Probiotics for Dogs

Probiotics for Dogs

Herein, I am going to examine dogs and their microbiome. However, as you will see, the material holds true for other animals as well, and at the end of this newsletter I will include dosages for cats (and horses) too.

Like humans, dogs also have a microbiome, and also like humans, if their ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria shifts too far in the wrong direction, a variety of illnesses can arise. This bacterial imbalance can result in anything from simple diarrhea to more serious ailments, ailments which include chronic skin infections, diseases of the oral cavity (gingivitis, halitosis, tooth loss), IBS, upper respiratory infections, and vaginitis.  And, as with humans, when a dog has a healthy microbiome, not only are these ailments avoided, but the animal experiences optimal energy and vitality, due to the improved absorption of nutrients from the food that passes through the gastrointestinal tract.

Bacterial Strains Appropriate for Dogs

It turns out that many of the strains suitable for dogs are also strains found in the human intestinal tract. (Even Bifidobacterium animalis, however the name might sound, is found in humans, and is of benefit to them.)

There are four probiotic strains most commonly recommended for use in dogs, and they are as follows:

  • Enterococcus faecium: helps protect dogs from pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli, salmonella, and shigella; treats diarrhea and antibiotic-induced diarrhea; supports immune function; increases colonization by other good bacteria (particularly lactobacilli, and bifidobacteria).
  • Bifidobacterium animalis: resolves canine diarrhea due to unknown causes (“idiopathic”); prevents and reduces infection and inflammation.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: commonly prescribed to both humans and dogs for recolonizing the GI tract following antibiotic use, and to treat diarrhea resulting from antibiotics; produces a bacteriocin in the gut which has antibacterial and antifungal properties; protects against salmonella and campylobacter jejuni, a type of food poisoning that can cause cramping, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
  • Bacillus coagulans: This strain I will cover in more detail than the others.

Why am I focussing on B. coagulans? Quite frankly, because we at NutriStart sell a B. coagulans product (LactoSpore). But, more than that, B. coagulans, unlike the other strains, is a spore, and is not technically a probiotic which is bacterial in nature. This means it functions much more like a prebiotic, and, as I’ve discussed endlessly in these newsletters, it will rebuild an ideal microbiome in people, or animals. When we take a single strain of probiotic, or even a mix of strains, we are just guessing as to which bacterium each unique microbiome requires.

Certainly, the above mentioned three bacteria (E. faecium, B. animalis, L. acidophilus) have proven clinically effective at treating the conditions discussed. Four other species, also found in appreciable amounts in the microbiome of healthy dogs (L. rhamnosus; L. fermentum; L. reuteri; and L. salivarius), are also capable of improving intestinal health in dogs, and can be used prophylactically or therapeutically. However, B. coagulans alone can do everything that the other individual species of bacteria can do, and more, since it will increase the amount of all of these bacteria in the gut.

Bacillus Coagulans

As indicated by this opening to a clinical review, B. coagulans has a long history of effective use in the field of animal husbandry (“the science of breeding and caring for farm animals”): “In recent decades, probiotics have attracted widespread attention and their application in healthcare and animal husbandry has been promising. Among many probiotics, Bacillus coagulans (B. coagulans) has become a key player in the field of probiotics in recent years. It has been demonstrated to be involved in regulating the balance of the intestinal microbiota, promoting metabolism and utilization of nutrients, improving immunity, and more importantly, it also has good industrial properties such as high temperature resistance, acid resistance, bile resistance, and the like. This review highlights the effects of B. coagulans in animal husbandry and its underlying mechanisms.”     (Study)

Approved for veterinary use by the European Union, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, over a decade ago,  B. coagulans is regularly given to livestock to improve overall health, and to female cows, pigs and poultry to prevent yeast infections from harming their reproductive systems.  So, while B. coagulans will be helpful for all your farm animals, it has also been specifically studied for its use among dogs, as this study illustrates: “Evaluation of graded levels of Bacillus coagulans on apparent nutrient digestibility, stool quality, and intestinal health indicators in healthy adult dogs”.

Veterinary practitioners use B. coagulans for general digestive problems in dogs (and other animals), as well as to treat antibiotic-caused and infectious diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s disease, C. difficile, and ulcerative colitis. Although B. coagulans promotes the production of lactic acid (which encourages the colonization of other good bacteria), it is not a lactic acid bacteria. Unlike lactobacillus (a lactic acid bacteria), B. coagulans form spores, which distinguishes it from lactic acid bacteria. “To veterinarians examining bacteria cultures taken from sick dogs, this is an important feature that facilitates diagnosing and treating illnesses involving the GI tract.”      (Source)

I believe the point being made here is that, if we give dogs a probiotic supplement that contains lactic acid bacteria, and the dog needs medical examination, that externally provided bacteria will skew the results of fecal analysis. There may be an indication of the presence of more lactic acid bacteria than are usually present, when the animal is not taking supplemental probiotics. With the use of spores, there will be no influence on the determination of which bacteria are thriving or diminished in the dog’s microbiome.


I will close with recommended dosage for pets. Fortunately, on a website reviewing veterinarian drugs I was able to find the appropriate dosage of B. coagulans for dogs (and two other animals). By coincidence, our LactoSpore Supreme has the same weight (133 mg), and same Colony Forming Units (CFU’s) per capsule (2 billion), as the Thorne Research veterinary product.

These are their directions for use:

Cats: 1/4 capsule daily

Dogs: 1 capsule per 25 lbs body weight daily

Horses: 4-8 capsules daily

CAUTIONS: “Safe use in pregnant animals or animals intended for breeding has not been proven. If animal’s condition worsens or does not improve, stop product administration and consult your veterinarian.”

While B. coagulans is resistant to damage from stomach acid, I still generally recommend that it be taken away from animal protein (which elevates stomach acid more than all other foods). If it is not possible to get it into your animal without mixing it into food, don’t worry, it will still be of value, since in most animal studies it was included in their feed.

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