Probiotics: Quick Fix for Antibiotic Damage?

Sound too easy?

I get quite a spectrum of comments on this blog, from the occasional skeptic to a frustrated pet owner who’s getting disrespected by Dr. WhiteCoat, to a handful of drug-enamored folks who aren’t even waiting for the other shoe to drop as they suppress their dog’s symptoms with the latest, greatest from Big Pharma.

But this one caught my eye and got whisked into Evernote, as it’s from a doctor, and it’s dangerously optimistic in an area I have serious concerns about:

The all too common over use of antibiotics.

See what you think:

My dog had erhlichiosis (sic) confirmed on blood test. We gave her doxycycline and she regained use of paralyzed back leg. Just give probiotics and grain free diet to combat the GI effects of meds.

Beep! Beep! Beep!! (the sound of my B.S. detector going off in my head)…

Who’s Living Inside You?

Perhaps you’ve already learned about our amazing microbiome within.

You know, the bazillion and three bacteria and yeasts that live in us that affect not only our digestion and our immune response but even our mood. That whole gut-brain connection is way cool and the sort of important stuff we’re only beginning to understand.

Some recent evidence shows even obesity may be intimately linked to unhealthy gut flora.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that they (microbes) also help control how we store fat, how we balance levels of glucose in our bloodstream and how we respond to hormones that regulate our hunger. There’s even evidence that the particular mix of microbes in our bodies in large part can determine whether we’re slim or overweight 1

We know that giving antibiotics to young chickens, cows and pigs means bigger, fatter animals brought to market. But we are doing pretty much the same thing to our own young, repeatedly dosing them up against all the infections of childhood (many of which do not require antibiotics to resolve). The results of an interconnected series of experiments in Dr. Blaser’s lab, with infant mice fed a variety of antibiotic regimens, lend strong support to the theory that exposure to antibiotics early in life has long-term effects on metabolism, and may contribute to our epidemic of childhood and adult obesity.2

Oh, my. Long term effects on metabolism?

That’s the chemistry within that keeps us alive!

Hence, my concern when that comment came in on my post on Lyme disease and the common overuse of antibiotics to treat dogs with positive Lyme titers who are not sick.

Just give probiotics and a grain free diet and everything will be fixed from those antibiotics?

When it sounds so simple, my BS detector starts beeping.

My biggest concern is just how long does the effect of carpet bombing the gut flora last?

Antibiotics: Indiscriminate Killers

The good guys die off right next to the bad, and that upset in millions and billions of bacteria we depend on?

… it is the hapless bystanders who have suffered the most — not human beings, mind you, but the gazillions of benevolent, hardworking bacteria colonizing our skin and the inner linings of our gastrointestinal tracts. We need these good little creatures to survive, but even a short course of antibiotics can destroy their universe, with incalculable casualties and a devastated landscape. Sometimes neither the citizenry nor the habitat ever recovers.3

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

While these organisms within and upon us outnumber our own cells 10 to 1, and we keep discovering new benefits of keeping them happy and healthy…

Well, is it easy to just add probiotics to the mix and the damage will be repaired in short order?

Not so fast. Put those capsules down and back away from the food dish.

A study of adults treated with a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011, revealed that the mix of their internal microorganisms remained disturbed after the 10-month experiment and that the full consequences of this altered state remain unknown 4

Sounds like another place for thinking before “complying” with the all too common antibiotic prescription, doesn’t it?

Let’s Get Practical: What Can I DO?

1. Avoid antibiotics if at all possible

First and foremost, try to avoid antibiotics unless you have no other choice. Unless some rare, life threatening bacterial infection is happening (unlikely), you’ve got time to research alternatives.

You can, instead:

2. Feed probiotics routinely

Regular probiotics help keep your animals’ gut microbiome diverse. That’s always a preventative plus.

I like fresh green tripe for this purpose. If it doesn’t stink and have color, there are no live probiotics in it.

Texas Tripe delivers. Likely someone in your state does, too. Ask the Goog.

Capsules? Yeah, they won’t hurt. But, how much help are they? The jury’s out and it likely depends on the particular cultures and the amount fed.

Think in terms of billions per dose. And, like other things in natural feeding, change up your source periodically.

Variety mimics nature. Always good to compliment Mom Nature by imitating her doings.

3. Damage Repair: FMT

If you’ve got a suspected damaged gut (a dog with overwhelming yeast infections, who smells like a walking bag of Fritos and can’t stop scratching comes to mind), you might consider finding a holistic vet and some healthy dog poop.

