Specific factors that can disrupt the normal flora of the bowel in your pets include: surgery, medications, antibiotics (especially those used long-term), shipping, birthing, weaning, illness and dietary factors. Improving the nutritional status of the intestinal tract may reduce bacterial movement across the bowel lining, intestinal permeability, and systemic endotoxemias. In addition, probiotics may supply nutrients to the pet, help in digestion, and allow for better conversion of food into nutrients.
Some of the products are: Lactobacillus (L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. thermophilus, L. reuter), Acidophilus, Bacillus, Streptococcus, S. bulgaricus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium, B. bifidus, and Saccharomyces.
Your pet’s intestinal tract has billions of bacteria and yeasts, and some of these internal inhabitants are more helpful than others. Acidophilus and related probiotic bacteria not only help the digestive tract, but also reduce the presence of less healthful organisms by competing with them for the limited space available.
Probiotics produce inhibitory chemicals that reduce the numbers of harmful bacteria and protect your pet from harmful bowel bacteria. They may block the adhesion of harmful bacteria to intestinal cells, and compete for nutrients needed for growth and reproduction by harmful bacteria. They may degrade toxin receptors located on intestinal cells, preventing toxin absorption and damage. They may also stimulate immune function of the intestinal tract.
Many holistic doctors believe that probiotics are helpful and perhaps even necessary for health. They are living creatures, not chemicals, so they can sustain themselves in the body unless something damages them, such as antibiotics.
Cultured dairy products such as yogurt and kefir are good sources of acidophilus and other bacteria. However, many yogurt products do not contain any living organisms or only a few. Some pets will not eat yogurt. Also, if the pet has any lactose intolerance, they may not tolerate yogurt and experience diarrhea. Most doctors recommend supplements to provide the highest doses of probiotics and avoid any lactose intolerance.
Dosages Of Probiotics
Dosages are usually expressed in billions of organisms. A typical daily dose in people should supply three to five billion live organisms. One popular pet supplement provides 500 million viable cells to be given per 50 pounds of weight. The suggested range for pets is 20 to 500 million microorganisms.
Some doctors recommend when administering antibiotics, the probiotic should be given at least two hours later, several times per day, and when the antibiotic treatment has been completed, owners should double or triple the probiotic dose for 7–10 days.
Acidophilus is reported to flourish best if taken in the morning, and Bifidus when taken at night. It is suspected this may follow the diurnal acid/alkaline tide the body utilizes as part of the detoxification process. Regardless of when they are taken, probiotics should be taken when using antibiotic therapy, and other conditions for which these supplements are indicated, such as bowel disorders.
Because probiotics are not drugs but living organisms, the precise dosage is not so important. They should be taken regularly to reinforce the beneficial bacterial colonies in the intestinal tract, which may gradually push out harmful bacteria and yeasts growing there.
The downside is that probiotics may die on the shelf. The container label should guarantee living Acidophilous, etc., at the time of purchase, not just at the time of manufacture.
There is fairly good evidence that probiotics can help with various types and causes of diarrhea. Saccharomyces boulardii, Enterococcus faecium, and Lactobacillus spp have been shown to help prevent antibiotic-induced diarrhea. With Saccharomyces demonstrating the most promise for use in diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile, a common cause of bacterial overgrowth in pets and people. L. reuteri, may help treat diarrhea caused by viral infections in children. It appears regular use of acidophilus can help prevent “traveler’s diarrhea.”
There are no known safety problems with the use of probiotics. Occasionally, some people notice a temporary increase in digestive gas, and the same could occur in pets. If your pet is taking antibiotics, it is beneficial to supplement with probiotics at the same time, and to continue them for a couple of weeks after the course of drug treatment has stopped. This will help restore the balance of natural bacteria in the digestive tract.Fructo-oligosaccharides
In people, it is often suggested that in addition to taking probiotics, patients should take fructo-oligosaccharides supplements that can promote thriving colonies of helpful bacteria in the digestive tracts. FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) are naturally occurring sugars found in many fruits, vegetables and grains. These non-digestible complex carbohydrates resist digestion in salivary and intestinal digestive enzymes and enter the colon where they are fermented by bacteria such Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides spp.
The most beneficial effect of FOS is the selective stimulation of the growth of Bifidobacterium, thus significantly enhancing the composition of the colonic microflora and reducing the number of potential pathogenic bacteria. Lactobacillus, another beneficial bacteria was also seen to proliferate with the addition of FOS supplements. Because FOS increases the colonization of healthy bacteria in the gut, they are considered to be a prebiotic rather than a probiotic.
Taking FOS supplements is thought to foster a healthy environment for the beneficial bacteria living in the intestinal tract. Studies using FOS at a dosage of 0.75 percent to 1.0 percent showed decreased E. coli and increased lactobacilli intestinal bacteria in cats and dogs. The typical daily dose of FOS for people is between two and eight grams. The correct dose for pets has been suggests that one supplement contain 50 mg per dose for a 50-pound dog. Research on FOS showed positive benefits when the dosage was 0.75 percent to 1.0 percent of the food when fed on a dry matter basis.
Always check with your veterinarian before beginning any treatment.
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Shawn Messonnier, DVM
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Shawn Messonnier DVM Past Supporting Member, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and Breast Choices for the Best Chances: Your Breasts, Your Life, and How YOU Can Win The Battle!
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