When feline (and human) health is concerned, probiotics is the name given to a group of supplements containing live bacteria or, in the case of many pet supplements, fermentation products.
These supplements help keep the digestive tract healthy which in turn, keeps the rest of the body healthy too. It may sound odd to encourage the growth of bacteria in the digestive system but like with cholesterol, there is a good kind and a bad kind. Probiotics feed the good bacteria or sometimes add new groups of new bacteria.
Antibiotics, on the other hand, kill bacteria. Antibiotics can’t tell the difference between the good kind and the bad kind and so will wipe out both. When that happens, added probiotics may be needed to replace the lost good bacteria to stay healthy.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi has a rural veterinary practice in Pine Village, Indiana. She says 85 percent of all ailments she sees at her clinic can be improved or cured by a change of diet. The intestines make up 65 percent of the body’s health systems; probiotics keep things in balance by providing beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines. There is even prebiotics that feeds the probiotics to strengthen the whole system. Probiotics get the food digested better as it moves through digestion.
Why Do Cats Need Probiotics?
One reason a cat may need added probiotics is that as he ages, he no longer receives all the benefits of the food he eats. His digestive system isn’t working efficiently.
Repeated use of an antibiotic can become less effective as bacteria adapt. Probiotics don’t specialize in just one part of the body or one kind of infection. They’re part of the defense system and help to prevent infection and illness. Research is beginning to show probiotics are helpful with irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections, yeast infections and digestive problems.
Stress is another reason the body may get out of balance. A move to a new home, a new child, the human’s new work hours—all can stress a cat. Even a stray in the neighborhood can upset a cat’s stomach.
Member and former team member, ldg, deals with chronic feline health issues on a daily basis:
My cats are mostly older, all feral rescues. No one other than my FIV+ boy has had poop problems. His holistic vet put him on probiotics among a number of things (he had chronic diarrhea), so he's been getting probiotics daily since October 2010. Several of my kitties have immune-related issues, and Lazlo's recovering from cancer. But I've got all of them on probiotics daily, and intend to continue to do so.
Sometimes, supplementing a cat's diet with Probiotics can have dramatic results. Our member Carolina used a yeast-based probiotic to treat her cats for a Clostridium infection. Under close veterinary care and monitoring, the cats received a yeast-based product called Saccharomices Boulardii.
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Sharing her experience in our forums, Carolina shares that after only one dose, the very next morning Bugsy had solid poop, and Mac had cow's pie poop. From the second dose on, all of them had solid poop.
What Are The Signs My Cat Needs Probiotics?
If the cat has gas, very smelly poop, constipation, diarrhea, is sluggish or has skin problems, it could be a sign that the bad bacteria outweighs the good. Your veterinarian can evaluate other possible causes and help you decide whether Probiotics could be beneficial to your cat.
Where Can I Find Probiotics?
Some cat food manufacturers are incorporating probiotics into the food ingredients. Supplements are used especially for cats who have shown dietary problems like the inability to absorb all the nutrients in food. Online retailers offer a wide variety of choices. Supplements can come in powder, liquid, paste, tablet or capsule form.
Dr. Alinovi says for a simpler way to add probiotics, give kitty kefir or a spoonful of yogurt. Be sure to get the kind that advertises “active cultures.” If your cat is lactose intolerant, a supplement is the way to go.
There are powders that are specific to animals but for most, human probiotics like in the yogurt, are good to use.
Easy to use, a healthy benefit, and affordable, probiotics can improve the life of your cat. As Dr. Alinovi says, “It’s one of those things you can’t go wrong with. It won’t hurt and can be a great help to your cat’s overall health.”
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