Your feline means the world to you and you would do just about anything to ensure their happiness and wellbeing. As a doting cat owner, you make sure your four-legged companion has plenty of interactive toys and is fed a well-balanced diet. You maintain regular checkups and are on high alert if something seems fishy. Even still, many cats will experience health issues that leave owners wondering if they could have prevented it in some way.
In fact, some ailments can be prevented and it all starts with a healthy gut. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about probiotics for cats. You may be surprised that a simple supplement can make quite a bit of difference for your feline’s gastrointestinal tract and overall health. Let’s get to it!
What are Probiotics
First, let’s start with the basics: what exactly are probiotics. You may already be familiar with the supplement as its a staple in many people’s own health routine. Probiotics are microorganisms. They are referred to as the good bacteria that reside in the gastrointestinal tract. Scientifically speaking, probiotics include Lactobacillus acidophilus and other Lactobacillus species as well as strains of Bacillus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacteria, and Streptococcus. Together, they help the gut fully absorb nutrients and are important for complete digestion.
When Are Probiotics Needed
A healthy gut already has plenty of good bacteria that support the digestive tract and make sure the individual (or cat, in this case) is able to absorb the nutrients from their food. However, when there is a reduced number of good bacteria, problems often arise. In many cases, veterinarians may recommend a probiotic supplement in order to boost the levels of good bacteria in order to restore natural gut health.
Causes of an Unhealthy Gut
Let’s take a look a few causes of an unhealthy gut.
Many medications, specifically antibiotics, can throw off the balance between good bacteria and harmful bacteria. If you know that your cat is going to need antibiotics, many vets may recommend a probiotic supplement to be used in conjunction.
Another common cause of an unhealthy gut is an inadequate diet. Your cat’s diet is more important than some pet owners may think. In fact, their diet can affect just about every aspect of their life and health, including their gut health. It is crucial that cat owners ensure their feline is eating a well-balanced, species-appropriate diet that is chock full of all the vitamins and nutrients they need. If you are unsure of whether your cat’s food is doing all that it should, we highly recommend talking to your veterinarian regarding possible dietary changes. Furthermore, cat’s with specific pre-existing health conditions may benefit from a specifically formulated diet which will also boost gut health. Diet is so incredibly important, we cannot stress that enough.
Weakened Immune System
Additionally, cats with weakened immune systems, either due to a pre-existing ailment or an untreated infection, can also result in an unhealthy gut. Unfortunately, many times a weakened immune system needs antibiotics which will further disrupt the balance between beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria. In these cases, cat owners should ask their vet if a probiotic supplement is recommended to prevent additional gastrointestinal issues from developing.
Interestingly enough, studies prove that stress can also cause compromised gut health. Just like people, cats can experience stress and anxiety for a multitude of reasons. Cats are also highly sensitive creatures. If something is bothering you, don’t be surprised if your feline has picked up on it and is also not feeling their best. Whenever possible, cat owners should work to remove stressors from their cat’s day to day life as it can affect not only gut health, but also create a slew of behavioral issues.
Furthermore, environmental toxins such as pesticides and fertilizers can also cause an unhealthy gut. While some of these toxins are impossible to avoid entirely, it is important for cat owners to understand that their feline’s surroundings can greatly affect their overall health in a multitude of ways. If you recognize any of the symptoms of an unhealthy gut (which we will discuss momentarily), consider whether anything has changed in your cat’s day to day routine. Are they going outside more often? Have you been using new household cleaners that they may be sensitive to? If you can, do your best to remove any environmental toxicity. It will benefit both you and your furry companion.
In people and cats alike, getting older can also affect the balance between beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria. If you have an aging feline, ask your veterinarian whether probiotics may be able to prevent problems in their gi tract.
Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut
It is important that cat owners know the signs of an unhealthy gut. Only by recognizing the symptoms will you be able to realize that your cat may benefit from a probiotic supplement.
The following are clinical signs that your cat’s gut may be unbalanced:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergies
- Skin allergies
It is important to note that several of the aforementioned symptoms of an unhealthy gut are those considered to be “non-specific.” In other words, while they are symptoms of an unhealthy gut, they are also symptoms of a slew of other health conditions. Before implementing a probiotic supplement, it is important to make sure there isn’t an additional underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Probiotics won’t help if the reason for your cat’s symptom is something very different than an unhealthy gut.
How do Probiotics Work
As you may have gathered, probiotics work by restoring natural gut health. The microorganisms are healthy bacteria that the body needs to fulfill a number of important functions. By implementing a probiotic supplement, cat owners can help get their feline’s overall health back on track.
