Winter officially begins December 21st, even though it has felt like it for awhile now. Fall through early spring is known as cold and flu season in human medicine, and it’s true that your dogs and cats are at an increased risk for disease during this time of year as well. While pets are vaccinated against the most serious diseases, like rabies, distemper and parvo, they are still susceptible to other harmful viruses or bacteria.
Most of the immune system lies within the digestive tract, and there are things you can do to protect your pet against winters germs and amp up the immune system to protect against pathogens. Once intake of food and digestion occurs in the stomach and small intestine, water is removed in the colon and any material that is left is further broken down and eliminated. The bacterial count of the large intestine is significantly more than the rest of the GI tract and it is here that the purpose of healthy bacteria is the most profound. When this balance is disturbed, a common outcome is colitis, or inflammation of the colon, which manifests as diarrhea with mucus or blood or both, with or without vomiting. When the intestinal tract is healthy, the rest of the body is healthy.
Causes of colitis include:
- stress: emotional stress (new pet, new baby, etc) or physical stress (boarding or travel)
- unhealthy lifestyle: poor food and lack of exercise can inhibit the immune system
- too many antibiotics: antibiotics kill bad bacteria, but too many or the wrong kind can also kill beneficial bacteria
- steroids: prolonged use of steroids can cause ulcers in the digestive tract
- sudden change in diet: some pets can change foods with little to no change in their digestion, but others are more sensitive and need to be gradually weaned onto a new food
- dietary indiscretion or foreign body: ingestion of table food, in particular foods high in fat, or non-food items like sticks or toys, can interrupt normal digestion and even cause blockages
- unclean water: several intestinal parasites are spread by contaminated water and are especially found in puddles or pond
- ingestion of chemicals: pets that eat grass can be exposed to varieties of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals
Keeping the intestinal tract, and by extension the immune system and the rest of the body, healthy requires a multi-step approach.
To begin, all cats and dogs should eat the best quality diet you can afford. Feeding healthy food will provide your pet with the maximum of nutrients, thereby contributing to good health. Cats and dogs should eat a grain free diet with a carbs/fat/protein ratio that is appropriate for his or her age and activity level.
Consider probiotics as a supplement to a good diet. Probiotics are supplements that contain helpful, live bacteria that keep potentially harmful bacteria under control, eliminate toxins, assist in breakdown of indigestible fiber and foster correct pH within the intestinal tract. The cultures within a probiotic supplement must be protected, in order to make it through the stomach and small intestine to the colon, where they thrive. Dogs and cats have more bacteria in their gut than people do, and those bacteria are unique to them, making supplements intended for humans largely useless.
When choosing a probiotic, it is important to remember that probiotics are not regulated, so you want to look for a product from a reputable company. The most effective probiotics will have at least 2 strains of beneficial bacteria specific to cats and dogs, a certain number of live colonies and viability and potency that ensure most of the bacteria will make it to the colon alive. A supplement that also contains digestive enzymes, such as Synacore, will further help with digestion and detoxification.
Synacore is a product especially formulated for cats and dogs. It’s much more than just a probiotic, as it also contains prebiotics, vitamins A,D and E and 13 enzymes. Prebiotics are non-digestible plant ingredients that help nourish healthy bacteria within the gut. The actual bacteria are micro-encapsulated, to ensure that the bacteria will make it through the stomach and small intestine to the colon, where they thrive. Prebiotics are natural fertilizer to help the probiotics function once they are established. In addition, Synacore contains vitamins that are vital to good health and digestive enzymes to make the digestive processes more efficient.
Finally, giving heartworm prevention to dogs year round is an important step in preventing intestinal parasites. The mosquitoes that spread heartworm disease are gone for now, but intestinal worms tend to be hardy and can be transmitted even during cold weather.
AVAILABLE NOW: Through January 15, 2014, all Synacore is buy one get one free!