What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the antibody-rich fluid produced from the mother's mammary glands during the first day or two after birth. It contains a number of antibodies and growth factors, which young animals and humans can absorb intact for the first couple of days following birth. Although the ability to absorb colostrum is lost within a couple of days of birth, colostrum appears to still be capable of exerting a local effect on body surfaces such as the intestinal tract when it is eaten, or the skin and mouth when it is applied topically.
Most commercial colostrum preparations come from cows. Ideally, colostrum should come from a source that does not use hormones, pesticides, or medications that might concentrate in the colostrum.
Why recommend administration of colostrum to my pet?
Many holistic veterinarians anecdotally report positive results with the use of either colostrum or one of its components, lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is a protein found both in bodily secretions such as milk or colostrum, and in white blood cells. It binds up iron so it cannot be used by bacteria and fungi.
"...colostrum is effective in stimulating the immune system and as an antimicrobial..."
In pets, colostrum has been recommended and anecdotally found useful for accelerating the healing of insect bites, wounds such as abscesses or ruptured cysts, warts, and surgical incisions. When taken internally, colostrum has been shown to aid in the proper function of the intestinal tract, reducing the severity of inflammatory bowel disease symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. It appears to ease food intolerances or allergies, gingivitis and infectious osteoarthritis. Research evidence also suggests colostrum is effective in stimulating the immune system and as an antimicrobial against bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
How much experience is there with the use of colostrum in pets?
Colostrum has been used for many years as part of the therapy for people and pets with a variety of illnesses. Controlled studies in pets are lacking.
What species of animals are being treated regularly with colostrum?
Any animal species may benefit from colostrum.
How much research has been conducted on this supplement?
Abundant laboratory research exists concerning the potential benefits of colostrum and lactoferrin in the management and prevention of infections and inflammatory bowel disorders.
How can my pet benefit from colostrum?
Potentially, any sick pet may benefit from supplementation with colostrum as part of their treatment plan.
How successful is colostrum?
Studies in people are contradictory with many studies showing benefit and others showing none. Anecdotally, many owners feel that their pets have improved when colostrum is given.
"Colostrum and similar supplements appear to be extremely safe..."
Since colostrum and similar supplements appear to be extremely safe, using colostrum as part of the therapy for pets with gastrointestinal mucosal illness is unlikely to be harmful.
How safe is colostrum?
Colostrum does not seem to cause any significant side effect and has been used safely in many pets.
Where do I get colostrum and do I need a prescription?
Pet owners are cautioned against buying supplements without knowledge of the manufacturer, as supplements are not highly regulated and some supplements may not contain the labeled amount of ingredients. Your veterinarian may have preferred brands of supplements that he or she will recommend to you. A prescription is not needed for colostrum.