Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • September 2016
Written by 

Probiotics for pets! A missing link in your animals’ health

Many of us take probiotics for digestive tract health, but have you thought about also providing your four-legged friend with the same benefit that good bacteria provides? In my practice one of the first things that I recommend for any animal — sick or well — is an animal-specific probiotic supplement. There are many advantages to providing extra support to the intestinal tract for overall health, especially considering that the majority of the cells that comprise the immune system lie in the GI tract.

Probiotic microorganisms are the essential “friendly” flora; the “good” bacteria that maintain the ecosystem in our pets’ intestinal tracts. Contrast these with often prescribed antibiotic drugs. Because antibiotics destroy “good” bacteria along with the “bad” or pathogenic bacteria, it becomes essential to replace the eliminated beneficial bacteria for our pets if at any point we have resorted to antibiotics for treatment of infection.

The key that many people miss is the integral role that intestinal tract flora plays in overall health. Friendly bacteria (including lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus bulgaricus) are the first line of defense against all of the potentially harmful microorganisms that your pet might inhale or ingest. Think of these friendly bacteria or probiotics as a mighty bacterial army that defends the body against dangerous invaders. Having sufficient numbers of friendly bacteria in residence can help prevent a wide range of health problems.

A few positive functions of probiotics:

  • Production of natural antibiotics, which can protect against harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and shigella.
  • Regulation and stimulation of many aspects of the immune system.
  • Inhibition of the growth of some yeast (think ear and skin yeast infections).
  • Detoxification from harmful chemicals and carcinogens from the body via the intestinal system.
  • Increased energy levels.
  • Absorption of nutrients, antioxidants and iron from the diet.
  • Reduction of inflammation in the body.
  • Improved digestion of food.

It is estimated that 90 percent of chronic diseases are caused from an unhealthy intestinal system. There exists a connection between imbalance in the intestines and the following: arthritis, chronic yeast infections, asthma, food and environmental allergies, irritable bowel issues, constipation, and an underactive immune system (which can contribute to the growth of cancer in the body).

As pet owners, we wish our animal friends to maintain a healthy body and live a long life. We can assist them by providing sufficient quantities of friendly bacteria to help lay the groundwork for a strong immune system and a disease-free body. Several things can destroy the intestinal bacterial balance in a pet’s gut beyond the use of antibiotics. Stress, poor diet, pollutants, environmental changes and prescription drugs can also deplete beneficial bacteria.

Has your pet recently been on antibiotics? Does your pet have digestion problems, diarrhea, skin problems, food intolerances or other chronic health problems? Supplementation with a high quality pet probiotic to restore a healthy gut provides an opportunity to greatly improve your pet’s overall health, even if nothing else is done. The probiotic supplement that I most often recommend is called Plant Enzymes and Probiotics by Animal Essentials (this has wonderful digestive enzymes as well, which are extremely beneficial for digestion). I also use Herbsmith Microflora, which in addition contains ginger and licorice, and herbs that support GI tract function as well. Give your pet the gift of good health by adding in probiotics with a high quality food, every day, for life.

Dr. Carrie Donahue

Dr. Carrie Donahue is a holistic veterinarian based in Madison, and is the owner and founder of Full Circle Holistic Veterinary Care. In addition to her degree in veterinary medicine, Dr. Donahue has also completed additional training in veterinary acupuncture, Chinese and western herbs, homeopathy, essential oils and Reiki. She is able to offer a variety of modalities for her patients and is available for holistic consults that will complement an animal’s regular care, and give pet owners natural alternatives to conventional veterinary care. For more information, visit or call 608-620-4729.

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