The project was undertaken to establish the normal intestinal flora of healthy cheetahs and to produce a species-specific probiotic for use in juvenile cheetahs in captivity to improve weight gain and reduce diarrhoea. The normal intestinal flora of healthy cheetahs was established using non-selective and selective media. High numbers of anaerobic bacteria and aerobic bacteria were isolated from the faeces of cheetahs in this study. Eight percent of isolates were Enterococcus spp. Both Enterococcus faecium and Lactobacillus Group 1 were selected for use in the probiotic. Twenty-seven juvenile cheetahs between eight and thirteen months of age were included in the probiotic trial (Median: 12 months). The probiotic was fed for 28 days to the Probiotic Group. Both the Probiotic and Control groups were monitored for 70 days prior to the administration of the probiotic and 14 days after administration. The feeding of the cheetah-specific probiotic resulted in an increase of weight in the treatment group (p=0.026, ANOVA, p<0.05) in comparison to the Control Group. There was a relative improvement in the faecal quality in the Probiotic Group in comparison to the Control Group. This was accompanied by an absence of blood and mucus in the faeces, which had been present prior to the start of the 28-day administration of the probiotic. The feeding of a cheetah-specific probiotic resulted in an improved weight gain and food conversion in the Probiotic Group in comparison to the Control Group as well as in a reduction of diarrhoea in the Probiotic Group. More research is needed on the effect of the probiotic on different age groups and animals suffering from specific diseases such as liver disease and gastritis.
Dissertation (MSc (Veterinary Science))--University of Pretoria, 2005.