For both pets and people, antibiotics play an important role in healing. As an effective treatment for some types of bacterial infections, antibiotics kill bacteria or prevent them from reproducing and spreading. And while we’re used to more modern antibiotics prescribed by doctors and vets, they’ve actually been around for a long, long time.
The problem is, antibiotics, while they heal by killing bacteria, the also really do a number on the body. More specifically, they can really do a number on your animal’s gut. That’s why it’s so important to support a dog after antibiotics! To help your pet recover after an illness, as well as to help the body rebound after the medications, you want to do all that you can.
So, when we say that antibiotics do a number on the body, what do we mean? And how can you support a dog after antibiotics?
What Antibiotics Do to Your Dog’s Body
Hanging out inside your dog’s body are trillions of microorganisms of thousands of different species. These include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. In a healthy dog, these microorganisms coexist, living together peacefully in the skin, the organs, and most importantly, the gut. These microorganisms stimulate the immune system, break down potentially toxic food compounds, and synthesize certain vitamins and amino acids, protecting the body and allowing it to function at its peak.
However, when the balance is disturbed, and the bad microbes start to take over and outnumber the good, that ability to function is disrupted. And that can have serious impacts on mental and physical health. Ready? It’s been linked with:
- Gas and bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Bad breath
- Bladder infections
- Weight loss or gain
- Gum disease
- Immune system disorders
- Respiratory illnesses such as asthma
- Joint pain
- Gastrointestinal cancer
Research shows that antibiotics can have several negative effects on the gut microbiota, including reduced species diversity, altered metabolic activity, and the selection of antibiotic-resistant organisms, which in turn can lead to antibiotic-associated diarrhea and recurrent Clostridioides difficile infections. And significant changes in gut microbiota that have both short- and long-term health consequences have been linked directly to antibiotics.
In short, while killing the bad bacteria, antibiotics also kill the good bacteria – the bacteria that keeps your dog healthy.
How to Support a Dog After Antibiotics
So, it’s been firmly established that antibiotics can wreak havoc on the gut. What’s the option – not to take them? Well no, that’s often not the ideal approach. First, discuss your concerns with your veterinarian, and see if there are any alternatives, and if there are not, then, that’s what we recommend.
BUT – don’t just finish that prescription and call it a day. Once they’re finished, you want to try and do everything you can to support a dog after antibiotics.
1. Probiotics, Probiotics, Probiotics
Once antibiotics wipe out those friendly microbes, you want to help repopulate them in the microbiome. Feeding probiotics can do just that.
Probiotics are healthy, live, good bacteria. They’ve been scientifically studied for decades and have demonstrated benefits for different aspects of health, including digestive health, immune health, and even oral health!
A probiotic supplement is your best bet to support a dog after antibiotics. Look for one with several billion colony forming units, and various different probiotic strains. You can also supplement with probiotic-rich foods, like kefir or fermented veggies.
Important: Wait until you’ve finished the antibiotics before giving probiotics. If given together, the antibiotic will essentially wipe out the bacteria in your probiotic before the friendly flora has a chance to benefit your dog’s gut health.
Now, probiotics are crucial, but you don’t want to forget to feed them. And that means prebiotics.
Prebiotics are fibers in foods that feed probiotics and promote the growth and activity of the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut. In addition to helping probiotics flourish, they also positively alter the composition and activity of GI microflora. They’ve also been shown to improve gut barrier function – helping protect against leaky gut syndrome. (This is when the junctions in the gut stretch, allowing undigested food and toxic particles to leak into the bloodstream).
Several dog-friendly foods contain prebiotics, including:
- Raw garlic
- Raw honey
- Dandelion greens
You can also find a supplement that contains both, like Love Bugs!
3. Refresh the Diet
Everything you eat impacts your microbiome. The same goes for your dog.
Several studies have looked at the impact of raw food diets versus kibble diets on the gut microbiome. One group of researchers in particular fed a group of healthy dogs either a species-specific raw food diet or a commercial kibble diet for 1 year. At the end of the study, significant differences were found in the gut microbiota between the two groups. Most notably, all dogs fed the natural raw food diet were found to have a more diverse and abundant microbial composition than those fed the commercial kibble.
Processed food that’s high in carbohydrates (read: kibble) isn’t the way to go, especially after antibiotics. Instead, a high protein, low carb diet is the best thing you can feed to improve the diversity of the bacteria in the gut, and to boost overall health. Fresh, whole food – including meat and fruits and vegetables – is always better for overall health and wellness.
To support a dog after antibiotics is paramount to overall health. Combining a raw, species-appropriate diet with the healthy, timely, supplementation of probiotics and prebiotics, give your dog’s gut health the boost it desperately needs to rebound.
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!