Thursday, 17 May 2012

How to Choose a Good Probiotic Supplement for Your Dog

Not all probiotics sold for dogs are affective or safe for your dog. Probiotic supplements for dogs are not considered a drug - as such, in many countries, including Canada and the USA probiotics are not regulated. 

Manufacturers are free to do as they please and many do - cutting corners to increase profit leaving ethics far behind. Impurities can make their way into product and that the product may not even contain live, or enough species and strains of viable bacteria to have an beneficial efficacy. Attractive labels are not an indication of quality, nor is price. To protect your dog and spend your dollars wisely you need to know how to select a truly good product. So let’s take a look at what you should be clearly identified on the product label or available through inquiry with the manufacturer...
You need to know what probiotics are included in the product. Each species and strain should be noted. So you know what to look for here is an example - remember a good supplement should have at least 10 such strains.

For this example we will use Lactobacillus acidophilus. 

  • Lactobacillus is the genus;
  • acidphilus is the species, and; 
  • DDS-1 is the strain.

The product should include at least 10 of the above examples. The more strains the better as diversity will ensure that the good flora in your dog’s GI tract is varied enough to protect against all of the bad strains of bacteria. Research has shown that to achieve truly beneficial results the presence of at least 10 strains is required.

Here are a few examples of why diversity in strains is so important…
  • L. plantarum fights viral infections, cancer;
  • L. salivarius fights fungal infections such as candidia; helps the digestive system break down undigested protein and detoxifies the GI tract, may prevent colon cancer;
  • Lactic Streptococci protects against colitis and IBD (irritated bowl disease);
  • Lactobacillus caucasicus fights diarrhea;
  • Lactobacillus GG (L. rhamnosus), protects against respiratory illnesses, treats candida, colitis and diarrhea, reduces stress and anxiety.
CFU (Colony Forming Units)
The label should identify:
  • The number of CFUs (live microorganisms) per gram;
  • The number of CFU’s per serving;

What Are CFUs?
CFU is an acronym for colony-forming units, which are a scientific measurement of the viable microbes (bacteria) in a probiotic. .

Affective CFUs per Gram
Make sure that the supplement you purchase contains at least 20 million CFUs per gram - a product that contains billions of CFUs is however more desirable.

Probiotics (good bacteria) live and provide their beneficial function in the large intestine. In order to reach the large intestine the bacteria must pass through the very acidic environment of the stomach and small intestine. During this journey some of the bacteria die, but most do survive. In order to ensure that enough of the bacteria make it to the large intestine a dog needs to ingest billions of viable (intact and fully functioning) bacteria. The number of live bacteria is measured as the number of colony-forming units - commonly noted as CFU per gram of probiotic.

If the product labelling lists the CFU’s in scientific lingo you may see this:
One million CFUs/gram will be noted as 1 x 106 CFU;
One billion CFUs/gram will be noted as 1 x 109 CFU.

Suggested daily serving/dosage size
The label should clearly provide directions regarding daily serving/dosage of the product.

Health Benefits
An explanation of what the product can do for your dog

Best Before Date or Expiration Date
If the product label does not have an expiration date do not purchase it. Viable live bacteria do have a shelf life and you need to know when the product is no longer at maximum efficacy. If no expiration date is provided it is a pretty good indicator that the probiotics in the supplement are not really probiotic!

Required Storage Conditions
Where the product should be stored to ensure maximum survival of the probiotic

Corporate Contact Information
Who manufacturers the product;
Who to contact for additional information.

Does The Product Meet or Exceeds GMP Requirements
Just because a manufacturer says the product is probiotic does not mean that it is a probiotic. Some products labelled ‘probiotic’ do not include any clinically validated strains. Tests carried out on multiple products have revealed that many manufactures and retailers are selling probiotic supplements that do not include ingredients as noted on the product label and/or include dangerous contaminants. To make sure you are purchasing quality, look for products that meet or exceed the ‘Good Manufacturing Products’ (GMP) ISO Requirements. This may not be noted on the label, so you may have to contact the manufacturer or look on-line. 

