Probiotics are safe and support the dog’s overall health. But what happens if a dog eats too many beneficial bacteria? In this article, we will answer a popular question – can dogs overdose on probiotics? 

Simply put, dogs cannot overdose on probiotics as they do not contain directly troublesome ingredients. However, too many good bacteria can upset the dog’s digestive system and cause issues like diarrhea and excessive gassiness. 

Keep reading as we discuss the topic in detail and explain everything you need to know about dogs and high probiotic doses – the considerations and the side effects. We will also say a word or two about the right probiotic dosage for dogs. 

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Are Probiotics Safe for Dogs? 

Yes, when used responsibly, probiotics are perfectly safe for dogs. By responsibly, we refer to using the right probiotic supplement (of high-quality and suitable for the dog‘s needs) and in the right dosage (amount and frequency of use). 

But what are probiotics, and what are their benefits for dogs? Simply put, probiotics are live cultures (mostly bacteria but sometimes yeasts) that provide various health benefits for the host and are critical for keeping the gut microbiome in balance. 

When it comes to dogs, widespread beneficial bacteria and yeasts include strains like:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus 
  • Enterococcus faecium 
  • Bacillus subtilis 
  • Bifidobacterium animalis
  • Saccharomyces boulardii

When someone mentioned probiotics, gut health is the first benefit that comes to mind. However, healthy bacteria do more than supporting the digestive system. Here are some popular benefits of probiotics for dogs. 

  • Healthy and Efficient Digestion. Probiotics support the dog’s digestive system on various levels and enhance digestion, nutrient absorption, and synthesis of vitamins and digestive enzymes. Proper digestion is critical for adequate food intake and weight management
  • Well-Balanced Gut Microbiome. To work correctly, the microorganisms in the dog’s gut need to be in balance. The state of equilibrium is easily disrupted by stress, antibiotics, and GI tract issues. Probiotics support balance by recolonizing the gut with healthy bacteria and yeasts. 
  • Diarrhea Management and Prevention. Diarrhea in dogs, is a common issue that stems from many different conditions and situations. Different probiotic strains have the ability to manage and prevent different types of diarrhea like stress-linked, antibiotic-triggered, and idiopathic canine diarrhea
  • Enhanced Oral Health and Breath. Probiotics have antimicrobial effects and can inhibit the growth and activity of potential pathogens in the dog’s mouth responsible for plaque build-up and gum disease. This leads to improved overall oral health and prevention of bad breath. 
  • Strong and Robust Immune System. Probiotics have a potent immune-stimulating effect. When fed to pregnant mothers, they can increase the immune power of the colostrum resulting in improved immunity and better response to regular vaccination in young pups. 
  • Relieved Skin Disease Symptoms. Probiotics are frequently used in the field of dermatology as they can help relieve several allergy-triggered skin issues like skin irritation, inflammation, and itchiness. They are also helpful for dogs with ear infections. 

Can Dogs Overdose on Probiotics?

While it is possible for dogs to consume too much probiotics, they cannot actually overdose. This is because ingesting higher amounts of probiotics is not directly harmful or toxic. 

Worst-case scenario, dogs that eat too much probiotics will develop mils and transient digestive issues in the form of stomach upset – diarrhea, vomiting, gassiness, and bloating. 

These side effects are not always linked with overdoses and can appear if using low-quality probiotics or introducing new strains of bacteria. Sudden probiotic introductions can also result in adverse reactions. 

Can Probiotics be Harmful to Dogs?

It should be noted that probiotics can make the dog’s symptoms worse before yielding an improvement. It is because the gut microbiome needs some adjustment time before returning to its primary setting. This is not a harmful effect, but it is worth mentioning. 

Although dogs cannot overdose on probiotics, sticking to the recommended dosages is still essential. Namely, accidental overeating on probiotics is not harmful, but continuous overuse can trigger issues. 

If present in excess amounts, the good bacteria may start competing with each other, thus impairing the normal digestion processes. Plus, if a specific bacteria strain overgrows, it can cause a systemic infection. 

