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Intestinal rehabilitation (also: symbiosis control) in dogs is intended to correct bacterial and fungal colonization of the intestine and to restore the healthy intestinal flora.

Functions of the intestine

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In addition to digestion, the intestine has many other tasks: it contains a large part of the immune cells that exist in the body, it represents a barrier to the outside world and has a major influence on other organs. Many of these processes have only been understood to a limited extent. We know, for example, that the intestine communicates directly with the brain via nerve fibers and so-called neurotransmitters (messenger substances) and that it is involved in the development and also in the elimination of psychological problems. Against this background, scientists are currently putting the intestines at the center of attention when it comes to various diseases and the understanding of how they develop.

Intestinal bacteria in dogs: why the intestinal flora is so important

In addition to the body’s own intestinal cells and enzymes, which are used for digestion and defense against harmful substances, there are a large number of bacteria that live in the mucus on the intestinal surface. These healthy, “good” bacteria are referred to as the intestinal flora or in their entirety as the intestinal microbiome. (Many different healthy bacteria also live on the skin and thus form the skin flora.) The healthy intestinal bacteria in dogs include so-called enterococci and Escherichia coli, but also lactobacilli and bifidobacilli.

The intestinal bacteria train the immune system, for example, support digestion and prevent the spread of pathogenic germs. They also produce substances that cannot be obtained from food. In addition, they can even adapt to eating habits: herbivores or vegetarians have a different microbiome than carnivores (meat eaters), since other substances have to be metabolized and the need for their own products differs. Last but not least, each individual has their own microbiome.

Intestinal rehabilitation in dogs: when the intestinal flora is out of balance

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The intestinal flora of the dog is exposed to many challenges: increasing age, genetic dispositions (genetically determined easier conditions for the development of a disease), infections, stress, medicines, and especially nutrition present the intestinal bacteria with great challenges.

If the healthy balance in the intestine is disturbed, this is called dysbiosis. This can then trigger gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, or chronic inflammation. However, dysbiosis also affects many other organs, e.g. the immune system, reproductive organs, bones, liver, kidneys, and much more.

Possible bowel-associated diseases are:

  • feed intolerance
  • skin problems
  • internal diseases (liver, pancreas, kidneys)
  • Infections and inflammations (including the musculoskeletal system)
  • weak immune system
  • behavioral disorders

By the way: An intestinal barrier disturbed by stress or other factors allows substances to enter the organism that would not be able to pass through in a healthy intestinal flora and an intact intestinal surface. This is how toxins or bacteria get into the body and activate the immune system. The result can be inflammation or excessive reactions such as allergies.

Intestinal cleansing of dogs: how is it carried out?

There are several elements to cleansing the intestines in dogs: on the one hand, various medications are used, on the other hand, feeding is of great importance.

Intestinal cleansing: medication for dogs

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So-called prebiotics offer the intestinal bacteria the best possible growth conditions, for example by lowering the pH value, regenerating the mucous membrane or binding harmful germs (medicinal yeast, pectin, inulin). In addition, they can only be digested by the healthy intestinal bacteria and are not destroyed by digestive processes.

With probiotics, “good” bacteria are actively supplied to the intestines in order to rebuild the intestinal flora. They actually contain viable bacteria. They must be processed in such a way that the bacteria actually reach the small intestine and are not digested beforehand. Products that contain several strains of different bacteria are well suited. They support each other and also act at different locations in the intestine (synergy effect). Even if the “hard” scientific facts about probiotics are still relatively sparse, practical experience shows the following possible effects:

  • less diarrhea
  • Suppression of pathogenic bacteria
  • reduction of inflammation
  • positive influence on the immune system and intestinal wall

A combination of pre- and probiotics promises the best success in the context of intestinal rehabilitation in dogs. They must be administered over weeks, or over months in the case of severe disorders, in order to achieve a lasting effect.

Intestinal rehabilitation dog: feeding

In addition to these drugs for intestinal rehabilitation in dogs, feeding is always optimized. It has the greatest influence on the intestinal flora, since it nourishes the intestinal bacteria every day and for years. The following questions, among others, will be clarified during the consultation and the feeding of the dog will then be examined:

Is there any food that the dog does not tolerate well?
What is the relationship between proteins, fats and carbohydrates?
Are all relevant nutrients present, including trace elements and minerals?
From which sources do the respective components come?
Are there artificial additives such as coloring and flavoring that are not necessary?
In rare cases, there has actually been a massive overgrowth of the intestines with disease-causing bacteria. Paradoxically, antibiotics help in such cases: they kill the unwanted germs. With intestinal cleansing, you can then help the dog to find its way back into a healthy balance.

By the way: Compared to the cat, which is an obligate carnivore (they only need very small amounts of carbohydrates), dogs are omnivores with a focus on meat. It is therefore entirely possible, for example, to feed a dog a healthy vegetarian diet – but not a cat. That is why the question of the composition of the feed in relation to the intestinal bacteria is very important!

Intestinal rehabilitation dog: when is it useful?

Basically, if your dog shows signs of illness, you should always consult a veterinarian to find the cause of the problem!

If a dog suffers from chronic digestive problems or has a chronic disease, a gut cleanse could be a good idea. Even if it doesn’t necessarily fix the problem in the end, an intact intestinal flora is definitely helpful in healing.

Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to routinely determine a dysbiosis. Not enough is known about the bacterial strains involved and no laboratory method has yet been sufficiently tested to deliver meaningful results. Intestinal rehabilitation in dogs due to dysbiosis is always based on assumptions.

Intestinal cleansing is also helpful when antibiotic therapy is being carried out. Unfortunately, antibiotics also kill the healthy germs in the intestine. Support for the healthy intestinal flora can already be started during the treatment. Other medications can also have a negative effect on the intestinal flora and make it advisable to cleanse the intestines in order to reduce negative effects.

Intestinal rehabilitation dog: conclusion

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Intestinal cleansing in dogs has not yet become established across the board in classic veterinary medicine. The scientific basis is still relatively small, even if the topic has become very important, especially in human medicine. Studies indicate the importance of a healthy intestinal flora and the positive effects of pre- and probiotics. Therefore, an attempt can be made to cleanse the intestines in the dog, also in addition to other treatments to combat certain diseases. Since it is relatively low-risk and most likely harmless, it has a number of advantages over other therapy methods. On the other hand, dysbiosis should not be seen in every health problem and the reflex reaction should be to cleanse the intestines. A precise diagnosis and openness to other helpful therapies should be a matter of course.

If an intestinal cleansing is carried out on your dog – be patient! It takes time and perseverance for the desired effect to set in.

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