SBO In Dogs: Triggers & Natural Remedies

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SBO, is a condition where there is a dramatic increase in the bacteria in the small intestine, which leads to the malabsorption of nutrients. This happens because of bacteria competing for nutrients. The result can be chronic problems with diarrhea, vomiting, and healthy weight gain. But it doesn't stop there.

A Trigger for GI Disorders

SBO is a pathogenic trigger of sorts as it is correlated to more serious conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disorder (IBD), and Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). All of these can greatly inhibit the quality of life for your pet. If your pet suffers intermittently from diarrhea, vomiting, or appears to have some signs of malnutrition, SBO may be in play.

What causes SBO?

How do dogs in particular get SBO? The cause is not totally known, but some possible factors could be genetics (seen often in German Shepherds, though all breeds can be susceptible), and diet and lifestyle. But going back to the net result of the concept of bacterial overgrowth let’s apply some reasoning; when the “gut” has a favorable microbiota, meaning a proper balance of the microscopic living organisms living in the gut, the gut will be healthy.

Hence, when this good gut balance is lost, like in SBO, the overrun results in the prospering of the more pathogenic bacteria. This is why probiotics are often useful in SBO. They compete against the pathogenic bacteria and will eventually get the microbiota back in balance.

How to Treat SBO

Conventional treatment for SBO is antibiotics, and antibiotics can definitely work to decrease the overall bacterial counts. In an acute model this may especially be helpful. Though there is scant research done in SBO for pets, there is some data for the upstream disorders that we mentioned at the outset of this article (Diarrhea, IBS, etc).

Additionally, in humans there is good research showing probiotics to be as effective as antibiotics for SBO. From a "big picture" perspective, it would seem probiotics would be a great solution as they work to restore balance by directly competing with the pathogenic bacteria, which ultimately brings their numbers down. Antibiotics will not selectively destroy just harmful bacteria, antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria as well.

Not to worry, if your pet has been prescribed antibiotics by your vet, follow through on the prescription. After the antibiotic therapy has been concluded, supplement with probiotics, this will serve to replace and build up the good bacteria that was lost during the antibiotic phase. If your pet is not on antibiotics and you observe SBO like symptoms, you may want to get your pet on probiotics now. Probiotics can also be used as a preventative and for the overall well being of your pet.


At Nusentia®, we have been using probiotics for years in pets to effectively address many GI disorders. They are one of the most foundational nutritive supplements in overall well being. Much of the overall immunity in the body is related to gut health and they can be pivotal in the overall nutrition status of the host. Here is a short-list of benefits:

  • Improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Improve immune function.
  • Control bowel toxicity
  • Reduce gas production
  • Produce short chain fatty adds that are converted into energy.

Acta Gastroenterol Latinoam. 2010 Dec;40(4):323-7. Spanish. Potential benefits of pro- and prebiotics on intestinal mucosal immunity and intestinal barrier in short bowel syndrome. Stoidis CN, Misiakos EP, Patapis P, Fotiadis CI, Spyropoulos BG. Nutr Res Rev. 2010 Oct 21:1-9.

[Epub ahead of print] [Microbiota and irritable bowel syndrome]. Ducrotté P. Gastroenterol Clin Biol. 2010 Sep;34 Suppl 1:S52-6. French.

[Intestinal microbiota in short bowel syndrome]. Goulet O, Joly F. Gastroenterol Clin Biol. 2010 Sep;34 Suppl 1:S37-43. Review. French.

The concept of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in relation to functional gastrointestinal disorders. Gibson PR, Barrett JS. Nutrition. 2010 Nov-Dec;26(11-12):1038-43. Epub 2010 Apr 24. Review.

Altered intestinal microbiota in irritable bowel syndrome. Lee KJ, Tack J. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2010 May;22(5):493-8.

Treating irritable bowel syndrome with probiotics: the evidence. Parkes GC, Sanderson JD, Whelan K. Proc Nutr Soc. 2010 May;69(2):187-94. Epub 2010 Mar 18. Review. PMID: 20236566


Acta Gastroenterol Latinoam. 2010 Dec;40(4):323-7. Spanish. Potential benefits of pro- and prebiotics on intestinal mucosal immunity and intestinal barrier in short bowel syndrome. Stoidis CN, Misiakos EP, Patapis P, Fotiadis CI, Spyropoulos BG. Nutr Res Rev. 2010 Oct 21:1-9.

[Epub ahead of print] [Microbiota and irritable bowel syndrome]. Ducrotté P. Gastroenterol Clin Biol. 2010 Sep;34 Suppl 1:S52-6. French. [Intestinal microbiota in short bowel syndrome]. Goulet O, Joly F. Gastroenterol Clin Biol. 2010 Sep;34 Suppl 1:S37-43. Review. French. 

The concept of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in relation to functional gastrointestinal disorders. Gibson PR, Barrett JS. Nutrition. 2010 Nov-Dec;26(11-12):1038-43. Epub 2010 Apr 24. Review. 

Intestinal microbiota in irritable bowel syndrome. Lee KJ, Tack J. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2010 May;22(5):493-8. 

Treating irritable bowel syndrome with probiotics: the evidence. Parkes GC, Sanderson JD, Whelan K. Proc Nutr Soc. 2010 May;69(2):187-94. Epub 2010 Mar 18. Review. PMID: 20236566 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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