Probiotics As Key Nutrients

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Probiotics have been in many people’s health vocabulary for many years now. And it’s still not a cut and clear subject with information always changing, new types of probiotics coming out, and so on. So we want to shine some light on the topic.

Introducing Dr. Doug Knueven, a holistic veterinarian, who presents the latests on probiotics for pets. In his webinar he shares probiotic’s effect on overall health, physically and psychologically, and why he believes they should be considered an essential nutrient.

Dr. Doug Knueven is a holistic veterinarian. He attended Ohio State University and graduated as a veterinarian, ready and eager to help animals in need. Through some eye-opening, real-life experiences, Dr. Doug came to realize there must be more to health and healing than what he learned in vet school, which led him down the road of holistic medicine.

SUMMARY: Dr. Doug Knueven discussed how probiotics can benefit your pet’s gut health and help treat diarrhea, affect the immune system, the brain, moods, and behavior, how probiotics affect the body’s metabolism and how to use probiotics for your pet’s health.


The story begins with Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian-born biologist who discovered the importance of white blood cells in the body. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1908 in medicine, and along the way, he began to notice that farmers that lived in the country were generally much healthier than city-dwellers. He came to the conclusion it was because the farmers consumed more fermented foods. He reasoned the bacteria in the fermented food promoted the health of these farmers and that this fermentation was actually good for you. He is considered the father of natural immunity and known to have said “death begins in the colon”.

Probiotics: The Missing Nutrient

There are numerous positive effects of probiotics. Having a healthy gut is directly related to our overall health. Probiotics help us and our pets fight bad bacteria, aid with problems such as leaky gut, anxiety, immune system strength and much more. Studies have even been shown that probiotics can help with metabolism and obesity and the bacteria in itself actually acts as a detox organ.

The Microbiome

The intestinal microbiota is the collection of the living microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses) inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract.

● Hippocrates stated “all disease begins in the gut”
● We have 100 trillion microbes in the gut (1⁄2 gallon)
● We have ten times more bacterial cells than host hells on a cellular level, so in a sense, we are more bacteria than we are human!
● We have 100-150x the number of host genes.
● Microbiomes are extremely unique, even identical twins can have distinct microbiomes
● There are thousands of bacterial species/strains.
● There are 500 cultivatable species.

Microbiome Functions

● The main function of the microbiome is to further break down foods to liberate more nutrients while producing several vitamins like Vitamin B and K
● The microbiome also completely inhibits disease-causing bacteria and nourishes enterocytes and short-chain fatty acids
● It’s responsible for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining and protects against bodily inflammation like leaky gut syndrome
● The microbiome affects the systemic immune system, brain chemistry & structure, and works as a detox organ

Microbes are a defending barrier against invading pathogens, aid in digestion, provide nutritional support for enterocytes, and play a crucial role in the development of the immune system. The flora has a collective metabolic activity equal to a virtual organ within an organ.

The symbiotic relationship that exists between the GI microbes and the host is critical for the proper function of nutritional, developmental, immunological, and physiologic processes in animals, and thus contributes to overall health.

Antibiotics and Gut Health

Administration of antimicrobial agents, therapeutically or as prophylaxis, causes disturbances in the ecological balance between the host and then normal microflora.

Study Example

In this example, 155 adults were chosen and given specific medications to use for 30 days. Through each participant’s stool specimens (bacteria), doctors could tell exactly which medications were taken based on what bacteria were in their intestines. Each drug caused a different problem with the intestinal flora. Basically, bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract reflect the combinations of medications that people ingested. Just like people, anything a pet ingests can mess with their gastrointestinal tract. Think of it like an ecosystem, the more diverse, the better!

So how do we keep our Intestinal Flora Healthy?

Probiotics. Probiotic literally translates into ‘for life’. An adequate amount is important to make a difference. Prebiotics are food for the probiotic. It’s basically what they need to be stimulated in their growth and be robust. Synbiotics are supplements that contain prebiotics and probiotics.

How do Probiotics Affect the Microbiome?

There was a study done where specific strains of probiotics were fed to dogs for seven days. After they stopped feeding those specific probiotics they disappeared from the GI tract, but the change within stayed. This shows that probiotics have the ability to modify the intestinal microbiota and long-term positive effects are seen even after probiotics are stopped. Many positive effects have also been shown when giving probiotics to cats. Their white blood cells were doing better, stronger red blood cells and overall fewer toxins in the body. Probiotics even help your pet prevent and treat food and atopic allergies.

Studies have shown that different types of probiotics can aid in battling depression and anxiety. A healthy microbiome balance of gut bacteria may be more responsible whether you are lean or obese than the food you eat. One such study stated “Our findings suggest that the gut microbiota is an important environmental factor that affects energy harvest from the diet and energy storage in the host.”

Probiotics as nutrients

Nutrient: a constituent of food necessary for normal physiologic function.

Essential nutrient: nutritional substances required for optimal health.

This must be in the diet because they are not formed metabolically within the body.

Dr. Doug strongly believes that probiotics fit that definition. Ancestors of dogs ate bacteria by the animal carcasses they stored or hid for days or weeks at a time. Because of all the health related to the GI tract and the effects that a healthy gut has for overall health, it only makes sense that probiotics should be considered an essential nutrient. Just like in people, the health and well-being of companion animals depend on the gut microbes. Specific probiotic strains and/or their defined combinations may be useful in canine and feline nutrients, therapy, and overall care.

It’s All about balance

To reestablish a balanced microbiome, probiotic mixtures, as opposed to single strains of probiotics, appear to be most effective against a wide range of endpoints. Multi-strain probiotics appear to show greater efficacy than a single strain.

Quality Commercial Animal Probiotics

Finding quality commercial animal probiotics can be a bit of a challenge since it’s very difficult to check the accuracy of store purchased probiotics. In 2011 there was a quality control study executed that included 25 different probiotic products with the results as shown:

● 7 misspelled microbe names
● 4 did not list specific microorganisms
● 10 did not list expected CFU’s
● 4 of the 15th that did list CFU’s met label claims
● Only 2 had a proper label and met label claims.

There is one way to ensure to your best ability that what you are giving your pet is what is stated on the bottle. The National Animal Supplement Council is a non-profit industry trade association/animal advocacy group. Members are subject to ongoing quality review/monitoring and it is best to look for this seal to ensure quality control.

Dr. Doug has the most experience with Vetri Mega Probiotic, but also uses Nutrigest and Acetylator for problems such as leaky gut syndrome. The Purina FortiFlora has a bit more flavor than the others, so he might use that probiotic for picky dogs, depending on the situation. The list below are all the probiotics Dr. Doug currently uses in practice and recommends:

● Vetri Mega Probiotic (VetriScience)
● Rx Biotic (Rx Vitamins)
● Nutrigest (Rx Vitamins)
● Acetylator (VetriScience)
● FortiFlora (Purina)
● Entero TruBenefits – streptococcus salivarius
● Calming Care (Purina) – Bifidobacterium longum BL999


Just like Dr. Doug stated, “Everything affects everything, so probiotics are important, as they affect everything!” The direct, positive effects healthy flora has on your overall health can’t be ignored. It is key to promote and maintain a healthy and balanced GI tract, and you should do the same for your pet!

There are many more studies and examples within the webinar if you would like some more proof on how important probiotics are, and why they really one of the key nutrients for your overall well-being.

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