How can Pets Benefit from Probiotics
- Nature’s Good Bacteria?

Imagine the pet owners’ anxiety as they see their eight-year old black
Labrador Retriever suffering from daily vomiting, bad body odor, and smelly
gas. The owners feel helpless because antibiotics and other medicines
have only weakened the dog.  Thus, the dog’s only source of comfort is
chewing grass.  Luckily, the owners fed the dog a daily dose of live
probiotic microorganisms that included mixtures of
Pediococcus acidilactici
and yeasts. Amazingly, there was improvement on the first day of
administration.  The owners noted that the initial day of probiotic intake was
also the first time their pet stopped vomiting.  Encouraged by the
improvement, the owners included probiotics in the dog’s daily diet and
observed not only a stop in vomiting, but also a decline in body stench and
gas release.  Now, we are prompted with the question: what makes
probiotics so good?  

Probiotics are the beneficial living bacteria that naturally exist in the
gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of humans and animals.  How do probiotics help
pets?  Probiotics travel along a pet’s GI tract and attach to the surfaces,
allowing probiotic microorganisms to replicate. Once Probiotics have
replicated and grown, they will decompose the food consumed by the pet
and produce acid compounds. These acid compounds then create the
acidic environments needed to kill most GI tract pathogens. Some of the
probiotics secrete the toxic compounds that are specific for harmful
pathogens. Moreover, as probiotics attach to a pet’s GI tracts, they become
generic immunogens and raise the antibody production, as well as enhance
the pet immune response for pathogen infections. When probiotic
microorganisms multiply, they occupy the surfaces of GI tracts and prevent
harmful pathogens from attaching to the pet’s GI tracts. During
multiplication, probiotics degrade the complex food compounds into the
simple nutrition for pet to absorb and utilize. The degradation not only helps
the pet strengthen its body, but also reduces the bad odors.  The odors are
a result of either incomplete food digestions or excess gas production
through different digestion pathways. To ensure improvement, pet owners
need to deliver “live” probiotics into a pet’s GI tracts to allow
microorganisms to multiply and grow.  Sources of viable probiotics in the
uptake is critical to ensure the live probiotics that will be able to reach the
pet’s GI tracts so that the pet can actually experience the probiotics’
beneficial effects.

Let us take a close look at two critical issues of applying probiotics to pets:
(1) source of viable probiotics and  (2) live probiotics that reach pet GI
tracts. By understanding these critical issues, we can easily find out why pet
owners have experienced variable effects of probiotics. In pet store, we may
find various brands of pet food that include probiotics, especially probiotic
fermentation cultures. Interestingly, a group of Canadian scientists has
performed extensive research (see
Can. Vet. J., 2003, 44:212-215) on 19
commercial brands of pet food that claim to contain probiotics. The study
reported that none of the products contained all the listed probiotics and
the highest average bacterial growth was a mere 1.8 x100,000 CFU/g
(Colony Forming Unit over weight, g; this is the typical measurable unit for
microbiologists to present the amounts of living bacteria in defined weights).
Once the animal eats the pet food, the pet secretes many different
enzymes that help digest the food.  Thus, the already low level of probiotics
is lost and destroyed before they can play a significant role in the pet’s
digestive system. As the pet food moves down the GI tract, probiotics must
endure very acidic and salty environments. Most probiotics will not be able
to survive such harsh environments. The survival percentages of live
probiotics are so low that a very high concentration of live probiotics must
be taken orally before beneficial effects are apparent.  Research has
shown that for probiotics to be effective, daily oral administration of live
probiotics must be greater than 10 billions CFU in humans and 1 billion
CFU in animals. If we convert the amount of probiotics in the most
concentrated commercial brand described by the Canadian researchers,
we find that pets would have to eat more than 10 kg of probiotic-treated pet
food each day before any improvement can be seen. Such a conversion
gives light to why owners had seen variable results earlier.  Therefore,
once pet owners realize the proper amount of live probiotics to feed to their
pets, the health benefits of probiotics will prove to be favorable and
effective.  

Jolinta Lin and J. J. Lin, Ph.D.
Published in Animal-Chatter, September/October, 2004, page 8.


REFERENCES:
Benyacoub J, Czarnecki-Maulden GL, Cavadini C, Sauthier T, Anderson RE, Schiffrin EJ,
von der Weid T.
Supplementation of food with Enterococcus faecium (SF68) stimulates immune
functions in young dogs. J Nutr. 2003 Apr;133(4):1158-62.
Biourge V, Vallet C, Levesque A, Sergheraert R, Chevalier S, Roberton JL.  The use of
probiotics in the diet of dogs. J Nutr. 1998 Dec;128(12 Suppl):2730S-2732S.       
Rinkinen M, Westermarck E, Salminen S, Ouwehand AC.  Absence of host specificity for
in vitro adhesion of probiotic lactic acid bacteria to intestinal mucus. Vet Microbiol. 2003
Dec 2;97(1-2):55-61.
Weese JS, Anderson ME.  Preliminary evaluation of Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain
GG, a potential probiotic in dogs. Can Vet J. 2002 Oct;43(10):771-4.   
Weese JS, Aroyo L. Bacteriological evaluation of dog and cat diets that claim to contain
probiotics. Can Vet J. 2003 Mar;44(3):212-6.
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