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- What is the microflora?
- What does the term dysbiosis mean?
- What can cause an intestinal dysbiosis?
- What is a probiotic?
- How do probiotics work?
- What makes a good probiotic?
- Are there any side effects associated with the use of probiotics? Can you give too many?
- Can probiotics be used at the same time as antibiotics?
- What is a prebiotic?
- Do Protexin products require any special storage methods?
- Why can’t live yoghurt be used?
- Do the probiotics survive the very acidic conditions of the stomach?
- What is microencapsulation?
- Can Protexin products be given over a long period of time?
The microflora consists of various bacteria, protozoa and yeasts. These are distributed throughout the length of the gut and coexist in a symbiotic (mutual) relationship in the healthy animal. These micro-organisms can be health positive (beneficial), health neutral or health negative (potential to cause disease).
Dysbiosis is the condition of having a microbial imbalance on or within the body. This typically involves the health negative micro-organisms outnumbering the health positives.
The main causes of dysbiosis in companion animals include:
- Antibiotic treatment
- Intestinal pathogens
- Dietary indiscretion (e.g. scavenging)
- Sudden change of diet
- Prolonged fasting
- Stress (e.g. travel, shows and kennels)
- Life-stage (e.g. weaning and old age).
The most common symptom associated with dysbiosis is diarrhoea. Other clinical signs that can be seen include vomiting, bloating, flatulence and borborygmi (excessive rumbling or gurgling noise that occurs from the movements of fluid and gas in the intestines)
Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “live micro-organisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”.
Probiotics have been shown to work by the following mechanisms:
- Competition for nutrients – within the gut beneficial and pathogenic micro-organisms will be utilising the same types of nutrients. This results in a general competition between bacteria for these nutrients. When a probiotic is administered there is an overall reduction in nutrients available for pathogenic bacteria and consequently this minimises the levels of pathogenic micro-organisms.
- Competition for adhesion sites – beneficial bacteria can attach to the gut wall and form colonies at various sites throughout the gut. This prevents pathogenic bacteria from gaining a foothold, resulting in their expulsion from the body.
- Improvement in digestion – probiotics have been shown to increase the efficiency of digestion and therefore provide an improvement in digestion.
- Lactic acid production – probiotics produce lactic acid which acts to reduce the gut pH, inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria, which prefer a more alkaline environment.
- Effect on immunity – probiotics have been shown to increase the levels of cell-signalling chemicals and the effectiveness of infection-fighting cells (white blood cells).
When choosing a probiotic for your pet or other animal it is important to identify the best product possible. When assessing probiotics it is important to check:
- Safety – the micro-organism chosen must be non-pathogenic and non-toxic. Within the EU all probiotics must be registered for use in an individual animal species. For example, Enterococcus faecium (NCIMB 10415) E1707 is registered for use in dogs.
- Viability – the micro-organisms within a probiotic product should remain viable during their storage. The probiotics should also be able to pass safely through the stomach so that they can colonise the gut. A good freeze-drying process will enable the product to be stored at room temperature throughout the duration of its shelf life. Microencapsulation will afford protection throughout the high acidity of the stomach.
- Sufficient numbers – the concentration of a probiotic must be such that inclusion rates provide a beneficial effect.
- Quality assurance – when manufacturing probiotic products high quality standards and processes are imperative. This ensures that the product meets label specifications and is also effective and safe to use.
There are no side effects associated with the use of probiotics. All EU-registered probiotics have to pass stringent safety trials before being approved for use in each species. It is not possible to give too great a quantity of probiotics as any excess will simply pass out in the faeces.
Yes, evidence shows that taking a probiotic at the same time as an antibiotic can reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. For the best results give the probiotic at the opposite end of the day to the antibiotic. Where this is not possible give the probiotic at least three hours after the antibiotic. The probiotic will not affect the effectiveness of the antibiotic.
A prebiotic is a non-digestible carbohydrate (complex sugar) which acts as a food source for beneficial bacteria and therefore stimulates their growth.
Preplex® prebiotic is exclusive to Protexin and consists of fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) and acacia (Gum arabic). This dual source prebiotic is of benefit across a larger area of the gut compared to a single source prebiotic.
We would recommend that Protexin products are stored in dry, clean conditions, out of direct sunlight and kept sealed once the original container has been opened in order to exclude moisture and thermal decomposition. The shelf life of Protexin products, if stored at room temperature, is 24 months.
Live yoghurt can be used to provide some live micro-organisms, however it has some distinct disadvantages when compared to Protexin products.
The concentration of live micro-organisms present in the yoghurt is unknown but will tend to be relatively low and will depend on the freshness of the yoghurt and the conditions in which it has been stored. After opening, the microbial concentration can become depleted. Compare this with the high and guaranteed concentration of probiotics in Protexin products.
The actual strains of micro-organisms contained within live yoghurts will tend to be chosen for taste and textural properties rather than a probiotic benefit. The micro-organisms contained within the yoghurt may not produce any probiotic benefit.
All Protexin probiotics for pets are microencapsulated which affords them protection through the high acidity of the stomach and enables them to reach the small intestine where they can find sites to grow.
Microencapsulation is the process whereby the bacteria are enclosed by a protective coating during the manufacturing process. This allows the bacteria to remain dormant until they are ingested.
There are no contra-indications for the use of probiotics for pets and their use will always be of some benefit. In pets and animals suffering from long-term problems, prolonged use is indicated and no 'resistance' will develop to the probiotic micro-organisms.