OBJECTIVES: Probiotics are frequently used in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases in pet rabbits based largely on anecdotal evidence of a beneficial effect. However, there has been little work performed to assess any such benefit in health or disease. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of probiotics on faecal levels of four important candidate gastrointestinal bacteria (Bacteroides species, Enterococcus faecium, Fibrobacter succinogenes and Clostridium spiroforme) in pet rabbits. Additional aims were to evaluate the effect of probiotics on bodyweight and faecal weight and diameter.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Double-blind triple cross-over study in six healthy rabbits orally administered two probiotic strains, Saccharomyces cerevisiae NCYC Sc47 and E. faecium NCIMB 30183. Levels of bacteria in faecal pellets were subsequently determined by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction.
RESULTS: Oral administration of probiotic E. faecium NCIMB 30183 was associated with a significant (P = 0 · 042) increase in faecal levels of E. faecium. However, probiotic treatment did not affect faecal levels of Bacteroides species, F. succinogenes or C. spiroforme, bodyweight, or faecal weight and diameter.
CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The inclusion of dietary probiotic supplementation using E. faecium NCIMB 30183 can increase faecal levels of certain bacterial flora of healthy adult rabbits. Further work is required to investigate the effects of probiotics in animals affected with gastrointestinal disease.