Are Probiotics Effective in Treatment of Diarrhea in Dogs?

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For the last several months, Scout has had something going on in his gut. His stomach rumbles and gurgles and he has diarrhea. I’d slowly change his food but the issues returned. One veterinarian suggested feeding Scout live culture organic greek yogurt. Although he loved the taste, the benefits were short lived.

After multiple vet consultations in an attempt to keep Scout out of surgery, I began supplementing Scout’s food with a powdered probiotic. Seems the Acidophilus bacteria in yogurt which aids in human digestion is not the best for doggie digestion. According to Dr. Greg Magnusson, an Indianapolis, Indiana vet who owns Leo’s Pet Care, “Veterinary probiotics that are more effective contain other bacteria, like the Enterococcus faecium found in Fortiflora, or the Bifidobacterium animalis found in Prostora Max Canine.”

So why in the world does a dog need probiotics?

Let’s begin with why this happens. “Many cases of diarrhea in dogs can be explained by an imbalance in the normal bacterial flora found within the gut. Every dog (and every human!) has billions of microscopic organisms in our digestive system that helps us break down and absorb the food we eat. Many different species of bacteria are present naturally in dogs, including E. coli, Clostridium, enterococci, Bacillus, all these different populations. When the levels of each species of bacteria are in perfect balance with each other, food gets digested normally and stools are solid. If the population of those bacteria becomes skewed, for instance if more Clostridium become present and fewer of everybody else, digestion becomes imperfect and diarrhea results,” explains Dr. Magnusson.

So when there is an imbalance in the gut, it needs to return to a beneficial flora equilibrium. This is usually accomplished in three steps. Dr. Magnusson continues, “First, veterinarians will commonly use antibiotics like metronidazole or amoxicillin to kill off whatever is growing in abundance. Then, we will prescribe a probiotic, which is an oral supplement that contains some of the [beneficial] bacteria that are supposed to be in the gut, hopefully encouraging those bacteria to set up shop inside the intestines. Third, we prescribe a highly digestible prescription intestinal food for those brand new bacteria to digest.”

Dr. Ben Ealing medical director of VCA Northwood Animal Hospital in Anderson, Indiana notes dog conditions that are often treated with probiotics are:

  • Stress related gastrointestinal upset
  • Antibiotic associated diarrhea
  • Dietary change or indiscretion
  • Digestive tract bacterial imbalance
  • During Weaning to help establish a healthy gut
  • Immune mediated gastrointestinal disease such as inflammatory bowel disease

Are probiotics effective for dogs?

“While probiotic use is common and success stories abound unfortunately the exact mechanism of action is not well understood and few if any controlled scientific studies have been performed to evaluate their efficacy,” Dr. Ealing said.

But they do work. At least they did in our case. Scout’s tummy is quiet and gurgle free after seven days on the vet recommended probiotic Fortiflora along with a change in diet to a more easily digestible food. Scout has been gurgle and rumble free now for about six weeks and has returned to being his normal, tornado-dog self.

Cindy Dunston Quirk is the Chief Dog Lover at Scout & Zoe’s Natural Antler Dog Chews. Scout & Zoe’s chews are allergy-free and a green, organic, renewable resource created only from 100% naturally shed elk antlers.

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