Probiotics are dietary supplements and foods which restore the "beneficial" bacteria in the host's body. This healthy bacteria is generally needed by the body for digestion and as a protective barrier against harmful bacteria and other opportunistic pathogens. This can be a boon for all those pet owners whose cats are prone to digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and recurrent hairball problem.
These health problems are particularly aggravated during times of stress such as birth, lactation, weaning, introduction to new household members, a change in diet, or being left alone during the day. The common probiotics for cats include lactobacillus acidophilus and certain strains of bacillus, enterococcus, bifidobacteria, and streptococcus. Here is a look at the reasons why your cat needs probiotics.
Need for Probiotics
Probiotics are needed to keep the complex ecosystem of microorganisms in balance. Most of the time, there is a significant reduction in the friendly bacteria because of the following factors.
- Use of prescription drugs
- Aging process
- An inadequate diet/change in cat food
- Compromised immune system
- Fertilizers, pesticides, and chemical pollutants
- Stress due birth, lactation, weaning, surgery
- Diarrhea, colitis, and other digestive disorders
- Traveling or visits to vet
- Being left alone often
- Itching/biting insects
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Best Probiotics for Your Cat
The probiotics consist of concentrated mixtures that contain beneficial bacteria. This helps in restoring the endogenous microflora, which have been ruined by the reduction of the bacteria. Moreover, the probiotic bacteria helps in providing easily absorbable energy, activating the immune system, and restricting pathogens from proliferating the gastrointestinal tract.
There are generally two major types of probiotics, namely feed-additive forms (powder forms) and the more concentrated types of probiotics (available in gel/paste). The essential difference between the two types of probiotics is the concentration of bacteria in it. While concentrated forms of probiotics contain large amounts of bacteria that is used for treating major diseases, the feed additive forms can be used for minor problems such as stress.
You can buy the probiotics in the form of a capsule, paste, liquid, or tablet, and add them to the canned or homemade food of the cats. Some pet food companies also claim to have probiotics contained in their commercially available cat food. However, the presence of probiotics in these commercial foods is debatable as the rigorous manufacturing process makes it difficult for the bacteria strains to survive. Moreover, quality control is poor in these preparations and most of the time the labels may be misrepresented.
In addition to the commercial variants, there are some natural probiotics for cats with diarrhea and other digestive disorders. Yogurt has long been considered as an effective probiotic for cats and dogs. However, the effectiveness of probiotic yogurt is quite doubtful. This is because commercially available yogurt contains live cultures of organisms at much lower levels, somewhere around 100,000 CFU/ml. Most of the strains of existent bacteria in yogurt do not survive the stomach acids produced by the cat's digestive system. Moreover, if the cat has a milk allergy, inclusion of yogurt in its diet is not a good idea.
If you want to supplement your cat's diet with probiotics, then it is best to consult a veterinarian first. Remember, that probiotics for cats and dogs will not be the same as that for humans and over supplementation can have a negative effect on your pet's health. It is only after considering your cat's life stage, dietary needs, and medical condition, will the veterinarian recommend a suitable probiotic for your cat.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.