Can a Dog have too Much Probiotics?

Yes, giving your dog too much probiotics is possible, but luckily, the scenario is not worrisome. The chances of giving your dog too much beneficial bacteria are greater if using a commercial supplement and natural probiotic sources simultaneously. Or for example, if your dog’s regular food is already enriched with probiotics. 

Therefore, before getting a supplement, check the label on your dog’s food and review whether it contains any probiotic strains and, if it does, in which amounts. Then pay attention to the natural foods you are serving on a daily or regular basis. 

Probiotics are found in abundance in human foods like Greek yogurt and kefir. Since probiotics should always be used in conjunction with prebiotics, do not forget about natural prebiotic sources like cruciferous vegetables, certain fruits, and mushrooms. In addition to supporting the function of probiotics, these foods contain healthy nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

What Dogs Shouldn’t take Probiotics? 

While probiotics support the dog’s gut and immunity, they are not universally suited for all individuals. Namely, probiotics should not be used in dogs with severely compromised immune systems. The same applies to dogs with severe infection or inflammation of the  Gi tract like for example, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

They should also be avoided in dogs with certain chronic diseases. It is best to talk to a vet to see whether your dog’s chronic illness can benefit from this supplement or, in case it cannot, whether the probiotic can be used in conjunction with the dog’s regular medications. 

Finally, probiotics should not be used immediately after surgical procedures. Dogs recovering from surgeries should not be supplemented during the initial recovery period. However, once recuperated, they can benefit from probiotics, especially if using antibiotics for prolonged times. 

Correct Dosing of Probiotics

Just because probiotics are safe and health-boosting, it does not mean they can be used in excess and without considerations. Same as any other supplement, they must be offered in the right amount. 

However, when it comes to probiotics, the term right amount is not set in stone. Every dog has different needs based on its overall health status, size, and weight. 

Generally speaking, dogs need between 1 and 5 billion CFUs per day. The lower ends of this specter are reserved for maintenance purposes and everyday use, while the higher lots are reserved for condition management and occasional use. 

As mentioned, the dog’s size and weight are determining dosage factors too. Smaller dogs do perfectly well with between 1 and 3 billion good microorganisms per day, while larger dogs need more beneficial bacteria, ideally between 3 and 5 billion. 

Before deciding on the right amount of probiotics for your dog, do not forget to check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Each brand clearly lists its dosing instructions on the product label. 

Measurements of CFUs for Dog Probiotics

It is impossible to determine the right probiotic dosage for your dog without understanding their official measuring unit – CFUs.

The abbreviation CFUs stands for Colony Forming Units, and it indicates the number of microorganisms in the probiotic. The probiotic’s label should clearly state the exact amount of all good bacteria included in the product. 

How many Colony Forming Units your dog needs depends on its size and weight and the underlying reason for using the probiotic. For example, lower CFUs are suitable for everyday use and general health maintenance. However, managing a specific issue or dealing with a digestive dysfunction requires probiotics with higher CFUs. 

If the probiotic you are using contains too much good bacteria, you can split the dose and give it in two separate days. On the other hand, if it does not contain enough probiotic strains, you can provide two doses at once. This applies to probiotic capsules and treats, as modifying the dosage is much easier when using probiotic powders. 

Determining the exact number of CFUs for your pet is something you should discuss with your trusted veterinarian. The vet will give instructions on how much probiotic supplements your dog needs and for how long. 

Our Final Thoughts: Can a Dog Overdose on Probiotics?

From healthy gut and robust immune system to decreased risks of urinary tract infections and reduced allergy symptoms – probiotics are an all-around aid for many conditions and illnesses in dogs. Plus, on top of everything, they are natural and safe. 

Considering the nature of probiotics, overdoses in dogs are not practically possible. Ingesting a higher amount of probiotics can cause tummy issues, but they are short-lasting and mild and cannot be classified as an actual overdose. 

To ensure maximum health benefits and zero side effects, invest in a high-quality probiotic for your dog. 

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Katelyn Son