Recommending supplements to improve the microbiome in dogs and cats

Factors that can affect microbiome balance and how recommending the right diet, supplements and lifestyle modifications can help.

Current research in veterinary gastrointestinal function suggests that an appropriate gastrointestinal microbiome is among the most important foundations in fostering excellent immune health, to say nothing of its integral importance in healthy digestion and absorption. The microbiome is a diverse and rich population of microbes that certainly plays a vital role in digestion, but also creates important feedback compounds necessary to regulate many metabolic and immune system functions. Inadequate microbiome populations can create both deficiencies and excesses that affect overall animal health. In choosing a GI probiotic support supplement, look for the units of measure that will be enough to do some good: in the billions of CFUs, and a diverse mix of important GI bacteria for health. Alternatively, target a specific bacteria if you have a biome analysis, and provide prebiotic support to nourish those bacteria (e.g., FOS or inulin). While we know that the microbiome is affected by many factors (anything that affects microbes) current clinical data allow us to address and reverse some of the possible causes of unbalanced microbiomes in our pet patients.

Factors that can affect microbiome balance:

  • Antibiotic use (cannot only unbalance some bacterial populations but can create bacterial population extinctions in an animal)
  • Pesticides – parasite/flea/tick pesticides/herbicides and medicines, from topical and oral contact in herbicide fertilizers in treated yards, foliage and soil, and from food ingredients that may contain pesticides from agricultural practices
  • Foods, treats or chews that are devoid of healthy microbes/bacteria or that contain an unhealthy balance of bacteria (e.g., high heat processing leaving food without healthy bacteria, or processes that might leave only resistant or inappropriate bacteria)
  • Inappropriate food types that overfeed inappropriate populations of bacteria/microbes (e.g., too many carbohydrates feeding carb-eating bacteria and yeasts)
  • Foods that provide calories but are nutritionally deficient and don’t properly nourish the biome (e.g., foods with poorly digestible proteins, damaged fats, and empty calorie carbs, or those that contain large quantities of vitamin/mineral supplements)
  • Choosing medicines and supplements without knowing the condition of the biome, possibly creating deficiencies or excesses of bacteria (e.g., medicines that change motility or GI pH which might alter bacterial/microbe populations, or over-supporting a single type of bacteria by overusing a single type of prebiotic or probiotic)
  • Overfeeding, underfeeding, or feeding too frequently or not often enough.

What we can do to help maintain a healthy microbiome in our pet patients:

  • Provide healthy bacteria probiotic supplements in the diet, such as providing healthy sources of important and “at-risk” bacteria through probiotic supplements with enough of a good mix of probiotics and bacteria (in Billions of CFUs), like NOW® Pets G.I. Support
  • Provide healthy bacteria during the course of the day by allowing contact with healthy soil, allowing healthy interactions with other animals, etc.
  • Allow healthy re-florination and support of GI bacteria and microbes by feeding healthy fresh raw foods that are not overprocessed, offering periodic treats that have excellent bacterial populations, like unpasteurized goat milk and possibly some fiber like psyllium husk
  • Use antibiotics and pesticides judiciously and re-florinate with GI support prebiotic/probiotic both during and after use
  • Choose foods that are pesticide free and as fresh and healthy as possible (looking for regenerative farming techniques in the sourcing, or organic certification, etc.)
  • Do a biome analysis – Texas State University has a quick and useful fecal biome analysis for veterinarians. The company, AnimalBiome, also provides an analysis, and there will likely be others in the market, so search in your area and for what you need.

What’s in the NOW® Pets G.I. Support?

2 Billion CFU of a proprietary blend of: [Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium animalis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus salivarius, Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum]  Cellulose, Chicken Liver Powder, FOS (Fructooligosaccharides), Organic Inulin Powder, Silica, Stearic Acid.

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Dr. Barbara Royal, is a Chicago veterinarian, IVAS certified acupuncturist, author and lecturer with extensive experience in veterinary care, including zoo, marine and wildlife animals, nutrition, acupuncture, emergency medicine, pathology, conventional practices, herbal remedies, physical rehabilitation techniques and alternative treatments. Dr. Royal was past president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association ( Author of The Royal Treatment, A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets, she is also is the founder and owner of The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center in Chicago.


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