Look for a brand that does’t add any sugars, and if you can find organic, that’s best!
How much kefir should you feed? It’s just a food, so you don’t have to be exact, but some good ballparks are:
- Small dogs or cats: 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon per day
- Medium dogs: 1 to 2 tablespoons per day
- Large dogs: 2 to 3 tablespoons per day
Most animals don’t mind the taste, so you can feed it on it’s own or just spoon it over your dog’s meals.
Probiotic-Rich Veggies and Fruit
Some people will tell you that dogs don’t need veggies, but skipping those greens can mean your pups losing out on some very valuable phytonutrients! Plus, some fruits and veggies are great sources of natural probiotics, including:
- Dandelion Greens
Find organic when you can, and add a few bites to your dog’s bowl a few times a week. You can feed them raw, pureed, or steamed works too.
Check this out! Want to know more about health veggies for your furry friend? Check out this post next!
Think sauerkraut here. Fermented veggies are jam-packed with probiotic cultures, making them ideal as a puppy probiotic.
Check your local health food store for options like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), fermented carrots, cauliflower, even fermented beans. But don’t just buy a regular jar from the shelf beside the pickles – check the ingredients! You can also make your own fermented veggies at home – it’s fairly inexpensive and is a great way to use up those food scraps!
You can feed fermented veggies on a daily basis. For a feeding estimate, go with around a half to one teaspoon per 20 pounds of your dog’s weight. Just start out slow, feeding a small amount at first, to give the digestive system time to get used to it!
Probiotic Foods for Dogs: Healthy Gut = Healthy Dog
The vast majority of your pet’s immune system lives in the gut. So, it only makes sense to take really good care of it! Probiotic foods for dogs and cats are a simple way to do this, every day. Get feeding that gut!
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!