And One More Thing That You May Want To Consider... 

Avoid purchasing supplements from manufacturer’s that do invasive and harmful testing on dog’s and other animals. Many pet food and pet pharmaceutical companies carry out invasive and lethally harmful testing of their products on dogs and other animals. Do your research and purchase a quality product that has not been developed at the cost of dogs’ lives. As an example, Ralston-Purina, the manufacturer of Forti-Flora routinely do invasive and harmful testing on dogs after which they kill many of the dogs they test their products on. 

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld 


  1. Thank you so much. You made this so much easier for me. I have been reading and reading and looking at labels and I still couldn't figure out what was good or what wasn't as good as they claimed.

  2. Is it wrong to give dogs probiotics formulated for humans?

    1. Probiotics formulated for humans are no different than those formulated for dogs -yes, you can give your dog a human-grade probiotic

  3. Thank you so very much for writing this article. My scnoodle Louie was recently diagnosed with Acid Reflux and I'm looking for ways to treat this without him having to take Pepcid AC and Prilosec, etc. I was wondering if you knew if Nusentia Miracle Probiatic was a quality product. I saw a lot of great reviews for Nusentia on I'm between Nusentia and Mercola. Any information would be greatly appreciated!!

    1. Hi Rachel,

      When dealing with such situations it is very important to address the issue on two fronts #1 the immediate symptoms and #2 the root cause. Read my article on Acid Reflux (GERD) it will provide you with extensive information regarding holistic treatment and remedy for Acid Reflux

      Probiotic is only one of the elements that needs addressing in Louie's diet.

      If you address this properly there is no need to put him on conventional drugs that will actually cause further damage to his health. BTW - Prilosec and Pepcid AC both contain ingredients that are not good for your dog's health...

      glyceryl monostearate, magnesium stearate, polysorbate, sugar spheres,crospovidone, dextrose, xantham gum

      Cheers, Karen

  4. Are you familiar with TotalBiotics at, by ND John R. Taylor? I am in Canada, and have to ship from the US, which is expensive...I want to order his enzyme supplement, and can't afford to ship two products from the US, and thus, would like to use his probiotics as well (as opposed to Mercola's). Thoughts? Thanks tons!

  5. Thank you very much. One more quick question. If I use goldenseal, calendula, or echinacea (I've been reading; I love your site), at the same time as I use a probiotic, will the herb kill the friendly bacteria? Should I feel the two at different times? Thank you so much,

    1. No the herbs will NOT kill the beneficial microbes

  6. I am the proud momma of an amazing boxer. So well behaved, so friendly, so lovable. We've had problems with his eating since we got him 7 months ago. We finally got him on a dry kibble that he eats but it seems like he eats to survive and doesn't really LOVE his food. Your blog has made me want to try to do homemade meals for him because of all the detailed information you provide. So for that, I just want to say thank you. Anyways I'm living in Germany and the way they love their pets here I imagine I could find a really good probiotic at one of the pet stores here but not being able to read the label makes me a little sketchy about it. Is there a probiotic you highly recommend that I could order off amazon?

    1. Girl - you are in the place where sauerkraut originated - fresh sauerkraut is a power-house of probiotics :>) Your Boxer might like to eat it. Look to purchase Dr. Mercola's 'probotic for pets' on Amazon.

      Cheers, K

  7. Hello Karen, I bought Dr. Mercola's probiotic but my dog turns away from his food now when I add it. Do you have any tips/tricks to get him to eat his food WITH the probiotics? :)

    1. Mix the serving of probiotics with all-natural human food-grade peanut butter or natural raw unpasturized honey and then add to the food

  8. Hello Karen, when using human grade probiotics, how can you determine the right daily serving size for dogs, based on weight?

    1. Look at the daily recommended dosage for adults found on the product label. 'Adult' is generally 100 lbs or more. Then take your dog' weight and dose accordingly. i.e. - if your dog is 25 pounds the daily dosage is 1/4 of the dosage recommended for adult humans.

