Dog Prebiotics: What Are They & How Do They Differ from Probiotics?

A dog with it's mouth open

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 everything you need to know about prebiotics for your dog.  

Prebiotic Benefits

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

Digestive Health

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.  

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.  

This is why prebiotics can be an effective tool in preventing and managing diarrhea when it’s caused by bacterial imbalances.  


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, they 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.    

Differences Between Dog Prebiotics & Probiotics

Your dog has billions of bacteria and other microorganisms in their intestines, or 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.  

Should You Add Prebiotics to Your Dog’s Diet?

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, they may be helpful for dogs who have suppressed immune systems or a sensitive digestive system. Canines on antibiotics can also benefit from them. 

If you’re unsure about giving prebiotics to your pet, ask your veterinarian. 

Foods That Contain Prebiotics

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

  • Pumpkin 
  • Beet pulp 
  • Lentils 
  • Beans  
  • Peas 
  • Flaxseed 
  • Raw oats 
  • Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) 
  • Sweet potato 
  • Chicory Root 
  • Inulin 

Prebiotic Supplements for Dogs

Again, consult your veterinarian if you think prebiotic supplements for dogs might be right for your pet. 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. 

Also, when selecting a product, remember the supplement industry is unregulated. 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. 

Supplements are often found in the form of chews or meal toppers. When searching, it may be easier to look for probiotic supplements that contain prebiotics, although you don’t necessarily need both.   

Additionally, keep in mind 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.  

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. Talk with your veterinarian about recommendations for your specific pet. 

Want more dietary and health tips? Learn what our experts think on our Pet Expertise page.  

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