The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ASPCA, estimates there are over 6.5 million animals in U.S. shelters, a good number them are dogs still looking to find that forever home. A common problem for these would-be pets is stress-related colitis and diarrhea that comes with it. It’s a digestive issue directly associated with the shock of their new surroundings.
Even once they get a new family and home that stress can continue until the dog settles into the environment. A number of studies, including a recent one published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, found that probiotics might help curb this digestive stress for dogs in a shelter, making them healthier, more comfortable and easier to manage.
The impact of diarrhea on the dogs is multifaceted. It’s hard on their system, for one thing. The authors of the 2017 UK study reported that diarrhea is the most common cause of death in kenneled dogs. The digestive tract is the core of the body’s immune system, so a dog who is suffering from chronic diarrhea is at risk of many other health problems including parasites, dehydration and systemic infections.
There is a significant financial impact on the shelter, as well. They must house these animals in a separate area to prevent the spread of infection to healthy dogs. They must plan for the core expense of keeping the kennels clean, too. With each incident, the dogs and cage require a thorough wipe down to prevent the transfer of pathogens.
Given the potential expense involved, it makes sense that the vets in shelters would look for a proactive way to prevent stress-related colitis and diarrhea.
In the past, the options to treat stress-induced diarrhea in dogs have been limited. Antibiotics are one possible choice, but a poor one. The overuse of antibiotics in all veins of healthcare, including veterinary, is leading to a global crisis of resistant bacteria strains. The sudden introduction of anti-parasitic drugs and antibiotics adds further stress an already inflamed canine GI tract, as well.
The answer may be found in introducing probiotics to the dog instead of trying to fight off potential infections with prophylactic antibiotics. Researchers in the UK conducted a double-blind, randomized trial in an attempt to prove the benefits of giving probiotics to shelter dogs. Investigators broke 773 dogs down into two groups: one to receive probiotics and one a placebo, instead.
What they found was by introducing a key probiotic to healthy dogs entering a shelter, they were able to decrease incidents of diarrhea, improving the overall health of the animal and decreasing the expense of housing it. The incidents of diarrhea in the treated dogs was almost half that of the placebo group.
Based on their data, the researchers concluded that supplementing dogs in a shelter with the right probiotic may decrease diarrhea and care expense. There are fewer vet visits and less cleaning necessary for these dogs. Since digestive problems and incidents of diarrhea directly impact the dog’s overall health, it may also reduce mortality rates and speed up the rehoming process, as well.
Stress-related colitis like vets see in shelter dogs isn’t limited to the shelter. Dogs may experience this same level of stress in many scenarios including competitions or even something simpler like adding a new pet to the home or moving to a new location. No matter where the dog is or what is going on, chronic diarrhea takes its toll. It is proven that humans benefit greatly from taking supplemental probiotics designed to balance out the digestive microbiome. The right formula would seemingly provide this same benefit to pets of all species. The UK study certainly suggests there is an application for it.
The scientists in the UK provided their shelter dogs with specially formulated probiotics effective in the treatment of stress-related digestive issues using Enterococcus faecium NCIMB 10415, the exact same genus, species and strain provided in Natren’s CanineDophilus Probiotic for Dogs. For added benefits, Natren adds one additional species not available to the study researchers – Lactobacillus acidophilus, NAS super strain. It’s a combination that will support intestinal health and maintain the proper digestive flora for dogs whether they are at home or entering animal shelter to hoping to find one.
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