  9. WOW :) thank you so much for all this wonderful information. My brothers dog has a UTI, or at least we think she does. She has many of the symptoms. He would much prefer to use natural cure for her. I just happen to have some probiotics that I take that I can she with her. What about using colloidal silver? Would that work for UTI? Thank you so much again

    1. Heidi go to my article on natural treatments for UTIs

  10. Hi Karen. My dog suffers year round with allergies, some food sensitivities I think but mostly environmental. She is a Coonhound so always has her nose to the ground. Is there a particular strain of bacteria I should be looking for? I ususually supplemement with human brands but I have read so many places that there are some bacteria that dogs should have that are not in the ones made for people. I have been looking at Vetri-science and also at Nusentia Probiotic Miracle. They also both have FOS which I think is a good thing? Any suggestions? THANKS SO MUCH!!

    1. Hello Beverlee - if she has year around enviro allergies + food sensitivities you should be doing this

  11. Hi Karen, I just found your site and love it! Thank you for all the information. I wondering if you could help our Australian Shepherd. We live in Illinois and he has seasonal allergies which cause hot spots on his paws, but no where else. The vet keeps putting him on puppy Prozac and Temaril P, which causes him to be very lethargic and gain a lot of weight. I have switched him to a high quality grain free kibble, mixing with Total-Biotics and Total-Zymes by NWC Naturals, as well as mixing in Dinovite. None of which seems to help. I am now thinking I should make homemade food as you suggest. The grain free kibble helps a little, but I am not seeing a huge difference. He is 6 1/2 years old and has had this problem since a puppy. I feel like we are destroying his immune system with all the meds. If you would please advise us what route to try next, I would greatly appreciate it!! Thank you so very much!!

    1. Hi Sheryl, absolutely and unfortunately true - your Aussie-boy's health is being destroyed by the drugs which are life span shortening :(. I do not recommend NWC Naturals Total-Zymes as it contains carcinogens. Dinovite contains hidden toxins and carcinogens and an anti-nutritive. NWC probiotic is carcinogen-free but it is not a very good probiotic as it’s microbe count is low. Its not just the pet food industry that lacks ethics, its pharma and supplement companies as well - sadly so. I would be happy to do a custom designed holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Plan that covers the following:
      Included in your Plan
      Detailed a) guidance b) recommendations c) specifications/options covering the following…
      1. Main Foods and Treats
      a. Custom designed homemade food recipe, and/or
      b. Commercial made food options
      2. Supplementation
      a. Herbs
      b. Nutraceuticals
      3. Short-term treatment (ingested and topical) specified in the Plan
      4. Recommendations for general regular maintenance of long-term health specified in the plan, i.e.
      a. Truly safe natural options for oral, health, fur and skin health, insect and parasite prevention etc.
      5. Please note – I do not sell products nor am I affiliated with any companies – this is intentional so that I can remain 100% objective and truly focused on selecting the best options and solutions for my client’s individual situation. As I do plans for client’s all around the world (Canada, USA, UK, Europe, Asia, UAE, etc.) the options I recommend are carefully selected to be obtainable by you based on your location (in-store and/or on-line as applicable to the specific products, ingredients etc.)

      You can email me if you are seriously interested. Your plan will take multiple hours to put together. To get you started and focused, I prioritize items for you. The plan is very detailed and offers a great depth of information that you can delve into at your leisure after you get going on the priority items.

      I would need some information from you about Diet and Health Regimen and your preferences. This information also helps me to a) identify listed and hidden triggers for current health issues and symptoms; b) helps me to be thorough in cleaning-up existing diet and health regimen; c) enables me build a new diet and health regimen to deal with your dog’s existing toxic load, treat current symptoms via diet (food, herbs, nutraceuticals, alternative medicines) and topical applications; and d) and provide you with relevant information, recommendations for long-term health regimen.

      Your boy will require Plan 5, 6 or 7 - that is something I confirm after I review his information.

