What Are Prebiotics for Dogs?

Updated: 2/12/20242-4 minutes
Dog owner tickles dog’s stomach while dog lays on back

Dog prebiotics play an important role in your pet’s digestive health and immune system. They are a type of plant fiber that supports the growth of beneficial bacteria and flora in your canine’s colon and may help alleviate symptoms related to gastrointestinal (GI) upset.

As a pet owner, you may be wondering if your dog is getting enough prebiotics in their diet.   

Does their dog food already contain them or are supplements necessary? Additionally, what’s the difference between dog prebiotics and probiotics?

To help shed some light on the subject, here’s what you need to know about prebiotics for dogs. 

How Do Prebiotics for Dogs Work?

Prebiotics nourish the healthy bacteria in your dog’s gut, regulate the time it takes for food to digest in the GI tract, and keep bacterial balance in check. (Balance is important because too much unhealthy bacteria can lead to digestive upset and illness.)

Prebiotics are a type of soluble fiber, which means they dissolve in and can help absorb water during digestion. As a result, they regulate the digestive process.

Can Dogs Have Prebiotics?

In many cases, your pet can have foods containing prebiotic fiber for dogs, such as pumpkin, as long as they’re consumed in moderation.

Before giving your dog prebiotic supplements, however, talk to your veterinarian, as they aren’t right for every pet.

Benefits of Prebiotics for Dogs

If you’re asking, “Are prebiotics good for dogs?”, the answer is—yes, they do offer some health benefits.

To understand the benefits of dog prebiotics, it helps to know how they work in your pet’s body.

Digestive Health

Canine prebiotics offer the benefits of fiber for your pet’s GI tract.

Prebiotic fiber supports digestion, particularly in the large intestine, and promotes stool health. It can also be an effective tool in preventing and managing diarrhea when it’s caused by bacterial imbalances.

Immunity

Prebiotics can also stimulate immunity. Your dog’s GI tract is home to roughly 70 percent of their immune system. By amplifying the impact of good bacteria in the tract, prebiotics can help prevent pathogens from affecting the rest of the body.

Additionally, in one study, puppies born from mothers who received prebiotics and probiotics during pregnancy showed strengthened immune systems.

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics for Dogs

If you’re wondering, “What's the difference between prebiotic and probiotic for dogs?”, it helps to understand the role of bacteria in their intestines.

Your dog has billions of bacteria and other microorganisms in their gut, known as the microbiome. This has a significant impact on a pet’s overall health. 

The microbiome protects against illness, aids in immune development and allows for the successful digestion of food. 

When it comes to your dog’s gut health, prebiotics and probiotics work together, playing related but different roles. 

Probiotics are good bacteria that promote balance in the intestines, and prebiotics are food for the natural microflora. 

While they both promote GI tract health, they have some notable differences. Unlike probiotics, prebiotics can be more resilient and able to resist the effects of body temperature and stomach acid (although properly prepared probiotics can do this as well). 

While it’s not necessary for all dogs, a combination of dog prebiotics and probiotics can support a healthy gut. That’s why many foods and supplements aimed at improving digestive health have both. 

Do Dogs Need Prebiotics?

It may be tempting to add prebiotics to your dog’s diet to promote gut health. Before you switch foods or introduce new supplements, though, check the ingredients of the formula your canine currently eats and talk with your veterinarian. 

Most high-quality commercial dog foods contain fibers with prebiotic benefits. If your dog is generally healthy, you may not need to change course. 

That said, prebiotics may be helpful for dogs who have the following conditions:

  • Suppressed immune systems
  • Digestive upset with symptoms such as diarrhea, gas and bloating
  • Long-term antibiotic use

If you’re wondering if your pet would benefit from additional levels of prebiotics, or generally want to know how to add fiber to your dog’s diet naturally, talk to your veterinarian.

Prebiotic Foods for Dogs

Prebiotics are found in foods that contain high levels of soluble fiber such as:  

How to Choose Prebiotic Supplements for Dogs

If you think prebiotic supplements for dogs might be right for your pet, here are some tips to keep in mind: 

  • Consult your veterinarian. They can help you make a determination based on your canine’s overall health, diet and age, and may be able to recommend specific products.
  • Check the ingredients. The supplement industry is unregulated, so make sure the supplement contains a type of prebiotic specifically chosen to improve gut health in pets (human supplements may pose a health risk), and is made by a trusted brand that can verify its claims of efficacy.
  • Consider probiotic supplements that contain prebiotics. It may be easier to look for probiotic supplements that include prebiotics, although you don’t necessarily need both.
  • Prebiotic and fiber supplements aren’t the same. If you’re wondering, “How do I get more fiber in my dog’s diet?”, know that prebiotic supplements may have different effects than fiber supplements. The latter can have more fiber than your dog needs. Excessive soluble fiber may lead to loose stools. Meanwhile, too much insoluble fiber can act as a laxative.

How to Supplement Your Dog’s Diet With Prebiotics

If you want to add more prebiotics to your pet’s diet, dog digestion supplements can be a good option, especially if they contain ingredients like pumpkin and organic fiber. Some supplements are available as chews while others come as a meal topper or powder that you can add to your pet’s meal.

Dog Food With Prebiotics & Probiotics

If your canine’s individual needs call for it, or you want peace of mind about their gut health, you can find dog food with prebiotics and probiotics.

Whether you want to know more about topics like, “What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics for dogs?”, or have a question about a particular prebiotic supplement, talk with your veterinarian.

For more expert tips on caring for your canine companion, explore our other dog health articles. 

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