Beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive tract, probiotics are found in many different varieties. Lactobacillus lives in the small intestine and Bifidobacteria live in the large intestine. Probiotics work to product short-chain fatty acids which stop the growth of harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella.

Probiotics, who are sold as supplements are living microorganisms which are very similar to a dog’s natural bacteria. When there aren’t enough natural probiotics in the body, this can cause these problems in dogs. When a dog is having gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or constipation, probiotics can be rather helpful.

According to Ann Wortinger program chair of veterinary technology at Sanford-Brown College, probiotics work to lower intestinal pH. This helps boost the natural numbers of them in the body. As a result the number of disease-causing bacteria in a dog’s gut is lowered. She says this makes it harder for disease causing microorganisms to establish themselves.

Kara M. Burns, president of the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians says that studies show that a healthy population of gut bacteria is vital to keeping a healthy intestinal tract. Susan G. Wynn, veterinary nutritionist in Atlanta explains, “The gut is the largest immune organ in the body. Gut flora and mucuosa act as barriers against gut pathogens.”  

Mary Ellen Sanders, PhD, a leader in probiotic microbiology says that that canine probiotics have the ability to increase “the activity or numbers of immune cells or cytokines, whose job it is to attack invading pathogens. To put it simply, probiotics are the good bacteria that get rid of the bad bacteria and make it harder for them to come back.

There is a potential for probiotics to help in many ways. They may boost poor immune function, help a bacterial imbalance or to improve the health of the cells in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract which are producing digestive enzymes. Specific strains which are of benefit to dogs include Enterococcus faecium and Bacillus coagulans. Others include various species of Lactobacillus, Acidophilus, Bacillus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium and yeast like Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  

Be aware that some probiotics need to be refrigerated in order to work. What is questionable is how many survive passage through stomach acid into the digestive tract. It is also not known if the probiotics colonize or if they have to be replenished continually. It is recommended to provide probiotics for your pets in powdered form. If they come in a capsule, open them up and mix them in with the food.

Web MD also warns that probiotics that are commercially sold are unregulated. This means that there is no guarantee that they contain the number of probiotics that they are advertised to contain.