What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the antibody-rich fluid produced from the mother’s mammary glands during the first few days after birth. Colostrum also provides several important growth hormones and other compounds such as lactoferrin for the newborns. The young animals can absorb these antibodies whole, which provide immunity and protection from certain infections for several weeks.
Although older animals cannot absorb antibodies as young animals can, colostrum may still be able to exert a local anti-inflammatory effect in the intestinal tract when ingested, or on the skin when applied topically. There is also evidence that colostrum may increase the effectiveness of some vaccinations, improve the immune response against certain viruses, support gut microflora, improve bone and muscle function in older animals, and supportively treat periodontal disease in dogs and cats. Bovine (from cows) colostrum is the most common source.
"Although older animals cannot absorb antibodies as young animals can, colostrum may still be able to exert a local anti-inflammatory effect in the intestinal tract when ingested, or on the skin when applied topically."
Dietary supplements are substances that can be used to supplement the diet, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics. While many supplements are sold over the counter, they still contain ingredients that have biological effects that should be managed by your veterinarian. Follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.
There are differences in how countries regulate supplements. In the United States, these substances are not as vigorously regulated by the FDA as other medications, which means they can be sold without the manufacturer proving their effectiveness, safety, and without a guarantee of consistent or accurately reported ingredients. In Canada, products that have been evaluated for quality, safety, and effectiveness by Health Canada and authorized for sale will have a license number on the label.
How effective is colostrum?
Limited studies in animals have been performed, but there is anecdotal evidence that colostrum works to support the immune system and the gastrointestinal tract by providing antimicrobial and other beneficial compounds.
How is colostrum given?
Colostrum is most often given by mouth in the form of a powder. It can be given with or without food; however, mixing with food is most convenient. It can be mixed with either dry or wet/fresh food and is generally very palatable and may even enhance the flavor of your pet’s food. It can also be given in the form of a capsule.
What if I miss giving my pet the supplement?
If you miss a dose, give it when you remember, but if it is close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.
Are there any potential side effects?
Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding side effects is also limited. Sensitivity reactions may occur in pets with a milk allergy, which may include stomach upset. Excluding pets with milk allergies, side effects have not been reported at this time and colostrum is considered very safe.
Are there any risk factors for this supplement?
Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding risk factors is also limited. Colostrum should be used cautiously in pets with a known milk allergy/sensitivity.
Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?
No drug interactions have been reported with the used of colostrum.
Vitamins, herbal therapies, and supplements have the potential to interact with each other, as well as with prescription and over the counter medications. It is important to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including all vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.
Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this supplement?
There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.
How do I store colostrum?
Store colostrum at room temperature or in the refrigerator, below 80°F (27°C) and protect from moisture. There are many different manufacturers of colostrum, so always refer to the label on the bottle for specific storage instructions.
What should I do in case of emergency?
If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.