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When feeding probiotics to a rabbit, one could ask if the given bacteria contained in the probiotic paste or powders are compatible with the gastro-intestinal environmental conditions of the rabbit.
Most probiotic solutions contain:
These four bacteria are generally absent in the rabbit digestive system. If absent in a healthy GI tract, their efficacy after administration can be questioned, since the environmental conditions of the rabbit gastro- intestinal tract may not be the one required by those bacteria.
A few other questions should be addressed too:
1. Do the bacteria survive the passage through the very acid rabbit stomach?
2. Once stomach is passed, do the bacteria survive the anaerobic conditions of the cecum ?
Jilge B, Meyer H. Coprophagy-dependant changes of the anaerobic bacterial flora in stomach and small intestine of the rabbit. Z Versuchstierkd. 1975;17(5-6):308-14.
3. A study was made on probiotics for horses, studying various brands of probiotics available on the market. The authors showed that none of the bacteria reached the intestine and that the tubes contained far less bacteria than stated on the label:
Weese JS. Microbiologic evaluation of commercial probiotics. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002; 220(6):794-7.
"OBJECTIVE: To evaluate contents of commercial probiotic products marketed for veterinary or human administration. DESIGN: Microbiologic culture assay.
SAMPLE POPULATION: 8 veterinary probiotics and 5 human probiotics. PROCEDURE: Quantitative bacteriologic culture was performed on all products, and isolates were identified via biochemical characteristics. Comparison of actual contents versus label claims was performed. RESULTS: Label descriptions of organisms and concentrations accurately described the actual contents of only 2 of 13 products. Five veterinary products did not specifically list their contents. Most products contained low concentrations of viable organisms. Five products did not contain 1 or more of the stated organisms, and 3 products contained additional species. Some products contained organisms with no reported probiotic effects; some of these organisms could be pathogens. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Most commercial veterinary probiotic preparations are not accurately represented by label claims. Quality control appears to be poor for commercial veterinary probiotics."
4. An alternative solution is to mix the food with cecals from another healthy rabbit. Here again, when the membrane of the cecal is ruptured, great chance that the bacteria will die during the obligatory passage through the stomach. One can not ignore here that parasites or diseases may be passed over from the supposedly healthy rabbit to the sick rabbit.
5. Since the probiotic product does not hurt and in some cases seem to have had positive effects, it can be routinely given to a sick rabbit.