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Prebiotics and Probiotics

 

If the terms prebiotic and probiotic sound familiar, it is because there has been an increasing interest in their use for our canine companions. More research is being done to show the beneficial effects of these products which can be found in the form of supplements, over the counter foods, and therapeutic diets. Prebiotics and probiotics have usefulness in aiding the health of the gastrointestinal tract by promoting or providing good bacteria in the gastrointestinal environment.

Keeping the gastrointestinal tract healthy is important for preventative health and to aid in certain conditions. The intestines are thought to be the largest immune system of the body, about 60-70% of the total system. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the intestines which protects the lining. The lining or mucosa, helps to keep the unfavorable bacteria from entering the body, allows proper nutrient absorption, and affects the immune system as it is exposed to everything that is taken in through the mouth.

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that when ingested at a therapeutic level benefit the pet's bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal tract. The three main types of good bacteria are enterococcus, bifidobacterium, and lactobacilus species. Uses for probiotic supplements may include: conditions where there is a bacterial imbalance, a need to enhance the intestines' bacterial condition, or an inflammatory related state.

The most common example where probiotics would be beneficial is for diarrhea conditions. Diarrheas can be caused by bacterial infections, stress from travelling, boarding, or other emotional strain. Animals on antibiotics or experiencing a diet change, either on purpose or by indiscretion, may affect the bacterial flora and cause diarrhea. Dogs on probiotics benefit by typically experiencing a reduction in the duration of diarrhea. Another use for probiotics is for the weaning puppy. The infusion of beneficial bacteria will improve the intestinal health and support the immune system sooner, decreasing illness and improving stool quality while transitioning to a solid diet. Other studies are showing benefits for conditions involving the immune system and allergies.

Prebiotics are generally found as a fiber source in the diet. These are complex carbohydrates that are non-digestible by the dog but are fermented in the intestines by good bacteria. The bacteria then uses the by-products of fermentation as a food source to further the growth of the beneficial bacteria or the probiotics.

A common source of these carbohydrates are beet and chicory root. Commercial foods have begun to incorporate prebiotics into their diets to enhance the probiotic bacteria populations already in the gastrointestinal tract. Look for these fibers and prebiotics on the ingredient list or marketed as containing fructooligosaccharides (FOS) or mannanoligosaccharides (MOS) (See example in photo on right.)

Choosing the proper product is important. Pet owners should consult their veterinarian because of the multitude of options. In general, some guidelines to follow would be to consider the species of the patient, condition for which the product is needed, and the quality of the product. Most products contain one of the three main good bacterias, so one or a combination may work best. The species should be appropriate for the product as the bacteria flora differs between species. Select a canine product for your Kerry Blue terrier. A good product should also maintain its integrity though the production, shipping, storage and distribution process. After this, an acceptable probiotic must maintain high enough bacterial numbers passing through the stomach acid before it reaches the intestines for any benefit. Major manufacturers are usually a more reliable source producing a higher quality product. They should also provide data on the amount of bacteria present in their products. Other considerations on probiotic usage include potential food allergies to some of the components of the products. The ingredients used to propagate the bacteria may contain protein sources that a pet may be sensitive to as well. Your Kerry's acceptance of a product will also dictate what form may be best for him or her as you will find capsule, tablet, gel, paste, and powder products.

The use of probiotics and prebioitcs have shown to have a very beneficial effect on the gastrointestinal tract. For long-term health benefits, prebiotics provide a sustained effect which will maintain a healthy digestive tract. These are the good fibers found in the diet. Review your Kerry's diet to make sure that these components are included.

The use of probiotics provide a more transient effect and are commonly used for diarrheic conditions, when taking antibiotics, or when an imbalance occurs. Neither prebiotics nor probiotics pose any direct detrimental effect. The use of these products are on the rise as the benefi ts are becoming better known and accepted by veterinarians and owners. The use of supplements as adjunctive therapy should be part of your Kerry's overall wellness and preventative health plan.

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Today is December 10, 2016

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The Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation is a nonprofit charity dedicated to promoting the welfare of the Kerry Blue Terrier breed in the areas of education, rescue and health & genetics. Learn More.

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