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By Caroline Fontein, Pet Lifestyle Contributor

Another sketchy stain on the carpet? Oh poop. All-absorbent pee pads are no match for dog diarrhea. But if you’re reading this, you already know that.

While figuring out the source of their loose (and messy) stool may still be a mystery, finding ways to help your precious pup feel better shouldn’t be.

Probiotics can help benefit your dog’s health.

You’re probably familiar with the health benefits of probiotics for humans. These good bugs can also be helpful for your good boy or girl.

What are the health benefits of probiotics for dogs?

Many articles claim probiotics can do everything from help calm irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms to prevent urinary tract infections and digestive issues, regulate moods and behaviors, soothe allergy symptoms and even regulate appetite.

However, the science behind some of those claims isn’t always 100 percent verified. So, as a consumer, it’s important to do your research.

At SmartyPaws, we include probiotics along with green-lipped mussel to support both gut and immune health for dogs. Our ingredients were carefully-selected by a team of veterinarians and some of the top minds in pet health.

Probiotics for gut and immune health

A huge portion of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal tract. The same is true for your dog.

Viruses and bacteria can enter your dog’s body through their mouth. By helping to maintain a healthy balance of probiotics (good bacteria) in their gut, you can help support both your dog’s immune system and a healthy intestinal tract, among other things.

Wondering how to incorporate probiotics into your dog’s healthcare?

First, let’s start with the basics.

What are probiotics for dogs?

Probiotics are different types of live microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast that occur naturally in both your and your dog’s body and in the environment.

Typically, we think of bacteria as a bad thing. But hear us out.

The human body has about 37.2 trillion cells. According to a recent study, the amount of human and bacterial cells in your body are about the same. This means right now you have trillions of bacteria cells inside your body.

Probiotics are considered to be “good” bacteria because they can benefit the body.

Probiotic supplements are a way of modifying the composition of microorganisms in the intestine (aka intestinal microbiota).

Where do probiotics live in dogs?

A large number of microorganisms live on and in the human body with the majority of bacteria residing in the gut.

The same goes for your dog. There are trillions of microorganisms living on your dog’s body.

In fact:

Your dog’s microbiome (ecosystem) is made up of as many as 1,000 different types of bacteria and microorganisms. This live bacteria lives in various parts of your dog’s body.

Here’s where:

  • Mouth and teeth: Forget the dog breath, their mouth and teeth are the first line of defence against viruses and bacteria entering the body. For this reason, your dog’s mouth and teeth are also home to bacteria.

  • Pharnyx: This is referring to your dog’s throat. Good bacteria live here and contribute to your dog’s overall health.

  • Stomach, pancreas and gallbladder: These specialized organs are part of your dog’s digestive system. They’re also home to their enteric nervous system and good bacteria. The enteric nervous system is a system of neurons within the wall of the gastrointestinal tract that help control their digestive system. Probiotic bacteria are an important part of this process.

  • Colon: This is where probiotics are thought to have their greatest effect. It’s up for discussion whether or not probiotics actually survive the long journey to the colon. Either way, their genetic material is still believed to benefit colon health.

  • Anus: Dog poop is one thing, but what you probably didn’t know is that every time your dog has a bowel movement, hundreds of thousands of bacteria, yeast and other microbes are also exiting their body. (Is that what that smell is?) Probiotics help aid in this natural detoxification process.

  • Vagina: Yes, probiotics even live in the vagina. When puppies are first born, they’re exposed to this healthy bacteria as they pass through the birth canal.

What kind of probiotics are for dogs?

The probiotics in food and health supplements are typically the same or very similar to the probiotics that are naturally-occurring in your body and your dog’s body.

So, you can find some of the same probiotic strains used in both human and dog probiotic products.

For example, here at SmartyPaws, we include the probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans in our SmartyPaws health supplements for dogs. SmartyPaws was created by the humans at SmartyPants Vitamins, and they include the same strain in many of their premium supplements for humans.

How do probiotics work?

Science has yet to tell us exactly how probiotics work, but there is plenty of evidence out there to suggest what they can do and their health benefits.

Here are some ways probiotics can help support good health (for both you and your canine cohabitant:

  • Taking probiotics can help replace “good” bacteria that may be lost when you or your pup take certain medications, including antibiotics.

  • Probiotics can help decrease a portion of "bad" bacteria in your gut which can otherwise negatively impact your health.

  • Probiotics produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which can inhibit the growth and activity of harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella.

  • They can also help balance the microflora in the gut and support a healthy intestinal tract.

What’s the best probiotic for my dog?

Just like with human probiotic supplements, probiotics for dogs come in several different forms. Finding the best one for your dog depends on their individual taste preferences, convenience for both you and your pup and a little bit of trial and error.

For example, some probiotic health supplements focus only on gut health. Others, like our very own SmartyPaws chews, can offer multifunctional health support, making them a convenient all-in-one option. Along with gut and immune health, SmartyPaws support hip, joint, allergy, skin and urinary tract health.

Every product claims to do something different. So, you might need to try out a few different supplements to determine which is the best fit for your fur baby. We always recommend checking with your vet for their recommendation.

Here are some different probiotic forms to consider:

  • Yogurt (Yes, the human kind) - Unless your dog is lactose intolerant, he or she can have yogurt, but keep in mind that not all yogurts are created equal and contain probiotics. If you want to give your dog yogurt to help support their digestive health, make sure it has active bacteria. You also want to make sure it doesn’t contain any sweeteners or other ingredients that could be harmful to dogs. We recommend checking with your vet to see what they suggest.

  • Powders - Probiotic powders can be mixed into food. Some claim to disappear when mixed into pet foods.

  • Capsules - Supplements in this form can be masked with a treat. If your dog turns their nose up at pills, capsule supplements can sometimes be opened and sprinkled on food. Look for directions on the package.

  • Chews (like SmartyPaws) - While technically not a treat, your dog might think otherwise. Bite-sized health supplements in this form can be easily administered on their own, making them an easy and safe option for pups who don’t do well with pills.

  • Dog food - There are many dog foods that contain probiotics which can be a good fit if you have a dog with an especially sensitive stomach.

Probiotics and survivability rates

Along with the different forms, there are a few other things to think about when selecting a probiotic supplement for your pup, like CFUs and survivability rates.

What are CFUs?

CFU stands for colony-forming units and refers to the number of live and active microorganisms found in each serving of probiotics. You might see this as a measurement on a probiotic supplement label.

Some brands will claim that their supplements are packed with billions of CFUs. However, if those bugs aren’t stable and can’t survive harsh stomach conditions, then that number doesn’t matter.

You want to look for probiotics with a high survivability which indicates what percent of this healthy bacteria are actually making it to your dog’s gut alive, where they can flourish and support a healthy gut and immune health.

At SmartyPaws, we include naturally-encapsulated probiotics with a 95 percent survivability rate. Plus, their natural microencapsulation makes it so that they don’t need to be refrigerated.

We hope your little one (and your carpet) can find some relief soon. Because life takes guts, even for dogs.

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