Could destroying the normal bacteria in your dog’s body be a risk factor for cancer down the road?
This may sound very far-fetched. However, in the spirit of avoiding condemnation before an investigation, read on!
Do Probiotics Prevent Cancer?
It turns out that the so-called “healthy” bacteria in the body may provide cancer protection.
Good bacteria, also called probiotics, help digest food, release enzymes, and ensure that nutrition is properly absorbed. They also can have anti-tumor effects through several different mechanisms. They aid the body in keeping balance or homeostasis.
They help the immune system work properly, too. A healthy probiotic population might lower the risk for tumors of the digestive tract, liver, and bladder.
So what happens if these good bacteria are destroyed with antibiotics? They can be replaced with “unhealthy” bacteria. Does it follow that there is a cancer risk?
Where Probiotics Live in the Body
Let’s first look at the natural bacteria found in bodies. These live mainly in the GI tract but are also located on the skin and in body cavities. Healthy intestinal bacteria vary between species but can include bacteria like some strains of lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, strep, and others.
These bacteria are beneficial as they help block disease-causing microbes, help stimulate immunity, and help provide the body with vitamins.
However, what happens when these bacteria are destroyed or never received in the first place?
What Happens When Good Bacteria Are Gone
The frequent result is that the intestine is colonized with bacteria that are not especially healthy, such as some strains of clostridia and Bacteroides. These do not provide the benefits of healthy bacteria, and there is some research that they may produce toxic waste products that create inflammation and precancerous changes in the intestine of lab animals and humans.
Additionally, helicobacter is a risk factor for stomach inflammation and pre-cancerous changes, as opposed to the intestine. This is another example of an “unhealthy’ bacteria.
Although there is not a direct cause and effect yet established in pets or people for many of these changes, I believe we will be seeing much more data on this over the next decade. The microbiome is a hot topic for researchers.
Get more advice on diet and soooo much else in this book. A must-read even if your dog doesn’t have cancer!
Ask Your Veterinarian for a Probiotic After Antibiotic Use
If your dog has been on antibiotics for 3-7 days or more, I recommend you discuss probiotics with your vet. A couple of weeks use of a high-quality probiotic supplement can replenish the gut with the good stuff.
Make sure this healthy bacteria supplement is protected from the stomach acid and enzymes so it can reach the lower part of the intestine without being destroyed in the stomach. There are different quality probiotics, and you want to get one that will make it to its favorite home.
I feel that lower potency sources such as organic yogurt may not be entirely adequate, especially if your dog is really empty of a good population.
Finally, you may provide the fuel for these bacteria, which are called prebiotics. One common one is inulin.
While a prescription probiotic is needed for acute conditions, ongoing support can be found in an over-the-counter supplement, as well as fermented foods, of course. I personally like the pre- and probiotics support included in the daily apoptogen formula I created called EverPup.
Further Reading & References
Kumar M, Kumar A, Nagpal R, et al. Cancer-preventing attributes of probiotics: an update. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2010;61(5):473-496. doi:10.3109/09637480903455971
Yu AQ, Li L. The Potential Role of Probiotics in Cancer Prevention and Treatment. Nutr Cancer. 2016;68(4):535-544. doi:10.1080/01635581.2016.1158300
Śliżewska K, Markowiak-Kopeć P, Śliżewska W. The Role of Probiotics in Cancer Prevention. Cancers. 2021; 13(1):20. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13010020
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.