What do Probiotics do: Benefits of Probiotics for Cats
Studies prove that probiotics can benefit both you and your cat in several different ways (all of which we will discuss). However, probiotics are most commonly used to treat illnesses and diseases related to the gastrointestinal tract.
Probiotics for Diarrhea
At one point or another, your cat will likely experience a bout of diarrhea. Diarrhea may occur for several reasons, from the cat ingesting something that they shouldn’t have to a dietary change made too quickly. Either way, the gastrointestinal upset can be quite unpleasant for both the cat and the cat owner. In these cases, probiotics can help. By restoring healthy bacteria, probiotics can help alleviate present diarrhea as well as help to prevent it. If you are switching your cat’s food source, you may want to consider adding in a probiotic supplement in order to make the process easier on your cat’s tummy.
An unhealthy gut can also lead to bouts of vomiting. Additionally, ingesting too much hair or consuming foreign, inedible objects can also cause gastrointestinal issues, an unhealthy gut, and subsequent vomiting. In these cases, probiotics can help. Many cat owners report that after starting a probiotic supplement, their feline threw up substantially less. In some cases, the acute vomiting was resolved entirely.
We want to mention that while all cats vomit from time to time, it should never be considered “normal.” That doesn’t necessarily mean there is something seriously wrong with your kitty, but the reason behind why your cat is throwing up should be determined and appropriately resolved. Cat vomiting is another “non-specific” symptom. While it is a sign of an unhealthy gut that can be resolved with probiotics, it is also a symptom of a slew of other ailments that may require additional medical treatment.
Probiotics for Cats with IBD
Additionally, probiotics are incredibly beneficial for cats with inflammatory bowel disease, a condition that many cats will face as they get older. Studies show that by implementing a probiotic supplement, the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease were greatly reduced and the syndrome itself improved. Furthermore, in many cases, the root cause of IBD in cats remains a mystery. Therefore, pet owners aren’t exactly able to “cure” it by treating the cause. In these instances, probiotics can help restore healthy flora and prevent the condition from worsening. Of course, when the cause of IBD is able to be determined it is always imperative that it is treated at the root of the issue and then implement probiotics for additional support.
Cats Taking Antibiotics
As we previously discussed, antibiotics diminish healthy gut flora. Therefore, most veterinarians will recommend always administering probiotics alongside the antibiotic medication in order to prevent gastrointestinal problems. The last thing your cat needs while one health issue is being treated is to develop another health problem. We highly suggest implementing a probiotic supplement whenever you know that your feline is going to be taking antibiotics. It can be the necessary support that your feline needs.
Boosting the Immune System
Additionally, more and more studies are proving that probiotics help boost the immune system. We likely don’t have to tell you the importance of a fully functioning, healthy immune system. It ultimately affects every part of your cat’s life. Therefore, many cat owners are choosing to implement a probiotic supplement as a preventative measure and to ensure that their cat’s gut bacteria stays balanced.
Allergies & Infections
Probiotics contain specific genes and compounds that mediate immunoregulatory effects and reduce inflammation. Therefore, implementing probiotics into your cat’s diet can help to reduce allergies as well as prevent immune-related infections.
Probiotics for Cats with Kidney Disease
Probiotics can help cats with kidney disease tremendously. For cats with chronic kidney disease, the kidneys lose their ability to detoxify the body. Therefore, instead of toxins and harmful bacteria being filtered out by the kidneys, they enter the gut. In these cases, cats are often given a synergized prebiotic and probiotic called Azodyl. The supplements help do what the kidneys no longer can and work to eliminate the toxins and bacteria out of the gut and bloodstream.
We want to note that probiotics will not cure chronic kidney disease. The condition is often terminal. However, probiotics can improve the cat’s quality of life and greatly lessen their symptoms.
A Healthy Gut
Again, we want to reiterate that a healthy gut is critical for a strong immune system. However, that’s not all it’s important for. Gut health affects everything from body weight to mental health. It is incredibly important for cat owners to do all that they can to make sure their kitty’s gut is the best it can be. It will truly make a huge difference in their life.
Furthermore, while this article is clearly geared towards probiotics for cats, gut health is also tremendously incredibly important for cat owners. The symptoms of an unhealthy gut along with its causes are nearly identical in people and our animals. Talk to your doctor if you feel that you may also benefit from a probiotic supplement.
Generally speaking, probiotics don’t typically have any serious side effects that cat owners should be aware of. In some cases, the probiotic supplement will increase gut activity when it is first introduced. In turn, this may cause your kitty to be more gassy than usual. However, the side effect should level out and resolve within a few days of administering it.
