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Prebiotics for Dogs: What are They and What Do They Do?

Table of Contents


At this point in our #adulting lives, we are all familiar with the tales of probiotics and "good" bacteria for your gut health. Better yet, if you are really in the know about healthy gut flora you might even know a little something about prebiotics. However, did you know that prebiotics and probiotics are just as important to your dog's gut health as they are to yours? In this article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about prebiotics for dogs.

Table of Contents:

  • What are Prebiotics for Dogs?
  • The Benefits of Prebiotics for Dogs
  • Probiotics vs. Prebiotics for Dogs
  • How to Give Your Dog Prebiotics
  • Probiotics for Dogs
  • How to Optimize Gut Health for Dogs

What are Prebiotics for Dogs?

Prebiotics are made up of organic matter that is fermentable, soluble, and fibrous. Many foods naturally contain prebiotics, such as pumpkin, sweet potato, and garlic.

When consumed, prebiotics remain undigested as they migrate down into the colon. Once in the colon, prebiotics naturally ferment and transform into short-chain fatty acids, or "SCFAs". Finally, SCFAs help to stop the growth of "bad" bacteria, all the while promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.

The Benefits of Prebiotics for Dogs

Banishing the "bad" bacteria, and encouraging the growth of "good" bacteria - now that is a picture-perfect win, win situation. By actively maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the GI tract, prebiotics are integral in creating gut flora homeostasis. 

When properly administered with probiotics, prebiotics have the power to work all sorts of wonders in your doggie. Such as:

  • Energizing colon cells and promoting fluid and electrolyte balance. Translation: smooth moves and healthy bowel movements!
  • Curating overall intestinal health
  • Help to improve certain seasonal allergies or digestive issues
  • Reducing inflammation throughout the body
  • Improving cognitive function and general behavior

Clearly, prebiotics pack a pretty effective health punch.


Probiotics vs. Prebiotics for Dogs

If probiotics were Batman, prebiotics would be his trusty sidekick, Robin. To enumerate, probiotics plant healthy bacteria in the gut and prebiotics help that bacteria grow and flourish.

Specifically, probiotics represent the beneficial bacteria side of the gut health showdown. Probiotics are healthy bacteria like Bifidus spp, Acidophilus, or Bacillus. These good-for-you bacteria help digest food, boost immunity, and help to stop villainous bad bacteria like E. Coli from causing any mischief.

How to Give Your Dog Prebiotics

As previously mentioned, prebiotics are found naturally in a number of foods. Such as:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Beet pulp
  • Cooked yams
  • Garlic
  • Leafy green veggies (Dandelion greens are the best!)
  • Apples
  • Bananas

This list specifically details prebiotic-enriched foods that are safe for canine consumption, specifically. Only one item on the list has a specific dosage: garlic. Give your dog up to 1 teaspoon of garlic daily, per thirty pounds of body weight. Additionally, stick to organic, U.S. sourced garlic for optimal results. 

All of the other fruits and veggies on the list can be given daily mixed in with your dog's regular food, as a stand-alone prebiotic-packed healthy snack!

Probiotics for Dogs

To reiterate, prebiotics are designed to boost the effectiveness of the real gut-health star: probiotics. Therefore, in order to maximize prebiotic performance, it essential to administer canine probiotics in tandem.

Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs

Especially when paired with effective prebiotics, probiotics can work wonders in your dog's body. Specifically, probiotics have the power to:

  • Promote homeostasis in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Support maximum nutrient absorption and healthy digestion
  • Reduce upset stomachs, and general stomach discomfort
  • Encourage healthy, normal bowel movements
  • Boost immune system functionality and health

Unfortunately, many commercially available dog foods do not have the probiotics and nutrients that dogs need to thrive. Fortunately, with the rising popularity (and effectiveness!) of canine holistic wellness, there are a number of natural probiotic supplements for dogs available.

Where to Get Probiotics for Dogs

As humans, we eat certain yogurts to boost our probiotic intake. Dogs, on the other hand, get more health benefits from adding natural probiotic supplements into their daily health plan.