      Cheers, K

  12. I have been giving my dog Geneflora for pets for about 3 weeks; she no longer has ear infections and has stopped licking her paws, but she seems to be swallowing more in the evening when sleeping. I have also changed her food (Zignature Duck Formula)as she had developed a severe skin issue; black skin and hair loss in patches on her back with a bit of scratching. She was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism and put on meds for that hoping that her skin will improve. My concern now is the swallowing in the evening. I also give her a plain yogurt snack daily - just a tablespoon. Is it possible to have too much probiotic intake. I'm thinking her fat intake is too high -could that also be the cause?

    1. The probiotic you have her on I would not recommend to anyone. Among the many OTHER issues with the product it contains silicon dioxide - get her off of it!

    2. Hi Karen, I notice on your advice to pet owners that you suggest Dr Mercola's products and I was quite taken back to see on his website that several of his products for pets actually do contain silicon dioxide? E.g, Liver and kidney support, ubiquinol, joint supplement. What are your thoughts on this?

    3. I do not like the majority of Mercola's products as most contain problematic ingredients. Mercola's probiotc is NOT the best probiotic to use, however it is better than most. I actually avoid prescribing his products unless a patient simply cannot get one of the better products I specify.

  13. My 3.5 yr old Shih Tzu/Bichon has acid reflux that mostly rears its ugly head in the middle of the night. Excessive swallowing, gulping, licking and not much sleep happening. I have been giving him a tablespoon of Kefir (which he loves) and also adding the vinegar/herb tincture to his food. I have switched from two feedings to three feedings per day. It's been two weeks without any change. I also give him a bit of chicken broth about an hour before bed...What should I be doing differently. We both need to start sleeping better at night! Thank you

  14. I also forgot to add that he is on a raw diet...thanks

  15. We are on a roller coaster with our blue nose pit, Bleu. He has toe cysts (pustules) and acne type on his chin. little bumps appearing on his head. We have been told allergies or maybe a bacterial infection. 3 rounds of antibiotics and some allergy pills. This last round of strong, expensive antibiotics and no improvement...just maintaining. We do Epsom salt and iodine soaks and some yogurt a couple times of day seems to help (still waiting on allergy test results). Can probiotics help? I am looking at Derma-Ionx. He is down to very basic (not grains) and par cooked pork.

    1. To treat and remedy Bleu's cysts, acne bumps and other skin inflammation the root cause must be identified and addressed. This is not something that your veterinarian has the knowledge or skill to do - most do not, including the 'specialist'. I see this on a daily basis - working with clients that come to me after being to multiple conventional and holistic veterinarians. The more conventional antibiotics, steroids, and drugs such as Atopica Blue is put on the more his health will be eroded, and sadly you end up paying a lot of $ for this, and Bleu is not getting better. I recommend putting your $ towards a real solution for Pibble Bleu - before the veterinarians do any further damage.

  16. I've read rave reviews about Azodyl for KD dogs. It is so expensive though. I wondered what your thoughts on Azodyl were.

    1. I do not recommend nor prescribe it to my patients. Contains Kibow biotics - poor viability and contains

  17. Amanda in Whitby4 November 2016 at 08:05

    Hi Karen, So happy to have found your site, and its Canadian! My 8 year old Saint has had facial swelling and belly hives/itching starting in September. Surgery in October for a head abcess. They never found the source but she has been on 3 different antibiotics, cephalexin, cervadol, tetracycline. We just finished the last of it this week. Switched to wellness low ingredient food. Healing up well from the surgery but persistent red belly and itching, now developing hot spots and biting her back legs. I've been reading up on probiotics and wonder if you recommend one for skin? No GI issues with my dog.

    1. Amanda, if you really want to resolve this and support your girl's long-term health, I recommend

    2. Okay. I will consider this in my options.


Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

2.0 Definition of Holistic…

Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

4.0 Leave a Comment

I review all comments and publish those deemed appropriate for this site.

I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats