How to Choose a Good Probiotic Supplement for Your Dog

Not all probiotics sold for dogs are effective 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 candida; 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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Affiliations to Companies  
✓ None. 
✓ I don't sell food, supplements, or other products.
I'm not aligned with any companies. 
Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld.

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