You know probiotics promote gut health, but does your dog need a supplement for a healthy gut?

Cailin Heinze, V.M.D., M.S., D.A.C.V.N.

Photo: Purple Collar Pet Photography/ Getty Images

Probiotics for dogs have flooded the market as the importance of "good" gut bacteria becomes clearer. Probiotics are the good kind of bacteria, found naturally in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. There has been lots of promising research around probiotics and humans but is the same true for your four-legged best friend?

What does the science say?

The strongest evidence for these supplements so far in pets is for gastrointestinal conditions, diarrhea in particular. (There isn't much evidence yet on probiotic benefits for other conditions or general well-being.)

Studies in dogs show that probiotics can help rebalance gut bacteria and reduce diarrhea caused by stress, as well as shorten recovery time. Promising research is ongoing in animals for more serious gastrointestinal issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Probiotics are typically safe for animals, but check with your vet first to make sure that your pet's condition doesn't require more care.

If probiotics are recommended, keep in mind that not all supplements have the same dose or strains of bacteria-both of which can dramatically alter the efficacy of the product. And because quality control is a known issue (many products don't have the bacteria in the amounts their labels suggest), ask your vet to suggest products that have been tested and confirmed to meet their label claims.

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