Prebiotics, Probiotics for Dogs and Synbiotics

Prebiotics, probiotics for Dogs and synbiotics when used properly can all have a positive impact on your dog's health as the health of your dog's gastrointestinal (GI) tract is essential to his wellbeing. Approximately seventy percent of a dog's immune system is located in his GI tract, and the beneficial bacteria (microflora) that live there play a significant role in fighting disease and infection. Formany years, science has concentrated on killing "bad" bacteria through the use of antibiotics.

But with the negative side effects and antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," more emphasis is being placed on preventing disease by promoting good bacteria. Prebiotics, dog probiotics, and synbiotics are nutritional ingredients that can enhance your dog's health by supporting the good bacteria in his GI tract.


Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that selectively stimulate the growth and/or activity of one or morestrains of beneficial bacteria in the large intestines. Dietary fiber is the most commonly used prebiotic for companion animals.

However, not all fibers are created equal. "For the fiber to act as a prebiotic, it must meet three criteria," says Sherry Lynn Sanderson, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

  • It must be resistant to degradation by stomach acid, enzymes, and hydrolysis.
  • Beneficial bacteria in the large intestines must be able to ferment the fiber.
  • It must be able to selectively stimulate the growth and/or activity of the beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

Sanderson recommends fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a fermentable fiber source proven to effectively increase beneficial bacteria and reduce pathogenic bacteria in the GI tract.

"Prebiotics are a safe, proactive way to improve the health of a dog's GI tract,"Sanderson says. "However, avoid highly fermentable fiber sources, such as citrus pectin, guar gum, and lactulose, which can cause gas or bloating."


Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria that when ingested in sufficient numbers exert health benefits to the host. "To becalled a probiotic, the product must be live and contain adequate numbers of good bacteria (at least 1 billion)," Sanderson says.

But don't share your probiotic with your dog. "A dog's intestinal tract contains different microflora than a human's, so a probiotic that's beneficial for a person isn't necessarily so for an animal," she says. Look for products with beneficial bacteria originating from the GI tract of healthy dogs, rather than from humans.

Probiotics for dogs promote many health benefits, including:

  • Improved stool quality
  • Faster resolution of acute diarrhea
  • Management of stress colitis
  • Stronger immune system
  • Reduced inflammation

"Probiotics are extremely safe," Sanders says. "However, weavoid giving them to dogs with weakened immune systems, such as those taking chronic steroids or undergoing chemotherapy. If the bacteria entered into the bodily systems of these dogs, their weakened immune systems might not be able to cope."


Synbiotics are nutritional supplements that combine prebiotics and probiotics. When taken together, the prebiotic enhances the probiotic's ability to survive in the intestines.

Used alone or together, prebiotics and probiotics for dogs provide a host of health benefits for dogs, and help reduce or eliminate the need for antibiotics.

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