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Friday, November 12, 2010

Ask the Vet, with Dr. Pat: A Probiotics Primer for Dogs

by Pat Bradley, DVM 

(c) Carrie Boyko
Probiotics are Good
 for Humans and Dogs Alike

Dear Dr. Pat, 

Probiotics is one of those words that is becoming more common and I still do not know what it means. When I saw it mentioned in an article about dogs I got more curious. What is it and what does it do and where do you get it and how do you use it? 

It probably does not matter what kind of dog i have since he is not sick, but I have a mixed breed from the pound. I am just curious about this stuff and how I might use it with Ozzie if he ever needs it. Thanks.
Sincerely, Annalise
Hi Annalise,

Thanks so much for asking about probiotics.  Although we see the term everywhere, many people, including most veterinarians, don’t really know much about them. Probiotics are living organisms that we swallow in some form or other so they’ll set up housekeeping in our guts.  Sound gross?  It’s not, if you think about it. Living organisms are responsible for such yummy things as bread, cheese, wine, and sauer kraut.  They are also on every square inch of our skin and GI tract, mostly living in invisible harmony with each other.

Probiotic organisms not only help protect us from “bad” organisms, but they help us digest food better.  And good digestion is the basis for good health. “Probiotic” literally means “for life”.  The name may be no accident, for originally probiotics were marketed for people who were taking antibiotics; the literal meaning of “antibiotic” is “against life”.   

Most people seem to have the idea that an antibiotic targets only the “bad organism” that’s causing a problem.  But that’s not true – they affect every part of the body.  Have you noticed how often people or animals get yeast infections or diarrhea after being on antibiotics?  That’s because the drug kills off some organisms, which allows others to grow too much.  “Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile…” Eating yogurt or taking another form of probiotics feeds your GI tract with “good guys”, helping to prevent the others from getting “more than their inch”.

"Eating yogurt is the easiest way to get probiotics"

Eating yogurt is the easiest way to get “probiotic” organisms, most commonly the one named Lactobacillus acidophilus, but there are many others.   You can get high quality organic yogurt at most regular grocery stores these days.  Just make sure it’s unflavored, and the label says something like “Contains live organisms”.  If Ozzie can’t eat dairy products, talk to someone in your local health food store to get advice about some of the other options.  I definitely recommend probiotics if Ozzie is ever on antibiotics, but why wait?  He’ll think yogurt is a tasty treat!  You don’t have to let him know it’s good for him!

Try these yogurt treats from Carrie's recipes:

Yogurt Pupsicles: Dog Treats to Celebrate the End of Summer

(c) courtesy P. Bradley

Have a question for Dr. Pat? You can reach us at

For a personal consultation about your pet's needs, visit Holistic Veterinary Services.
Dr. Pat's opinion or advice does not replace an actual exam with a veterinarian

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