Wait. What??

Yes, I’m suggesting FMT, a fecal microbiota transplant. Into the rectum of the sick dog goes a slurry of good guy flora from that healthy dog’s poop.

Some of my colleagues are doing these “transplants” with good success.

Look up Dr. Margo Roman to get started if you’re out East. Find more holistic vets on the AHVMA list on my Resource page. Ask if they’d do this for you. Dr. Roman has a page showing exactly how they can do it.

See the Value, Act Accordingly

Bottom line, we tend to cherish something more when we discover its true value.

We have plenty of info available now to let us honor and respect and care for our gut flora. They truly are important and not to be taken for granted.

It’d be a mistake to play fast and loose with antibiotics and imagine you’d quickly fix any side effects in the gut microbiome by popping some probiotics in.

I’ll end with a quote from those who’ve assessing dysbiosis (the out of balance microbiome) far longer than I:

The functional claim for correcting dysbiosis is poorly supported for most probiotic strains and requires further research.5

We need to know more. Where have I heard that before?

Let us know in the comments if you’ve seen antibiotics set off problems or, better yet, if you’ve seen probiotics or a fecal transplant make a difference.

We’re all ears.

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  1. Marcy Ball on August 29, 2018 at 1:44 am

    I have wondered if the “problem” of some dogs eating their own feces is actually a God given instinct in the dog to try to replace gut bacteria that it is lacking. A self administered fecal transplant. Sadly I had this happen with a dog after a chemical worming. No more chemical wormings for us. I gave a probiotic and she stopped. I sure am glad to hear about the tripe and kraut. Will be adding some to my girls diet.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on August 29, 2018 at 10:16 am

      Could be, Marcy. Definitely see it with eating horse manure or wild scat, though I’ve always thought eating one’s own stool to be a symptom of illness.

  2. Kymythy Schultze on June 2, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    I’m with you Doc! Working in the natural nutrition field for 40 years, I’ve found prebiotics to a problem for many dogs. I remember when they first became popular as an addition to probiotics. Suddenly the dogs that were doing well on a probiotic began to have problems when the product added prebiotics. Makes sense to me though as most are made from ingredients our dogs don’t need and could actually help feed yeast. Woof!

  3. Joy Eriksen on May 29, 2018 at 9:46 am

    I give my dogs raw green lamb trip in huge pieces. Believe you me, it STINKS, and I have to cut it because the piece is three pounds. But my girls love it. That is the only pro or pre biotics they have ever had. I had their guts tested last year and all looked good.

  4. cinaed simson on May 28, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    First thing I would do is stop the antibiotics and fast the dog for at least a day – maybe 2 days.
    And start looking for a holistic vet.
    Meanwhile, I would marinate dozen chicken or turkey legs by digging a hole in the backyard and burying them for a couple of days.
    Then feed the dog couple of those a day plus some raw eggs and chicken drum sticks and then look into switching the dog to a holistic raw diet.
    I’m assuming since the presence of grain in the diet may be problematic, then dog is probably a kibble junkie – or maybe it’s an assumption by the vet.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the owner takes the dog back to the vet because it’s suffering from the side effects of doxycycline – and then the vet recommends vaccinations for kennel cough, lepto and the flu.
    Note, I’ve never had a flu vaccination – or any vaccination since I left high school.
    And I’ve never had the flu which I attribute to having a dog when I was growing up.

  5. Josephine Testa on May 28, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Hey Doc,
    What is your opinion of Kefir which has more probiotics than any supplement and fortunately my dog loves, gets a cup a day (he would drink a gallon if I let him). Also Golden Paste (turmeric recipe) which he also loves. I think my Chauncy just knows what is good for him. We both are on the mentioned and are doing great. We do holistic all the way.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 28, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      Hey Josephine,
      I think kefir is great stuff, but all the better if your milk source is a local farm and it’s raw when you make your kefir. See the prior blog post on Got Real Milk? for why.
      Sounds like one lucky dog to have landed in your pack!

  6. Niv on May 28, 2018 at 9:27 am

    Can the FMT be done as MBRT (microbiome replacement therapy) and just feed a healthy dog’s poop to the sick dog or is it not as effective?

