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  • There are several proposed explanations about the mechanisms by which probiotics can protect your pet from harmful bowel bacteria:

    • Produce inhibitory chemicals that reduce the numbers of harmful bacteria and possibly toxin production by these harmful bacteria.
    • May block the adhesion of harmful bacteria to intestinal cells.
    • May compete for nutrients needed for growth and reproduction by harmful bacteria.
    • May degrade toxin receptors located on intestinal cells, preventing toxin absorption and damage by toxins produced by harmful intestinal bacteria.
    • May also stimulate immune function of the intestinal tract.

    Antibiotics can disturb the balance of the intestinal tract by killing friendly bacteria. When this happens, harmful bacteria and yeasts can move in, reproduce and take over. This is especially true in pets on long-term (several months) antibiotic therapy, and for pets with chronic diarrhea.

    Conversely, it appears that the regular use of probiotics can generally improve the health of the gastrointestinal system.

    The use of probiotics for treating diarrhea as well as maintaining health is often controversial. Although many holistic doctors believe they are helpful and perhaps even necessary for health, there is no daily requirement for probiotic bacteria. Probiotics are living creatures, not chemicals, so they can sustain themselves in the body unless something comes along to damage them, such as antibiotics.

    Cultured dairy products such as yogurt and kefir are good sources of acidophilus and other probiotic bacteria. However, many yogurt products do not contain any living organisms or only contain small numbers of organisms.

    Some pets will eat these foods, and others won’t. Also, if the pet has any lactose intolerance, he may not tolerate yogurt well and may experience diarrhea (although this is rare). Most doctors recommend supplements to provide the highest doses of probiotics and avoid any lactose intolerance.

    Various probiotics, while usually producing the same beneficial effects, may function differently within the intestinal tract. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus produces lactic acid to lower the pH of the intestines and acts as an intestinal bacterial colonizer. L. casei lowers oxidation processes, and L. lactis acts on hydrogen peroxide as well as amylase and proteases.

    Dosages of Acidophilus and other probiotics are expressed not in grams or milligrams, but in billions of organisms. A typical daily dose in people should supply about three to five billion live organisms. One popular pet supplement provides 500 million viable cells to be given per 50 pounds of body weight. The suggested dosage range of probiotics for pets is approximately 20 to 500 million microorganisms.

    Some doctors recommend that 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 seven to ten days.

    Another recommendation is that if taking several species of probiotics, Acidophilus is reported to flourish best if taken in the morning, and the Bifidus when taken at night. It is suspected this may follow the diurnal acid/alkaline tide that the body utilizes as a part of the detoxification process.

    The most important thing is, regardless of when they are taken, probiotics should be taken when using (extended) antibiotic therapy and other conditions for which theses supplements are indicated. (As treatment for bowel disorders, for example.) 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 of using a living organism is that probiotics may die on the shelf. The container label should guarantee living Acidophilus, or Bulgaricus, and so on, at the time of purchase, not just at the time of manufacture.

    There is fairly good evidence that many 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.

    Saccharomyces has demonstrated the most promise for use in diarrhea caused by the intestinal bacterium Clostridium difficile, a common cause of bacterial overgrowth in pets and people. Some evidence suggests a particular type of probiotic, L. reuteri, can help treat diarrhea caused by viral infections in children. According to several studies conducted on the subject, it appears regular use of Acidophilus can help prevent “traveler’s diarrhea.”

    There are no known safety problems with the use of Acidophilus or other probiotics. Occasionally, some people and pets notice a temporary increase in digestive gas. If your pet is taking antibiotics, it may be 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.

    In people, it is often suggested in addition to taking probiotics, patients take fructooligosaccharides supplements that can promote thriving colonies of helpful bacteria in the digestive tract. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are naturally occurring sugars found in many fruits, vegetables, and grains. These non-digestible complex carbohydrates resist digestion by salivary and intestinal digestive enzymes and enter the colon where they are fermented by bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides spp.

    The most beneficial effect of fructooligosaccharides is the selective stimulation of the growth of Bifidobacterium, thus significantly enhancing the composition of the colonic microflora and reducing the number of potentially 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 are 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 (dry matter basis) showed decreased E. coli and increased lactobacilliintestinal bacteria in cats and dogs.

    The typical daily dose of fructooligosaccharides for people is between two and eight grams. The correct dose for pets has been suggested as one supplement containing 50 mg 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.

    Other Natural Treatments
    Other possible treatments for parvovirus include aloe vera juice, Boswellia, calendula, chamomile, German chamomile, marshmallow, raspberry leaf, and slippery elm. These can be used in conjunction with conventional therapies, as they are unlikely to be effective by themselves in most pets. The natural treatments are widely used with variable success but have not been thoroughly proven at this time.

    As with any condition, the most healthful natural diet will improve the pet’s overall health.

    Conventional Therapy
    Supportive care includes: antibiotics to control secondary infections, intravenous fluid therapy, force-feeding, replacement of serum protein when needed, and medications such as corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to control inflammation in the intestines.

