Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Pancreatic Insufficiency


Caring for Animals with SIBO


Those animals that don’t respond as they should to enzyme replacement therapy for EPI should have their blood levels of vitamin B12 evaluated. If necessary, B12 should be given by injection to supplement any deficiencies.


Oral antibiotics are the treatment of choice for SIBO. Commonly prescribed antibiotics for SIBO include metronidazole and tylosin. In some cases, tetracyclines or other broad-spectrum antibiotics may be used. Treatment should begin to be effective in about a week, but may be continued for several weeks in order to bring about sufficient control of the bacterial growth. In some cases, your pet may have a persistent case of SIBO which will require antibiotic therapy given in small doses on a frequent (or even permanent) basis.


During the course of antibiotic treatment, your veterinarian may suggest feeding your pet probiotics and/or prebiotics to help re-establish a healthy environment in the intestinal tract.


Probiotics, such as acidophilus and lactobacillus, are “friendly” bacteria that are beneficial to the health and normal function of the small intestine. These substances should be given at a low dose to start and can be slowly increased until the animal is able to tolerate a higher dose. Your veterinarian can help you choose the correct source of probiotics. Dairy products, however, are not the best choice for animals with SIBO, as intestinal damage decreases the levels of lactase produced in the gut needed by the animal to digest dairy.


Prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharides or FOS, will stimulate healing in the gut and encourage the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. Feeding of probiotics and prebiotics should be done several hours before or after the administration of antibiotics, since they could be destroyed by the medication.


Nutritional support is also highly important if your pet has EPI and secondary SIBO. A highly-digestible, lower fiber diet will help reduce the amount of “fuel” available for bad bacteria to feed on and thrive in the small intestine. Long-term feeding of probiotics and prebiotics might also be considered to help prevent the development of SIBO. Your veterinarian can help you select the proper diet and supplemental therapy that will work best for your pet’s condition.