Many people often fear bacteria – believing they are toxic, or even deadly. However, did you know that certain microorganisms can be essential for your pet’s good health? Many bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum are considered “friendly” bacteria that can live in your pet’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. These play an important role in protecting against illness and harmful organisms. Theoretically, balancing the “good” or “friendly” to “bad” or harmful bacteria ratio can help support digestive health.
Sometimes, however, the proportion of friendly-to-harmful bacteria is thrown off. One example of this is when using antibiotics to fight infection. Antibiotics can destroy friendly bacteria, leaving your pet with less ability to fight off harmful microorganisms that he or she might encounter at a later date. Anxiety, depression, stress, certain processed foods and even your pet’s age may also affect the amount of good bacteria in his GI tract.
What functions do certain probiotics serve?
Probiotics for dogs or cats are nutrition supplements made up of different types of friendly bacteria. Complete pet probiotics typically include:
• Bifidobacterium lactis – Immune system health
• Bifidobacterium animalis – Digestive health
• Lactobacillus acidophilus – Digestive health
• Bifodobacterium longum – Digestive and Immune system health
• Bifidobacterium bifidium – Intestinal and Immune system health
In humans, studies have shown probiotic supplements can provide several health benefits:
• Maintain a healthy microfloral population in the gut
• Aid in digestion by increasing the absorption of nutrients
• Helping strengthen the immune system
• Prevent or control certain diseases
Is it also true that supplementing your cat or dog’s diet with probiotics could help him or her in these areas, as well? Unfortunately, sufficient evidence to support effectiveness and safety for pets is lacking. More research needs to be done.
Many pet health specialists are concerned that probiotics for pet use are not as tightly controlled as the Food and Drug Administration monitors drugs for humans. Therefore, until the manufacturing and claims associated with these products are better controlled, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian for advice on the proper use of probiotics for your pet.
Some brands of commercial pet food list probiotics on the label. Unfortunately, researchers found many of those claims are often wrong. The same can be said for most available probiotic supplements sold for pet use.