Choosing The Best Probiotic For Upset Tummies

A brown dog and tabby cat cuddling together by a sunny window

Having a stressed or sick pet is concerning, especially if diarrhea, gas, and digestive issues are present. A probiotic could ease those digestive issues, but there are some considerations that an owner should be aware of before choosing one.

Dr. Emily Gould, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, explores reasons for using probiotics and what makes a probiotic more effective.

Probiotics are supplemental, live bacteria found in certain foods or pills that generally improve gut health when there is too much harmful bacteria present. This irregularity of bacterial imbalances can be caused either by an intestinal disease or following the use of antibiotics.

For example, when a pet visits the veterinary clinic because of an illness, a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to treat an infection. In addition to eliminating the bacteria making your furry friend sick, the antibiotics can also decrease beneficial bacteria, causing an imbalance in the digestive tract. Your pet may experience diarrhea as a result.

“The purpose of administering a probiotic would be to replenish ‘good bacteria’ in the pet’s gut in order to restore a healthier intestinal gut ecosystem, correcting the imbalance,” Gould said.

Because there are limited studies on probiotics in veterinary medicine, it can be difficult to decide which supplements are beneficial. The range of probiotics available offer different varieties, types, and amounts of good bacteria; while researching the best probiotic can take time, it will also benefit your pet in the long run.

“There are a few products that either have studies to show it benefits our veterinary patients, or veterinarians have enough experience with them to know they provide benefits,” Gould said. “For example, we think of probiotics with more different types of bacteria as being more balanced and in general ‘better’ probiotics to give. Increased diversity of good bacteria is associated with a better product.”

Probiotics should not cause any side effects as long as they are purchased from a reliable company that is known to be safe for pets, explained Gould.

For those whose pets are going through an elimination diet trial, a strict diet that slowly reintroduces foods to determine a pet’s allergies, Gould recommends looking at a probiotic’s label to make sure there is no flavoring. Probiotics from a reputable company will be of good quality and not have flavoring contamination.

“Many probiotic products will have animal protein flavoring or just not have good quality control during product manufacturing which can result in contamination,” Gould said. “This can definitely confound the effects of your food trial.”

Gould pointed out, however, that probiotics are supplements and will not treat other health issues. If there is chronic or severe vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in appetite, pet owners should take pets to their veterinarian to discuss the best solution.

“Although cats and dogs with chronic intestinal disorders might have symptoms that benefit from the probiotic, owners should know that probiotics are usually not a sole treatment,” Gould said. “Other diagnostics and therapeutics are usually necessary to find the root of the problem and treat it.”

Nevertheless, Gould says probiotics are great for pets with tummy troubles.

In the event your furry friend is having a tough time with their gut, talk to your veterinarian about different types of probiotics as a possible solution so that your pet can get back to feeling like themselves sooner. They might even thank you with a wagging tail!

Pet Talk is a service of the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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