Prebiotics and probiotics for dogs This article is verified by a vet

Prebiotics and probiotics support a heatlhy intestinal flora in dogs

Does your dog have digestion problems and isn't eating? Prebiotics and probiotics can help.

If your dog has digestion problems, then prebiotics and probiotics may be the solution. In this article, we explain how these substances can support your dog’s intestinal health and what you should pay attention to.

What are prebiotics and probiotics?

Prebiotics and probiotics are special food supplements for dogs. They can encourage a healthy gut flora for dogs with digestive disorders or intestinal diseases. However, how this happens depends on the type of supplement:

Prebiotics for dogs – indigestible substances

Prebiotics are compounds that encourage the growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms. Consequently, they make bacteria stronger to enable a healthy large intestine and a happy gut microbiome.

Prebiotics for dogs can only be fed in the form of high-quality dry food or wet food. Prebiotic vegetables like carrots, chicory roots or artichokes are common ingredients. Psyllium, Jerusalem artichoke and apples are also proven to support the intestinal flora.

Probiotics for dogs – living microorganisms

Other than prebiotics, probiotics for dogs are living microorganisms that can rebalance the intestinal flora and help with digestion.

Check out our selection of food for healthy dog stomachs and digestion.

The combination of prebiotics and probiotics is called synbiotics. They combine the positive features of the different substances on an animal's intestinal health. It often makes sense to use this combination, as the active ingredients usually complement each other.

What are the functions of a healthy intestinal flora?

Numerous important bacteria like Enterobacteriaceae live in the almost ten-metre long canine intestine and benefit from prebiotics and probiotics.

Moreover, the intestinal bacteria belonging to the intestinal flora carry out the following functions:

  • As an important part of the immune system, they fight pathogenic germs
  • Forming of vitamin B2, B12, K, which the intestine can absorb through its mucous membrane
  • Splitting of indigestible food particles like fibres and short-chain fatty acids
  • Metabolising certain medications
  • Some bacteria can kill carcinogenic and toxic substances.

The gut flora can die if the intestine is damaged and rendering the large intestine non-functional. Affected dogs often suffer from diarrhoea and nausea. As a result, they lose their appetite and gradually emaciate.

Healthy gut bacteria in dogs © Alex /
Intestinal flora: healthy bacteria in the large intestine.

When is it sensible to use prebiotics or probiotics with dogs?

In this paragraph, we explain how you can strengthen your dog’s intestinal bacteria with the help of prebiotics and probiotics:

If your dog is suffering from diarrhoea or flatulence, you can give it supplements to support the healing process. As the name suggests, antibiotics can harm good bacteria. Therefore, vets recommend the use of pre- and probiotics along with the anti-microbial medicine as they can prevent further damage.

Make sure your dog really needs these supplements. Severe digestive disorders should always be checked by a vet as they can worsen and lead to further issues.

How long must prebiotics and probiotics be administered to dogs?

The administration time and dosage depends on the severity of the intestinal problems:

If your dog’s faeces have suddenly hardened or your dog has diarrhoea, it’s often enough to add the supplements to your dog’s food for a few days to two weeks.

However, if your dog is suffering from a serious intestinal disease (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, IBD), the length of treatment can take several weeks. It’s adviced to clarify this with the vet.

What are the side effects?

Since probiotics are live intestinal bacteria, adding them to food is generally harmless. At most, an overdose can lead to excess bacteria dying.

However, prebiotics for dogs should only be given with caution because bad bacteria can also benefit from them. As a result, the intestinal flora will be further weakened if your dog is deprived of food.

Franziska G., Veterinarian
Profilbild von Tierärztin Franziska Gütgeman mit Hund

At the Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen I was extensively trained as a veterinarian and was able to gain experience in various fields such as small animal, large animal and exotic animal medicine as well as pharmacology, pathology and food hygiene. Since then, I have been working not only as a veterinary author, but also on my scientifically driven dissertation. My goal is to better protect animals from pathogenic bacterial organisms in the future. Besides my veterinary knowledge, I also share my own experiences as a happy dog owner and can thus understand and enlighten fears and problems as well as other important questions about animal health.

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