Can Probiotics Cause Diarrhea
Many cat owners wonder whether probiotics can cause diarrhea in cats. The answer isn’t necessarily a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ When administered appropriately in the accurate dose, probiotics should not cause your cat to experience diarrhea. In fact, probiotics are typically recommended to alleviate diarrhea. With that being said, all cats are different. If you know that your four-legged companion tends to have a sensitive stomach, start off slowly with the new supplement. Gradually introducing probiotics will help prevent gastrointestinal upset.
Furthermore, be sure to never give your cat more probiotics than recommended. Increasing the dosage of any supplement, including probiotics, can cause problems to arise in the gi tract. Don’t panic if you don’t see results right away and always consult with your vet before increasing the dosage.
Not All Probiotics are Created Equally
Additionally, it is important for cat owners to understand that not all probiotics are created equally. With the rise in the conversation surrounding probiotics, more and more companies are beginning to manufacture them. Unfortunately, not all of the products meet the criteria of a product you want to give your feline. Be sure to purchase probiotic supplements from a reputable source. Do your research on the company prior to believing what you read on the label.
Best Probiotics for Cats
Keeping all of the aforementioned information in mind, there are a few additional pieces of information to understand before purchasing your feline a probiotic supplement.
When choosing a probiotic, look for ones that are “pure” probiotics and/or digestive enzymes. Also, be sure that the product does not contain additives or fillers. Look at the supplement’s first ingredient. Countless probiotics list animal digest as their number one ingredient. Animal digest is a flavor additive, and something we recommend avoiding.
Probiotics with Prebiotics
We also recommend looking for a probiotic supplement that contains prebiotics in the formula. Prebiotics promote the activity of natural probiotics by giving them food to consume and, therefore, help them to multiply. Prebiotics are an extremely important part of the probiotic supplement you choose.
Not Too Many Strains
It is also important to not go too crazy when it comes to the number of strains of bacteria in your cat’s probiotic supplement. Only a few species of bacteria have proven to be beneficial for your feline’s health. Therefore, we recommend choosing a probiotic that has six or fewer strains. A complex formula can have the opposite effect than you were hoping for and actually cause gastrointestinal issues instead of relieving them. Not only is this an unfortunate situation for the feline, but it’s a complete waste of money for the cat owner.
Probiotics for Cats… Not Humans
Even though probiotics for humans haven’t proved to be dangerous for cats, it still isn’t recommended. When it comes to your feline, we recommend to always purchase a probiotic supplement that is specifically formulated for cats. The microflora in people’s small and large intestines work quite differently than it does in our cat’s. Therefore, it should not be assumed that the same probiotic will work effectively. Luckily, cat formulated probiotics are easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
Read the Reviews
When it comes to probiotics, many times they either work… or they don’t. We recommend reading the reviews from other cat owners. Find another cat owner who’s feline was suffering from the ailment that you’re hoping to relieve. Did it work for their cat? Reviews are a great way to make an educated purchase.
How to Add Probiotics to Your Cat’s Diet
Cat owners can add a probiotic supplement to their cat’s food. Many holistic experts suggest making it a part of mealtime every day. Again, we want to reiterate that the first step in ensuring your cat’s gut health is by making sure their food is the best it can be. We recommend looking for a minimally-processed, well-balanced, species-appropriate diet that will give your kitty all of the vitamins and nutrients that their body needs.
Probiotic supplements typically come in a powder form that can easily be added into your cat’s food. There are also companies that produce probiotic treats and soft chews.
The most stable form of healthy bacteria is in its powder form, which is the type of probiotic that we recommend to our readers. If stored in the right conditions, the viable microorganisms powder probiotic supplements can live for over a year.
Probiotics for Cats & Probiotics for Dogs: Understanding the Difference
The digestive systems of cats and dogs are very different. For example, a cat’s small intestine is shorter than a dog’s small intestine. Therefore, the digestion process is typically longer for a dog than it is for a cat. Additionally, by nature, cats are carnivorous animals. They thrive off of meat, specifically protein and fat. Dogs, on the other hand, benefit from meat, different proteins, vegetables, and fruits. These differences in anatomy and diet suggest that cats may benefit from probiotics even more so than dogs. Yet another reason why we recommend probiotics for cats.
Probiotics for Cats: The Bottom Line
We understand that your cat’s health and well-being comes first. Here at Simple Wag, we are all cat owners and animal lovers. Therefore, we understand that it can be pretty frustrating when problems seem to appear out of thin air. Luckily, there are additional steps that pet owners can take in order to prevent these unpredictable issues. One of the main ways to do so is by ensuring your cat’s gut is healthy. Again, always make sure that your cat is being fed a well-balanced, minimally processed diet. Then, consider adding a probiotic supplement. When it comes to your cat’s gi tract, probiotics can make a world of difference!