  • Parvoviral infection, caused by canine parvovirus 2 (CPV-2) commonly affects young puppies. Kittens and cats have their own parvovirus that causes panleukopenia. However, vaccination is so effective that this disease is very rarely seen. Clinical signs are usually seen five to twelve days after the puppy is exposed to infected feces. The signs seen depend on the virulence of the virus, the amount of virus ingested, and the breed of puppy infected. Certain breeds such as Doberman Pinschers, Rottweiler’s, Pit Bulls, and Labrador Retrievers may be more severely infected than others. Signs seen include depression, lack of appetite, and vomiting, followed in 24 to 48 hours by diarrhea (often bloody). Diagnosis is made on clinical signs and testing of the feces for the virus.

    Principal Natural Treatments

    Homeopathic Nosodes
    Nosodes, a special type of homeopathic remedy, are prepared from infectious organisms, such as distemper virus and staphylococcus bacteria. Remember that no matter what the source of the remedy; the actual ingredients are diluted in preparing the remedy. No measurable amount of the original source for the remedy remains, only the vital energy or life force, which imparts healing properties to the remedy. No harm will come to your pet regardless of the toxicity of the original compound used in the preparation of the remedy.

    But, do nosodes work? Some doctors prefer nosodes manufactured by specific homeopathic pharmacies as they feel there is a definite difference in the ability of nosodes to stimulate the immune system. In their opinions, the manufacturer of the nosode is important and some vaccination nosodes work better than others.

    To prevent disease, nosodes are supposed to work in the same manner as conventional vaccines, namely by stimulating antibodies to fight off infections. To treat disease, nosodes have been reported to control outbreaks of infectious disease in animals in a kennel situation. Homeopathic veterinarians have reported success in some patients when treating infectious disease with nosodes.

    Glutamine or L-glutamine is an amino acid derived from another amino acid, glutamic acid.

    There is no daily requirement for glutamine, as the body can make its own. High-protein foods such as meat, fish, beans, and dairy products are excellent sources of glutamine. Severe stresses may result in temporary glutamine deficiency.

    Glutamine plays a role in the health of the immune system, digestive tract, and muscle cells, as well as other bodily functions. It appears to serve as a fuel for the cells that line the intestines (it serves as a primary energy source for the mucosal cells that line the intestinal tract). Because stress on the intestinal cells that can occur in parvovirus infection can increase the need for glutamine as the body replaces the cells lining the intestinal tract, glutamine is often recommended for pets with parvovirus.

    It has also been suggested as a treatment for food allergies, based on the “leaky gut syndrome.” This theory holds that in some pets, whole proteins leak through the wall of the digestive tract and enter the blood, causing allergic reactions. Preliminary evidence suggests glutamine supplements might reduce leakage through the intestinal walls.

    However, there is little real evidence that it works as a treatment for true food allergies, although it is highly recommended for pets with various bowel disorders.

    Glutamine, being one of the body’s amino acids, is thought to be a safe supplement when taken at recommended dosages. Because many anti-epilepsy drugs work by blocking glutamate stimulation in the brain, high dosages of glutamine may overwhelm these drugs and pose a risk to pets with epilepsy. If your pet is taking anti-seizure medications, glutamine should only be used under veterinary supervision.

    Maximum safe dosages for children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease have not been determined; similar precautions are probably warranted in pets. Recommended dosages in pets is 250 to 3000 mg daily.

    Probiotics are defined as normal viable bacteria residing in the intestinal tract that promote normal bowel health. Probiotics are given orally and are usually indicated for use in intestinal disorders in which specific factors can disrupt the normal bacterial population, making the pet more susceptible to disease. Specific factors, which can disrupt the normal flora of the bowel include surgery, medications (including steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), antibiotics (especially when used long-term), shipping, birthing, weaning, illness such as parvovirus infection, and dietary factors (poor quality diet, oxidative damage, stress). Improving the nutritional status of the intestinal tract may reduce bacterial movement across the bowel mucosa (lining), intestinal permeability, and systemic endotoxemia. Additionally, probiotics may supply nutrients to the pet, help in digestion, and allow for better conversion of food into nutrients.

    Prebiotics are food supplements that are not digested and absorbed by the host but improve health by stimulating the growth and activity of selected intestinal bacteria. Currently, there are fewer studies on prebiotics.

    There are numerous different probiotic products available, which can contain any combination of the following organisms:

    • Lactobacillus (L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. thermophiles, L. reuteri)
    • Acidophilus
    • Bacillus (specifically a patented strain called Bacillus CIP 5832)
    • Streptococcus S. bulgaricus
    • Enterococcus (E. faecium)
    • Bifidobacterium
    • B. bifidus
    • Saccharomyces (S. boulardii, which is actually a beneficial yeast not a bacterium)

    The intestinal tract, especially the large intestine (colon) is home to millions of bacteria, most of which are harmless and in fact beneficial to the pet. The intestinal bacteria are essential to digestion and the synthesis of vitamin K and many of the B vitamins.

    As mentioned, your pet’s intestinal tract contains billions of bacteria and yeasts. Some of these inhabitants are more helpful than others. Acidophilus and related probiotic bacteria not only help the digestive tract function, they also reduce the presence of less healthful organisms by competing with them for the limited space available.

    Next month we will look at how probiotics work and their dosages, along with other natural and conventional treatments for Parvovirus.