How are bacteria involved in digestion?

Bacteria are small micro-organisms consisting of just one cell. They multiply by cell division and are responsible for various metabolic functions. As exciting as the life of these minute organisms might be, as pathogens they can also cause a lot of harm. But not all bacteria are harmful and bad: A great number of them is very useful in nature and some organisms need certain bacterial strains in order to thrive. This includes pathogens living in the intestines of mammals, i.e. also in our cats and dogs.

What exactly is the purpose of those intestinal bacteria and how can we affect them?

Bacteria consist of just one cell. This cell is very versatile and, depending on the type of bacteria, can fulfil different functions. All bacteria have the same multiplying mechanism in common, i.e. they multiply by cell division. Each of the two parts becomes a fully functional new bacterium which is immediately capable of dividing yet again. In this way, bacteria can multiply exponentially in a very short period of time and cause great harm or be very beneficial. Harmful bacteria are well known as they can cause many diseases such as diarrhoea or wound infections. However, we also meet beneficial bacteria every day. Some are cultivated in food production, for instance for use in yogurts or cheese. Many bacteria also live in the large intestine or colon. As in nature, these include beneficial bacteria as well as harmful ones. The useful bacteria include the so-called lactobacteria which are very beneficial for humans and animals alike. They produce important substances for the body from some fibres (such as fructo-oligosaccharides or dry sugar beet pulp). The intestinal bacteria for instance produce vitamins and nutrients or aid the excretion of nitrogen.

In contrast, harmful colonic bacteria produce toxic substances and noxious gases. Not only do these toxins make your pet smell bad, they also cause diarrhoea and poor coat condition and can compromise the immune system. Some of these harmful bacteria are quite happy to process the carbohydrates and proteins the body is unable to digest. Food can have a positive effect on the intestinal flora (as the colonies of bacteria in the intestine are called). Pet food containing highly digestible protein and special fibres such as fructo-oligosaccharides or dry sugar beet pulp in Select Gold promotes the multiplication of beneficial bacteria. Animals having a healthy intestinal flora also have a healthy digestion and smell good. Beneficial bacteria, part of a healthy intestinal flora, also protect the intestinal wall and prevent the harmful bacteria from getting a foothold.


A healthy intestine needs high quality food without proteins or carbohydrates which are hard to digest. Added fructo-oligosaccharides or dry sugar beet pulp – as in Select Gold – is of extra benefit to a healthy intestinal flora. Call into your local store today to discuss your dog’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts.