Probiotics and prebiotics for dogs: what's the difference?

Updated 19 June 2024
Read time: 5 mins
article author
Written by Elle Padgham
Lead Copywriter

Probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics… there’s a lot of scientific words bouncing around in the world of doggy digestive health. How do you ensure everything is running smoothly in your dog’s tum when you’re not entirely sure what defines probiotics from prebiotics, or what they even do?

Probiotics and prebiotics for dogs are integral to promoting harmony in your pooch’s gut. Read on to learn about the important relationship between them both and how to incorporate their powerful gut-protecting attributes into your dog’s diet.


What are probiotics and prebiotics for dogs?


Probiotics and prebiotics for dogs are a nutritional power pairing. Separately, they perform quite different functions, but together they ensure a well-balanced, peaceful environment in the gut by promoting growth of the ‘friendly’ bacteria your dog needs to help digest food, absorb nutrients, prevent disease and maintain a healthy immune system. (1)


Probiotics for dogs


In short, probiotics are digestible, ‘good’ bacteria that help balance the flora of your dog’s gut. Dogs have plenty of probiotics already present in their body, but can often benefit from more. When fed to a dog, probiotics can come as a supplement, as high-quality wet or dry dog food, or as natural whole food. Live yoghurt is a prime example of a natural probiotics source, but vegetables such as carrots or asparagus are also packed with probiotic goodness.


Prebiotics for dogs


Prebiotics are carbohydrate compounds that, unlike probiotics, aren’t digestible by your dog’s body - but actually act as food sources for the good bacteria already present. By supporting the growth of good bacteria, prebiotics help suppress the harmful microbes that make your dog ill, boosting their immunity and overall digestive health. Again, prebiotics for dogs can either be fed in supplement form, as wet or dry dog food, or via prebiotic-rich natural foods such as chicory root, or dandelion greens.


How do pre and probiotics for dogs work?


When your dog has finished a nutrient-rich meal, that’s when prebiotics and probiotics are getting to work to strengthen your dog’s tum…


  • Probiotics are digested, broken down and released as healthy bacteria into your dog’s gut and intestinal tract. If you think of the word ‘probiotics’, that’s exactly what these bacteria are doing - adding to the climate of ‘good’ bacteria in your dog’s digestive microbiome.


  • Prebiotics, contrastingly indigestible to the body, travel unscathed through the dog’s stomach and intestines until they reach the colon. Here they convert into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) and become a source of food for the ‘friendly’ bacteria living there, leading them to strengthen and grow.

Probiotics and prebiotics are a power combo for your pooch’s gut health, which is why they’re often found together in digestive supplements for dogs. How their health-positive features complement each other to benefit the body is known as synbiotics.


dog with bionic biotic supplement


When should you use probiotics and prebiotics?


There are plenty of scenarios for which it’s helpful to give your dog’s gut health a boost in balancing its natural flora. 


  • If your dog is recovering from a bout of gastroenteritis, it's likely their gut flora could do with a surge of good bacteria, as the microbiome of their stomach is often stripped of goodness when your dog has been vomiting or suffering from diarrhoea.


  • Even simple toilet issues, such as diarrhoea or constipation, may be an indicator that your dog could benefit from more probiotics and prebiotics in their diet (2). A healthy gut should result in your pooch pooping regularly and with stools that are not too hard, soft or wet.


  • If probiotics add to the healthy bacteria in the gut, antibiotics do the opposite; killing off all bacteria, including the good stuff, in order to beat an infection. When your dog has been on a course of antibiotics, try supplementing their diet with pre and probiotics to ensure their gut flora is re-balanced and they can quickly get back on tail-wagging form.



  • An increase in dog farts (flatulence) could also be a sign of disharmony in the gut that may require attention. In fact, if you find yourself blaming it on the dog more often, perhaps you could benefit from some pre and probiotics, too…!


How long does it take for pre and probiotics to work in dogs?


It depends on the dog, but improvements to tummy or toilet issues should start to show within a few days of introducing probiotics and prebiotics, and can even cut recovery time in half. If your dog’s digestive condition is slightly more severe, pre and probiotics could take around 4-6 weeks to take effect. If you’re using them as part of a preventative plan, it’s fine to feed your dog pre and probiotics every day. 


Note that not every dog needs a boost of probiotics and prebiotics, as they may be getting enough already through diet. Pre and probiotics for dogs are highly unlikely to cause any harm, but more extensive research is needed on their effect on different dog breeds, ages and health conditions - so be sure to discuss with your vet before introducing them to your dog’s diet.


If you’d like to learn more about doggy digestive health, get in touch with us. To use the power duo of prebiotics and probiotics to get your dog’s gut into tip-top shape, check out Pooch & Mutt’s Bionic Biotic pre and probiotic supplement


  1. JMB‘Microbiota and probiotics in canine and feline welfare’, 2015 - National Library of Medicine.
  2. ‘Efficacy of a Probiotic-Prebiotic Supplement on Incidence of Diarrhea in a Dog Shelter: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial’, 2017 - National Library of Medicine.
  3. ‘The Utilisation of Prebiotics and Synbiotics in Dogs’, Italian Journal of Animal Science, 2014 - Taylor Francis Online.
  4. 'A Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled-Trial of a Probiotic Strain
    Lactobacillus sakei Probio-65 for the Prevention of Canine Atopic
    Dermatitis, 2015 - JMB

Comments (1)

My Jack Russell has IBD we found out after a mid night hemorrhage and almost lost him. He takes 1 steroid every third day and an antibiotic every day which has kept him stable. Your wet chicken food has been a god send but do you think a pro or prebiotic supplement would be than steroids. If we mix a steroid his tummy makes an awful noise and he’s in obvious discomfort. Linda

Linda Smith - Jan 13 2023

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