When shopping for a canine probiotic, it is essential to only select supplements that are free of wheat, soy, dairy, steroids, preservatives, and chemicals and made especially with dogs in mind. We are thrilled to report that Pet Honesty's Probiotic passes this rigorous test with flying colors. Better yet, Pet Honesty's probiotic utilizes the power of digestive enzymes and 6 billion CFU's (colony forming units aka "good" bacteria) - that is more than twice the amount competitors offer!


How to Optimize Gut Health for Dogs

In addition to the intake of canine probiotics and prebiotics, there are a number of other ways we can help encourage a healthy digestive system in your dog.

1. Nutritionally Balanced Diet

When it comes to digestive health, the saying "you are what you eat" is worth its weight in kibble. For decades, the norm in dog diets has been giving a couple of scoops of the same commercial dry food every day for years. However, nowadays more research is surfacing that dogs are not getting enough nutrients from this type of diet.

So what should your dog's diet look like? Shopping for dog food in your local store or researching food online can be endlessly overwhelming. Your options are exhausting: freeze-dried raw, grain-free, salmon, turkey, boar... the list goes on and on. 

At the end of the day, the answer is simple: there is no one-size-fits-all diet for dogs. Like people, every dog is unique and therefore has different nutritional needs based on things like breed, size, age, and previous medical history. Therefore, it is best to consult your vet about what diet plan would best serve your dog's overall health.

Switch it Up

When it comes to gut health, specifically, it is a good practice to switch up your dog's primary protein source every couple of months. This practice does two things: 

  1. Ensures that your dog is getting the widest range of healthy nutrients (different proteins = different nutrients)
  2. Helps detect and reduce seasonal allergies. Interestingly enough, eating the same food for too long can actually cause your dog to develop an allergy to that protein

However, you must take it slow when switching out your dog's food. If you flip flop protein sources too suddenly, it can cause gastrointestinal distress and upset stomach. Therefore, opt for a gradual shift in foods. Slowly work the new food into the old food, little by little, until the old food is gone.

2. Exercise and Play

In terms of staying healthy, exercise is imperative to canines. In general, a lack of exercise leads to the build-up of excess fat. As a result, the entire body is impacted. For example, bones and joints undergo more pressure than they are built to carry, causing discomfort in joints. 

Fortunately, exercising your dog is not only easy, but it is also fun! Here are just a few ideas for getting fit with your dog.

  • Going on a brisk walk and exploring a new part of your neighborhood
  • Hiking around a local trail
  • Perhaps running or jogging (work your dog up to this)
  • Throwing a ball or frisbee at the dog park
  • Joining a doggie playgroup

The exact amount of time and intensity of exercise will depend on your special pup's individual needs. Talk to your vet today about how much exercise is ideal for your sweet dog.


3. Avoid Harsh Medications

Broadly speaking, medications such as antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) tend to be short term solutions. To enumerate, these medications are effective at addressing the issue at hand, but they are not a long term solution. Unfortunately, when administered over long periods of time, some medications can do more harm than good.

In terms of gut health, antibiotics are specifically formulated to kill off harmful bacteria. However, they also kill off good bacteria that is essential to a healthy gut as well. 

At the end of the day, always talk to your vet about your options when it comes to a wellness plan. In the event that prescription medication is the only option, be sure to supplement your dog with added probiotics to help balance gut flora.

Prebiotics for Dogs: In Closing

The canine body, just like the human body, is a physiological marvel. When properly functioning, the canine body has the ability to battle illness, self-repair, and maintain a healthy state of homeostasis. However, sometimes the body needs an extra boost of probiotics and prebiotics to work at an optimal level. Talk to your vet today about introducing a healthy regime of probiotics and prebiotics into your dog's health plan. 

From all of us here at Pet Honesty, we wish you and your dog a happy and healthy day full of adventures and snuggles!


Dogster - Prebiotics for Dogs

Whole Dog Journal - How Prebiotics Improve Your Dog's Digestion

Dogs Naturally Magazine - Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

Dogs Naturally Magazine - A Vet's Perspective on Probiotics

Animal Biome - 10 Ways to Shape Up Your Dogs Biome and Digestion

Dogs Naturally Magazine - 5 Steps to Restore Gut Health

VetStreet - How Exercising with Your Dog Helps You Both