Probiotics & Animal Well-Being

The development of intensive breeding has been accompanied by growing societal preoccupations concerning animal well-being. Nowadays this notion is integrated to many requirements which govern “label” or “certified” productions.

Albeit everybody admit there is a necessity to take it into account, animal well-being remains a multi factorial and complex notion which integrates not only the satisfaction of vital needs (food, water…) but also its health et the absence of stress or physical discomfort or climatic inconvenience.

Apart from the animal environment (climatic, sanitary…) decisive for good breeding conditions, the food and in particular the use of probiotics in food is an effective and non expensive way to improve the animal well-being.

On the one hand, probiotics improve the food assimilation (thanks to an increased absorption surface of the intestine and the rumen or thanks to a better digestibility of the nutrients), making better the satisfaction of the animal metabolic needs. It’s the first condition necessary to the animal well-being.

On the other hand, these micro organisms help to maintain a good health status during critical periods, health status which is one of the most studied characteristics of probiotics. For instance, we can mention yeast which prevents ruminal acidosis or piglet diarrheas. We can also cite lactic acid bacteria which reduce the quantity of salmonella in poultry or fight against pig enterotoxemia. The maintenance of the animal health status also contributes to their well-being.

Probiotics also promote the animal well-being reducing some factors of discomfort. For instance the sow during gestation can suffer from slower transit, lactation troubles which are source of discomfort or even of pain. These discomforts are often accompanied by an increase of vaginal exploration (linked to difficulties during the farrowing process) and of crushed piglets (due to an increased nervousness of the sow and to low vitality of underfed piglets). Yeasts administration to the sows shows obvious benefits, on transit and to fight against hypo or agalactia. The sow well-being can be easily assessed looking at the attitudes and behaviors (nervousness) improved.

More recent studies (Aït-Belgnaoui, 2009; Messaoudi et al. 2011) tend to prove that probiotics have also an action on the neuroendocrine response related to stress. Thus, in the first study many stress markers (ACTH, corticosterone, CRF and CFOS) were decreased in rats fed with lactic acid bacteria before stress induction compared to rats not fed with these bacteria. In the second study, the combination of two lactic acid bacteria showed a significant “anxiolytic-like activity in rats and beneficial psychological effects in healthy human volunteers”. The oral intake of certain probiotic may act in a direct way on the animal well-being reducing the physiologic response related to stress.

Therefore, there is a twofold link between probiotics and animal well-being: Not only probiotics allow to treat stress consequences ( flora balance, transit regulation, strengthening of the ruminal ecosystem, etc.) but they also enable to reduce directly the animal stress perception (in case of stress, the physiologic response is softened), improving the well-being feeling of the animal. This is all more important as animal well-being is not only a moral and societal necessity but it’s an essential condition to have optimal zootechnical performances.

Messaoudi M., Lalonde R, Violle N, Javelot H, Desor D, Nejdi A, Bisson JF, Rougeot C, Pichelin M, Cazaubiel M, Cazaubiel JM. Assessment of psychotrophic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and in humans. British Journal of Nutrition 2011; 105(5): 755-64
Ait-Belgnaoui A., Eutamene H., Houdeau E., Han W., Fioramonti J., Bueno L., Theodorou V. Lactobacillus farciminis treatment attenuates stress-induced overexpression of Fos protein in spinal and supraspinal sites after colorectal distension in rats. Neurogastroenterol Motil 2009; 21(5):567-73.