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I consider probiotics one of the most important supplements for cats. There has been a fair amount of research on the human side on how critical a healthy gut is for a strong immune system, healthy body weight and composition, and even mental health. A healthy gut also minimizes the risk for numerous diseases, including diabetes and cancer. Probiotics are crucial to promoting good intestinal health, and while there are far fewer studies about the beneficial effects of probiotics for animals, the studies that do exist have found that probiotics have the same positive effect on animals as they do on humans.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are microorganisms, also knows as “friendly bacteria,” that reside in the digestive tract. They include Lactobacillus acidophilus and other Lactobacillus species, certain strains of Bacillus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacteria, and Streptococcus. They promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which is important for complete digestion and absorption of nutrients.
A healthy gut has plenty of these friendly bacteria. Problems begin when they are challenged or outnumbered by anything from use of prescription drugs, especially antibiotics, an inadequate diet, a compromised immune system, or stress. Additionally, environmental toxins such as pesticides or chemical pollutants can also damage intestinal health. Even natural events such as the aging process can impact the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Benefits of probiotics
Probiotics restore natural gut health. They can be beneficial for problems ranging from diarrhea to constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, and allergies. More importantly, probiotics contribute to keeping your cat’s immune system strong. Probiotics can help avoid side effects of antibiotics when given concurrently with antibiotics, since antibiotics destroy healthy gut flora.
How to add probiotics to your cat’s diet
In an ideal world, the best way to provide probiotics for your cat would be through a minimally processed, species-appropriate diet. The more processed a diet is, the more nutrients are lost. For that reason, I recommend a good probiotic supplement, to be given daily with every meal.
How to find a good probiotic
Not all probiotics are created equal. Despite label claims, few commercially available probiotic products actually contain live bacteria, but it appears that even the “dead” bacteria in these products still have a beneficial impact on digestion.
Look for products that are “pure” probiotics and/or digestive enzymes, with no other supplements added in. One popular veterinary product lists animal digest as the first ingredient. Animal digest is used as a flavor enhancer in dry food manufacturing, and it’s the reason why so many cats are addicted to dry food.
My two favorite probiotic supplements
Dr. Goodpet’s Feline Digestive Enzymes
My go to product for many years has been and still is Dr. Goodpet’s Feline Digestive Enzymes. The product contains both probiotics and digestive enzymes. It is an unflavored powder that is easily mixed in with wet food, and most cats accept it readily. Dr. Goodpet’s Feline Digestive Enzymes are available from Amazon.
Jackson Galaxy Cat Probiotics
Made in the USA, this product also contains digestive enzymes, as well as pumpkin to aid digestions. It is a fine powder flavored with chicken liver that can be mixed with food or used as a food topper. Read my full review here. Jackson Galaxy Cat Probiotics are available from Amazon.
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