  7. Mary Traverse, DC on May 28, 2018 at 8:35 am

    Great article, Dr F! This is a timely topic with the probiotic “craze” we’ve been experiencing. In my human functional med studies we assume at least one year is required to begin to restore the gut from a course of antibiotics, IF EVER. And remember, this goes for skin health too—not so fast with the neosporin salve!!
    A short course in mammalian physiology might help. Remember, the actual gut lining is only the thickness of one skin cell. On it and in it floats a layer of mucous which anchors the microvilli, colonies of tiny fingers which serve as home to all the bacteria living there. Embedded here also are the factories for making–and developing—the white blood (immune) cells, and also the neurotransmitters, which are proteins essential for for brain function, among others. When we kill the bacteria we also damage the microvilli, the mucosal membrane, and even the layer of epithelial (skin) cells, resulting in what we commonly now call “leaky gut”. And here is the big surprise—there is so much affinity between the gut and the brain, and between inflammation here, and the gut barrier and the blood-brain barrier, which is designed to protect the brain from all sorts of things, we know now that these two parallel each other. For example, when a person experiences a concussion, within six hours, they also have a leaky gut. Holy cow.
    So back to the gut: it not only takes time, but a healthy environment to rebuild all these structures and relationships. If a gut is constantly inflamed by inappropriate foods, chemicals, GMOs, heavy metals, etc etc, re-establishing a robust environment may be impossible.
    It’s just not as simple as taking some bacteria in a pill.
    Thanks for reading! Dr Mary

    • Jennifer McDermott on May 28, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      Nice bit of info. Thank you

  8. Lucy on May 28, 2018 at 2:16 am

    I have a rescued Amstaff who has the itchy, corn chip smelling problem. It took me two years to figure out that it was a yeast infection due to gut micro biome imbalance. I live on a small Greek island, all the vets here are fully paid up vet Pharma agents, usually failed medical students. Anyway they diagnosed various things; allergies, leishmaniasis etc. The first one prescribed antibiotics and cortisol. Sure the cortisol worked but the antibiotics !! In hindsight this was a disaster. So I soon realised I was on my own. I tried colloidal silver and turmeric paste, worked ok for a while, but the foot chewing and disgusting smell came back and was too much Then I did some research and asked animal communicator friend to do some gestalt communication with the dog. That’s when the penny dropped, we both came up with the same answer…yeast infection. I am on a tight budget so instead of fancy expensive pills I make sauerkraut and water kefir. She gets a dose every mealtime and there’s been a big improvement. I will get some tripe too….good tip, thanks.
    She had leishmaniasis when I picked her off the street but she’s tested negative for two years in a row which is officially leish free. However she was prescribed Zilapur, the human medicine for gout for more than a year. I suspect this is what tipped her over the edge.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 28, 2018 at 1:40 pm

      Nice work, Lucy! Love my sauerkraut and feel deficient when I haven’t had a nice spoonful a day. I’ll bet there’s a market for fresh Greek sauerkraut! (We all fell for Greek yogurt, so… ).

  9. Nora C on May 28, 2018 at 1:16 am

    I’m fighting a tough case of fungus with probiotics right now, which don’t really seem to be working on the fungus, but at least he’s stopped barfing. No, I do not give antibiotics, ever. Usually colloidal silver is what works. This fungus showed up after we had the leach field replaced on the septic system and the soil was disturbed–sure hope it isn’t Cryptococcus. Three of the cats had patches immediately. Only the old guy, Hamp, is still crusty. If probiotics were all that effective he’d be clear by now, I’ve been dousing him with Bannixx 3x a day. I gave him Sulfur Iodatum 6c for the sneezing and I’m going to try Sulphur 30c for the crusty rash. I’ve read there’s an inherent problem with probiotics being destroyed by the stomach before they reach the intestines…do you think that’s true?
    Oh btw, doc–I’m a “flat earther.” I don’t believe we’re on a spinning space ship, kind sir. Really laughed at flat-earthers at first, until I examined the evidence with an open mind. Ain’t laughin’ now! I’m a scripture junky, so…

  10. Roses1 on May 28, 2018 at 12:49 am

    Our dog had a severe UTI that came on suddenly after taking Collostrum for a month, Anti-Vaccinosis two weeks prior, and 2 days of a natural Heartworm preventative/dewormer, all from Dog’snaturally magazine/…he was straining so badly with only bloody dribbles. He has flaky skin under his chin, his whole groin area and inside his back legs and his arm pits, & paws. We had no choice but to put him on an antibiotic. Colloidal Silver did nothing. A raw diet since last August made him lose weight and caused worst allergies than kibble. He is now on Hills prescription food & seems to be improving a little but still craves the sauerkraut we gave him with his raw diet. Hopefully it will bring back his good gut flora. I give him 1 of my capsules on days in between. Isn’t there any hope for our sick dogs? We can’t leave them not able to pee, straining & peeing blood. Sometimes antibiotics help. But, the vet says our dog has Anaplasma, again! She said his blood was clear but that the bacteria is hiding in his joints and organs from what the 2- $100.00 each blood tests shown. She wants to put him on antibiotics another 30 days… I don’t know what to do!

