Probiotic therapy has been scientifically studied and proved beneficial in the treatment of pets with diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic renal disease, and pancreatitis.
Just as exciting are studies which indicate probiotics positively influence the development and health of your dog’s or cat’s immune system function.
According to Susan G. Wynn, DVM, of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Tennessee:
“... it is increasingly clear that manipulation of the ecology of the gastrointestinal tract has powerful systemic effects. Use of probiotics clearly enhances immune function in a number of species, including dogs and cats, and appears to have a role in the treatment of animals with certain gastrointestinal conditions.”
Dr. Wynn goes on to say the use of probiotics in humans in the treatment of recurrent urinary tract infections, the prevention and management of allergies, and other conditions, suggests further potential benefits for our four-legged companions.
The bad news? Unfortunately, the value of many commercially available probiotic products is questionable, at best. Read on to learn more about quality variations in probiotic products and what you can do to insure you’re giving your dog or cat a high-quality supplement.
Digestive disturbances are a very common complaint with our companion animals. A sick pet feels miserable and can affect your whole household, crimping your family’s plans and activities. It’s worrisome to leave your sick dog or cat behind, but on the other hand you don’t want to board or crate your animal, or turn it over to an unknowledgeable caretaker during a bout of diarrhea or other illness.
If you’ve had a pet with frequent or chronic digestive issues, you know the underlying problem is often difficult to diagnose and can take weeks or even months of trial and error to resolve.
Digestive Upsets Can Signal More Serious Problems
If your dog is passing a lot of foul-smelling gas, or leaving wet-looking poop in your backyard, or if he suffers from regular bouts of diarrhea, it’s very possible his intestinal tract is overrun with bad bacteria.
You can usually tell if your cat is having digestive problems by checking the litter box for changes in the consistency or color of her “deposits.” Cats with digestive issues will sometimes urinate or defecate outside their boxes.
Often, digestive upsets are the first sign your dog or cat has a larger health problem.
How Gut Bacteria Affects Your Pet’s Health
Your pet’s digestive tract is the largest immune organ in its body, and believe it or not, your dog or cat has even more bacteria in its intestinal tract than you do. Their digestive tract is designed specifically to handle a tremendous bacterial load -- bacteria which, if found elsewhere in the body, would be considered a life threatening infection.
Your pet’s digestive system must stay populated with a healthy level of good bacteria in order to keep the immune system strong. If bad bacteria overwhelms your pet’s intestines, your dog or cat can lose its vitality and become more susceptible to illness, not to mention GI symptoms.
Laboratory studies have shown animals raised either without colonies of friendly bacteria in the gut, or who have a poor balance of good-to-bad gut bacteria, are at high risk of developing disease.
Friendly bacteria in the gut helps your pet’s body make important B vitamins, maintain a strong immune system, and prevent an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
How Bad Bugs Take Over
Your pet’s good-to-bad gut bacteria ratio can be thrown out of balance by gastrointestinal (GI) stressors which can be either emotional or physiologic -- or both. These stressors can include:
A sudden change in diet (if your pet has been on the same food for a long time)
A poor-quality diet
Strange eating habits (feces, grass, sticks, rocks, etc.)
Consumption of unclean water (from lakes, ponds or ditches)
Ingestion of fertilizers, pesticides, or chemicals in the water supply
Antibiotics and/or steroids (cortisone, prednisone)
Boarding at a kennel or pet hospital
Emotional stress (usually caused by a change in routine)
Antibiotics and steroids like cortisone are the most-prescribed drugs in traditional veterinary practices. Both these drugs can decimate the friendly bacteria in your pet’s gut.
When GI stressors upset the balance of good to bad bacteria in your pet’s digestive system, it can create a cascade of nutritional and other health problems, including poor food absorption and intermittent or chronic diarrhea.
It also opens the door to leaky gut (dysbiosis), which means your dog or cat can absorb partially digested amino acids and allergens into its bloodstream. This in turn can trigger a host of other health problems, from allergies to auto-immune disease.
Probiotics and Veterinary Medicine
Probiotics are good bacteria. They have the ability to re-colonize the digestive tract with friendly bacteria.
Holistic veterinarians have been using them for years on their animal patients to prevent and treat digestive problems and a variety of other health concerns.
Traditional veterinarians, however, have, until recently, dismissed probiotics as ineffective and a waste of money.
Then about two years ago, studies began to emerge showing specific strains of probiotics were indeed beneficial for dogs and cats with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), gastritis and colitis (all GI conditions), as well as those suffering the side effects of antibiotics and steroid drugs.
In fact, the overwhelming research conclusion was probiotics are not only effective, but help pets recover from illness faster and with fewer complications.
Probiotics for a Wide Range of Health Concerns
Pet owners who participated in a study to test the effect of probiotics on their dogs and cats suffering from kidney failure reported very positive results.
In pets with mild to moderate kidney disease, there was significant improvement in their conditions. For those animals with more advanced cases of renal failure, their owners reported their pets’ conditions stabilized with the probiotic therapy and quality of life was improved.
Probiotics are also used frequently in farm animals (poultry, pigs and calves) to prevent certain infections.
Probiotics show promise in the treatment of pancreatitis in dogs, and may prove beneficial for pets with allergies and other immune-related conditions.
All Probiotic Supplements are Not Created Equal
Probiotic formulas used by humans were developed specifically to fortify the bacterial species found in the human GI tract. Pets have some specific strains of bacteria unique to them, so they need a unique probiotic. Your dog or cat must have organisms derived from its own species for best results.
Tests on commercially available veterinary probiotic supplements have revealed serious quality issues. For example:
They often don’t contain the organisms listed on the label
They are contaminated with unhealthy bacteria, or have too few live, healthy organisms to be beneficial
They only contain one or two strains of bacteria beneficial for dogs and cats
Their viability, potency and purity have not been thoroughly evaluated
Another problem -- don’t be fooled by commercial pet foods claiming to be “probiotic foods.”
The bacteria in a probiotic must be live and able to reproduce in order for it to be beneficial. Tests on dog foods claiming to contain probiotic micro-organisms showed the manufacturing process kills too many of the live bacteria, rendering the probiotic effect useless by the time the food is packaged and shipped.
How to Select a High-Quality Probiotic for Your Pet
As you can see, it can be quite difficult to determine whether the probiotic you’ve purchased for your companion animal is effective and safe.
A pet probiotic should have the following qualities:
It must not cause disease (despite the fact it contains bacteria)
It must survive the acidic environment of your pet’s stomach
It must contain enough live organisms to colonize the intestines
It must contain the correct strains of bacteria beneficial for pets, not people
It should remain stable under normal storage conditions
It should be easy to give to your dog or cat
The probiotic I give my own animals and the one I recommend for all my pet patients is Complete Probiotic for Pets.
In my professional opinion, Complete Probiotic for Pets is the highest quality probiotic product for pets available anywhere.
Complete Probiotic for Pets contains a very specific blend of probiotic bacteria strains in one supplement. There’s no longer any need for you to try to pick the right probiotic strain for your pet’s individual situation.
Complete Probiotic for Pets contains probiotic strains beneficial for bowel health regeneration and maintenance, as well as strains beneficial for immuno-compromised and debilitated animals.
Complete Probiotic for Pets is the first product of its kind on the market, and I highly recommend it as a way to bolster your pet’s gastrointestinal and overall health.