Probiotics for Animals

Probiotics are bacteria that are given to animals or people to establish a healthy population of microbes in the intestinal tract.  In order to be effective, these microbes must survive the acidic environment of the stomach as well as the bile secreted by the gall bladder in the intestines.  They must also survive any medication the patient might be taking including antibiotics like metronidazole.  Once in the gut, they need to adhere to the intestinal lining to establish a healthy population of microbes and prevent the adherence of pathogenic organisms including Salmonella, E. coli and Clostridium.  These ‘good’ bacteria metabolize insoluble fibers also called prebiotics into substances that are detrimental to the harmful bacteria.  They also produce energy for the cells of the colon.  Above all else, they must do no harm, i.e. not cause disease in the patient. 

The bacteria used and most studied are Lactobacillus, Bidifobacteria and Enterococcus spp. The veterinary products are Azodyl, Fortiflora and Prostora Max.    

Over the years, the use of probiotics has increased dramatically in veterinary medicine.  Here are some of the more common uses: 
1) Diarrhea 
2) Inflammatory bowel disease
3) Allergic dermatitis also called atopy
4) Recurrent urinary tract infections
5) Tear staining
6) Renal failure 
7) Patients on long-term antibiotics
8) Gut inoculation in hand-raised animals. 

Since these products contain live organisms, it is important to handle them with care.  Improper storage may kill the microbes. 

-Kirk, C. ‘Top Nutraceutical in Pet Foods and Practice’, World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2011.
-Warren, A. Nutraceuticals, VIN, April 4, 2007
-Wortinger, A. ‘What Do Prebiotics and Probiotics Really Do?’, Western Veterinary Conference, 2012

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.