    • Lesley on May 28, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      I almost lost my second Westie from antibiotics. Vet gave him one round, cleared up whatever for the time he took the antibiotic. Once stopped the rash, itching came right back and worse. Vet says another round of antibiotics. Same thing happens. I did more research and found You will find plenty of examples of dogs near death from yeast overgrowth as a result of antibiotics and Nzymes literally saved these dogs lives. They have a complete protocol and it works!! It was really tough going for awhile as the yeast comes out through the nose and eyes. I thought I was going to lose him, but thankfully we both survived the ordeal and he went on to live a healthy life, but NEVER without the Nzymes products as I think once a dog has had yeast it still is lurking waiting to comeback. Good luck.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 28, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      It’s high time to hire a professional homeopathic vet, Rose! While Dr. WhiteCoat is really good at creating chronic disease, he has no cures at hand, but a good homeopath will. It’ll take time, patience, and close attention to symptoms as you go.
      I explain how to find one in my free Apoquel Alternatives Report. If you scroll up to just after the references, you see how to join my Vital Animal Pack and grab your report.
      You have better choices than antibiotics or immune suppressive drugs. You just won’t find them in conventional medicine.
      All the best with the challenges you face now.

  11. Nancy on May 27, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I used a probiotic, live culture, refrigerated, w/over 100 billion CFUs @ $60 a bottle for my diarrhea but it didn’t faze it in the least. I was also taking a live culture yogurt from raw cows milk and nothing. Eventually it passed.
    Thankfully, my mini doxie hasn’t had a problem that I know of (yet) but I like the idea of the fresh green tripe. I looked up Texas Tripe and they are about 100 miles north of me and deliver to a neighboring city so I’m going to do it. Preventative. Plus it’ll be good for her.
    Thanks for another great article and info…always enjoy them all and keep them.

  12. Cheryl Lambert (Arkansas) on May 27, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    I feed a variety of raw proteins; duck, lamb, lamb tripe and beef (Darwins Natural Selection) and venison (Primal-they assured me NO HPP on red meats) Read an article written by Dr. Karen Becker, Integrative DVM, that stated when feeding a species appropriate diet, supplementing with pre/probiotics could actually be causing a yeast-type overload. Our holistic vet, Dr. Pat Bradley (a colleague of Dr. Will’s), suggested I stop the pre/probiotic for a couple weeks and see if it helped one of our dogs she’s treating. Within 3 days, this particular dog quit her head shaking and scratching her ears. She’s been much more comfortable in general and sleeping better at night. Dr. Pat did say to give it a couple weeks (we have a week to go) and then possibly start our dogs (we have 3 rescues), on digestive enzymes. I’m researching different brands so we can discuss and choose one. Dr. Will, do you have a particular brand of enzymes you prefer for raw fed dogs?

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 28, 2018 at 1:23 pm

      I don’t at this point, Cheryl, but that may change in the near future, as I’ve got my radar out.
      The more interesting trial to me would be for you to feed those probiotics w/o prebiotics! Then, we’d know the prebiotics perhaps were feeding the wrong guys.
      Keep us posted here if you do this, please. I can’t imagine that probiotics alone would cause a yeast overgrowth.

      • Marty on May 28, 2018 at 9:57 pm

        There isn’t a processed capsule or a processed food that will insure health!
        Living food is available- loaded with nutrition-
        And plentiful living enzymes in all raw food!
        We are all paying too much money for the capsules- powders- to promote health!
        Probiotics? How can the proactive live bacteria live in a refrigerator jar?
        Dr. Will has it right for the dogs to restore gut health!
        Raw Green Tripe!

        • Marty on May 28, 2018 at 10:07 pm

          I think that I would rather trying to eat raw green tripe over having a fecal implant to correct the obvious-
          It’s something so disgusting for resolution!

  13. Boogie Miles on May 27, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    Question: explain capsules that are “probiotic & prebiotic? Is it necessary to take them daily to fullt benefit?
    Thanks Doc!

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 28, 2018 at 1:19 pm

      Prebiotics are food sources for the good guys to grow on when they are eaten together. I’m not sure how much data there is to define the benefit of having them with your probiotics. No downside (except maybe expense). Jerusalem artichoke is a common one.

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