One Supplement with Many Benefits

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Probiotics are live, intestinal microorganisms that are taken orally and trigger improved health of the recipient. In fact, these “good” bacteria have wide ranging effects on the body.

There are ten times more bacteria in our gastrointestinal (GI) tracts than there are cells in our bodies – some of them are good and some are harmful. It is scary to think that from a cellular perspective, we are more bacterial than we are human. Maintaining the balance of these organisms is important. This same principle holds true for our dogs and cats as well.

Probiotics improve the function of the intestine. That’s why probiotic supplements are often used to help pets with diarrhea. One way these microbes help the gut is by crowding out and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. They also interact with the gut lining to help it ward off disease-causing germs. Studies show that probiotics can not only reduce diarrhea caused by bacteria, they can also improve the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

Probiotic bacteria also help the digestive process itself. Some of these microbes convert intestinal contents into B vitamins and vitamin K. They can digest food components that animals cannot and liberate otherwise unavailable nutrients. Some also release their own enzymes into the gut to help the body further digest and absorb food.

Seventy percent of a pet’s immune system is in its gut. That makes the GI tract the largest organ of the immune system. There is an amazing interplay between the microbes in the intestine and the systemic immune system. For example, one study showed that puppies taking probiotics responded better to their vaccinations than puppies that did not get the supplements. Another study demonstrated that when cats took probiotics the function of their white blood cells improved. Probiotics have been shown to aid with urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, respiratory infections, gingivitis and allergic dermatitis as well as decrease inflammation.

Besides improving the function of the intestine and immune system, probiotics have other systemic effects. Research on mice found that skinny mice had different bacteria in their intestines than did their overweight relatives. When the scientists introduced the “skinny mouse bacteria” into the GI tracts of the fat mice, the chubby rodents lost weight. (Perhaps this concept will someday end the need for gastric bypass surgery). Probiotics have been shown to improve glucose tolerance, decrease high cholesterol, and benefit patients with liver disease, kidney disease and pancreatitis.

So far I’ve been using the word “probiotic” as if there is only one kind and they’re all the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many species of probiotic bacteria that we know of and many strains within those species. There are sometimes hundreds of strains of any particular bacterial species and while certain strains are beneficial bugs, other strains of the same species can cause disease. Also, each strain of “good” bacteria can have vastly different beneficial effects. Each of the studies regarding the health benefits of probiotics referred to above involved different bacteria. It would be false to think that all probiotics have all of those health benefits.

I think the best source of probiotics for pets is fermented milk products. There is currently a raw goat’s milk product for pets made by the Answers Raw Pet Food Company. Raw goat’s milk naturally contains about 200 strains of lactic acid bacteria, many of which are known to be great probiotics.

In my experience, all pets can benefit from the addition of probiotics in their diets. This is especially true for animals that have taken antibiotics since these drugs kill the good bacteria along with the bad. Many other medications like corticosteroids, can throw off the intestinal balance too, as can stress, diet change, vaccinations and the drinking of contaminated water.

Even apparently healthy animals benefit from probiotics being provided in their diet on a regular basis. Most strains of probiotic bacteria do not survive for long in the GI tract necessitating frequent dosing.

What is your experience with probiotics? 

13 thoughts on “One Supplement with Many Benefits

  1. Jan

    Is that vetri science Veti mega probiotic?? Y boxer is on them if it’s the same thing…. Do u take them daily forever?

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      Vetrimega Probiotic is another great probiotic supplement. I think that since dogs evolved eating foods (prey intestinal contents and carrion) that are full of bacteria, it makes sense to keep pets on probiotics all the time. I also think it is a good idea to switch around the products you use periodically to get bacteria from a wide variety of sources.

      Reply
  2. Julie DeMacio

    Great article!! What would be the recommended raw goats milk schedule and dosing for a healthy dog on a raw food diet?

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      In general, I suggest 2 oz for pets under 20 pounds, 4 oz for pets 20-50 pounds and 6 oz for pets over 50 pounds. Remember, as you add the goat’s milk probiotic supplement to your pet’s diet you are adding lots of great nutrients and bacteria but also calories. You need to decrease the food a little to compensate.

      Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      Yes, I do recommend the Answers Goats milk probiotic supplement daily for raw fed dogs. I’m also a fan of fish oil, and glucosamine/chondroitin.

      Reply
  3. Gia

    I recently did a good amount of studying about proibiotics. I kept hearing some people say they can help with yeast infections. And what you constantly find is people talking about yogurt. So it is great to come across a blog that talking about something besides that, and recommending for probiotics supplements.

    Reply
  4. Kaylee

    Hello! My dog was recently diagnosed with colitis and I am still in the process of trying to find ways to prevent any further “flare-ups”. During research I have come across many people discussing Vetri Science Probiotics. Would you recommend this probiotic to someone trying to treat their dog’s colitis? Do you have any other suggestions as to what could help? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      I think Vetri Mega Probiotics is a great product and worth a try for your dog. The best way to treat your dog is as an individual. That requires him being seen by a holistic vet. Your best bet in helping your dog is to find a holistic vet close to you. There is a vet locator at http://www.AHVMA.org.

      Reply
  5. Cathy V.

    Thank you Dr. Knueven for another great post. My 14-yr old Cairn Terrier was very sick with IBD three years ago. After six months on metronidazole and prednisone her blood work improved and now she does fairly well on a restricted diet, and probiotics and psyllium powder. She still has flares, often in response to stress. My integrative doc has suggested low dose naltrexone to me for my own autoimmune issue (related to food intolerance and ibs) and I’ve wondered if this could be useful for dogs. If so, I’d love to read a future post from you on the subject.

    Thank you again, Cathy V.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      Hey Cathy – I really don’t have any experience with LDN in pets. I am familiar with it in people and I think it would work the same. I’m sure there are other holistic vets who might be using it. I’ll have to check and see what others are doing. Thanks for the idea.

      Reply
  6. Funda Simsek

    Hello, My dog has chronic colitis. She’s in pain while pooping because of the burning sensation that the inflammation in her intestines causes. We put her on a BARF diet 3 weeks ago. Im using goat milk kefir every day. She eats two times a day . Chicken, squash and bone water. But she is still not fine . She is too crying while pooping. Would it help healing the intestines faster if we add glutamine , digestive enzymes too? and what else can i do ? im live in turkey and There are no holistic vets here . I will be very happy if you answer
    thank you

    Reply

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