Podcast Transcript: Probiotics

More and more pet owners are asking their veterinarian about probiotics? What are probiotics? Do they have any positive effects? Should I look for foods or supplements with probiotics, or not?

Probiotics are living microorganisms, bacteria that, when consumed in adequate amounts, treat or prevent disease in the consumer or host. Our current understanding is that probiotics do this by establishing a healthy balance of gastrointestinal microflora or by boosting the host's immune response to certain diseases.

Although clinical beneficial effects of probiotics have been well-documented in human medicine, they've not yet been convincingly demonstrated in dogs. The evidence is even weaker for cats; very little feline research has been conducted.

In dogs, particular strains of bacteria show promise in the treatment of specific gastrointestinal ailments. Future research into these, and other probiotics, may yield stronger evidence of health benefits in dogs. Manufacturing standards and minimum effective dosages have not yet been established for veterinary probiotics. These are important hurdles to clear before we can recommend probiotics for pets.

Many diets on the market now claim to contain probiotics; however, there's no evidence that these diets are superior to others in promoting pet health. In fact, studies have shown that the microbial content of probiotic veterinary diets, and other products, is poorly controlled. This, and the lack of established clinical effects, makes any manufacturer claims of health benefits questionable… at best.

Much is unknown about the safety of veterinary probiotics for pets. It is possible that with today's poor product regulation potentially pathogenic or antimicrobial resistant bacteria could be encouraged to grow. The lack of evidence on the health benefits of veterinary probiotics doesn't mean veterinary professionals should dismiss probiotics as a potential treatment modality altogether. However it does mean we should approach probiotic use with the same caution we'd use with a new drug. Giving a pet a probiotic is like giving her a drug. Before deciding to give a probiotic, consider whether the product's effects have been scientifically tested and an effective dosage has been determined.

The questions surrounding veterinary use of probiotics still outnumber the answers, but as interest in the subject continues to grow, research to find these answers is bound to follow.

This podcast was created and developed by Banfield Pet Hospital and is brought to you by the Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge team. For additional content, or to view the whitepaper for this topic, please visit Banfield.com.

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