A Balancing Act
– Allie stopped eating when she was 16. Her owner, Dr. Elizabette Cohen says she went crazy trying to find a healthy diet for her beloved pet.
“Her problem is that she has a very sensitive digestive system and would suffer from upsets pretty often,” said Cohen, a New York veterinarian and popular radio show host. With a majority of a dog’s immune system residing in the gut, it was critical to address Allie’s digestive health.
Like humans, dogs and cats have short digestive tracts and a complex gastrointestinal (GI) ecosystem. Bacterial cells in their digestive tracts outnumber animal cells. In fact, they account for approximately 95 percent of the cells in the GI tract. As many as 500 different species of bacterial cells may be represented.
Some of these bacteria are beneficial, and some have the potential to be pathogenic. It’s the balance between the two types of bacteria that determines whether the digestive system is healthy and functioning optimally. When the bacterial balance is disrupted, the result is often digestive upsets and loose stools.
What Causes Bacterial Imbalance?
The intestinal microflora can vary from one animal to the next and is influenced by a number of things, including host species, breed, age, diet, environment and geography. But beyond these variables, many factors can work to disrupt the bacterial balance:
- Antibiotic therapy
Finding a Balanced Solution
“I prefer to treat her digestive problems naturally; however, it was challenging finding an effective natural solution,” said Cohen.
Dr. Cohen is not alone in wanting to find more natural solutions. According to experts, about half of dog- or cat-owning households seek natural product solutions for their pets. A growing trend in pet care is the use of probiotics and prebiotics to support digestive health.
- Probiotics are live, beneficial or good bacteria supplied in some form (treat or supplement) to the animal that provide a health benefit.
- Prebiotics feed (or support) the good bacteria, helping the good bacteria to grow.
“Probiotics provide the digestive system with the healthy, good bacteria,” said Cohen. “These bacteria support the immune system and its function, produce important B vitamins and take up space in the intestines. This is important because this space could be taken up by disease-causing bacteria instead of the healthy bacteria.”
Allie is 18 now, and even though she has some issues common to older dogs, Dr. Cohen says she’s a healthy, happy dog and enjoys the probiotics she’s given in supplement form.
“I am recommending Iams Prostora Max as a veterinarian, as a pet reporter, but most importantly, as a pet owner,” says Cohen. “Allie is extremely picky about what she likes to eat and she loves the taste of Prostora. I love it because I’m able to help support her digestive health naturally.”
Available through veterinarians, Prostora Max is one of the only probiotics that is derived from the canine gut. It nutritionally manages dog’s digestive health, promoting a healthy microflora balance during stressful transitions and a strong, healthy digestive system for overall health and well-being.
For more information, visit www.iams.com.
Prebiotics in Pet Food
In examining your pet food ingredient list, you may see this term – Fructooligosaccharides, or FOS. Pronounced, fruwk-toe-ol-lie-go-sack-er-ides, FOS is a prebiotic found in a variety of foods, such as bananas, barley, garlic, honey, rye and wheat. It is a fiber that is broken down in the intestine by the good bacteria that live there.
FOS feeds the good bacteria to help crowd out the bad bacteria, helping to create the right balance between good and bad bacteria. Check your pet’s food labels to ensure the food you’re feeding your pet has “Fructooligosaccharides” listed on the ingredients panel.
A Well-Balanced Diet
When it comes to nutrition, pets need a balanced diet including:
- Animal protein to build and maintain strong muscles
- Vitamins and minerals for heart health
- Antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and Vitamin E to promote a strong immune system
- Fiber blend for optimal digestive health
- Omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- Multi-grain carbohydrates such as corn, rice, sorghum and barley for energy and vitality
- Natural calcium for strong teeth and bones
Pet food makers study healthy dogs and cats to find which ingredients work best in providing complete and balanced nutrition. For example, nutritional science found in products such as Eukanuba and Iams deliver animal proteins and antioxidants that are especially important to a dog’s health.