Dogs are the most loyal friends a man can have. But they may also get sick with diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems. Having your dog with liquid stools may be an alarming cause of worry, and even more if he refuses to eat as well. So, maybe you’ve heard about the benefits of using probiotics and came up with the idea: Can I give my dog human probiotics? Are they going to help us correct the diarrhea? Are there any side effects?
The difference between human-targeted and dog-targeted probiotics
It may be true that human probiotics and dog probiotics go after the same principle. They are meant to colonize the gut by good bacteria that would protect the gastrointestinal system from harmful microorganisms. They are also made to boost the immune system, which is basically settled in the dog’s intestines. However, the beneficial strains for dogs are not always the same.
The bacteria found in human probiotics are useful in canines, especially the species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Studies have shown that commercial probiotic strains of Bifidobacterium are equivalent to the ones occurring in the dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, they are a good type of probiotic to be used, and it won’t be harmful to your pup.
However, human probiotics are made for humans. We have different bacteria in our gut, in different proportions, and we need specific strains to improve our gastrointestinal health. The same happens with dogs. There are bacterial strains specific for dogs, and you should include them as a part of the solution. These specific strains are Bacillus coagulans and Enterococcus faecium.
Recent studies have analyzed how probiotics with lactid acid bacteria stimulate the immune function in puppies. The results of such studies showed that Enterococcus faecium supplements increases the maturation of B cells, which are important cells for the immune function. Other studies have identified Bacillus species in the colon of healthy dog, as a part of their normal gut flora, along with Streptococcus mitis and other strains. These strains improve the immune system and help with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.
Other strains found in dog probiotics are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Bifidobacterium animalis. These strains are formulated for canines, and you should look for them if you are trying to buy a dog probiotic.
If you’re planning to give human probiotics to your dog, be extra careful with colony forming units (CFU) and your dog’s weight. CFU for humans are okey for dogs only if they are over 40 kilograms in weight. If your pup is less than 40 kilograms you should consider giving him only half the dosage. In general, dogs under 50 pounds can receive up to 3 billion CFUs, and if they are over 50 pounds, you can give them more than that (up to 5 billion CFUs a day divided into two or three parts).
Dog probiotic side effects
Side effects are not common for probiotics because they are a natural solution to their gastrointestinal problems. They do not contain chemicals that may interact with their normal functions, and do not alter any parameter in their health. However, many dog owners have reported a few side effects that you should know before giving your dog probiotics. For example, they may cause excess gass and constipation in your dog, and sometimes they can cause diarrhea. Some have reported allergies to probiotics, and many dog owners experience a transition period –sometimes with even worse symptoms- until the dog’s gastrointestinal system adjusts to this new probiotic bacterium.
If you don’t choose carefully your probiotic sources with the tips and advices we covered above, human probiotics may cause severe diarrhea with dehydration and vomiting. Other side effects may arise from low-quality products coming from cheap brands that do not reach the intestine and are seeded all along the gastrointestinal tract.
You can identify an allergic reaction because it causes itching, swealling of the lips and tongue, difficulty breathing, and other alarming signs. Luckily enough, allergic reactions are uncommon. Systemic infections due to overgrowth are even more uncommon. This happens when your dog’s immune system is very fragile because of malnutrition, disease, and other causes. Bacterial strains grow uncontrollably in the gut and may cross the bloodstream. The blood is meant to have no bacteria, it should be a sterile zone, and even probiotic bacteria can do a lot of harm if they get there. It is a very rare condition, only reported with a few Lactobacillus strains.
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Biourge, V., Vallet, C., Levesque, A., & Sergheraert, R. (1998). The use of probiotics in the diet of dogs. The Journal of nutrition, 128(12S), S2730.
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