Are Probiotics Helpful For Dogs And Cats?
The more we learn about the gut microbiome, the more we realise how important it actually is. It doesn't only ensure the proper functioning of the digestive tract but promotes good immunity, healthy skin and coat, as well as cognitive and brain health.
Probiotic supplements are one of the things that can improve your pet's gut microbiome but have you considered how they actually work? You might not think that strains of bacteria can fix a medical issue, but it's quite logical once you fully understand the science behind it.
Let's get to the bottom of this and see how probiotics fit into your pet's health.
What are probiotics for cats and dogs?
They are essentially live, microscopic organisms naturally occurring in the digestive tract. In the gut reside "good" and "bad" bacteria and it's important to establish a balance between these two groups.
The high number of "good" bacteria is crucial for the digestive tract and overall health. Probiotic supplements lead to a better balance of "good" bacteria and are generally used to improve gut flora in pets.
When giving your cat or dog a probiotic, you need to ensure it contains the right kind of bacteria. Usually, probiotic supplements for humans are not good for animals because they have different bacteria and gut conditions than we do.
Don't confuse probiotics with prebiotics, non-digestible food ingredients that nourish good gut bacteria. Probiotics are alive, which is the main feature that differentiates them from prebiotics.
Benefits of probiotics for dogs
To stay healthy, dogs need a healthy balance of bacteria. Luckily, probiotics can offer multiple benefits, like helping your dog digest food, ensuring they absorb vitamins and minerals and keep their immune system strong.
Some studies indicate that giving your dog probiotics can help with the following:
Digestive issues: when your dog is sick or feeling stressed, the balance between "good" and "bad" bacteria can shift, causing health issues like diarrhoea, bad breath, cramping or gas.
Side-effects of antibiotics: while antibiotics fight infection successfully, they don't discriminate between "good" and "bad" bacteria. It might be a good idea to give your dog probiotics for the duration of antibiotic treatment to ward off unpleasant side effects.
Behaviour: when your dog doesn't feel well, their behaviour changes. Canines with digestive disorders and unhealthy gut bacteria may also experience emotional issues such as excessive licking. By supporting their digestive tract, probiotic supplements may also improve your pet's behaviour.
Constipation: cramping, bloating and painful gas are no fun. If left untreated for some time, they can lead to loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting. Probiotics, fresh water and exercise can improve your dog's gut environment and save them from digestive upset.
Food change: if your dog has been eating the same food for quite some time and you decide to make some changes, they most certainly will experience gastrointestinal distress. Before switching to another food, prep your dog's gut with probiotics.
Skin allergy: some studies show that allergies are caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. The immune system and gut are closely connected; giving your dog probiotic supplements might alleviate skin allergy symptoms.
Skin and coat: promoting the growth of good bacteria in your dog's gut has all sorts of benefits for their body. They will not only feel good on the outside but on the inside as well, resulting in a better appearance of skin and coat.
The best puppy probiotics
You can find probiotics in several supplemental forms such as powders, treats and pills and even many food-based options are available. It's crucial to find a supplement that works best for your dog, so you might want to consider the following:
Probiotic dog food
You can purchase dog food that contains probiotics, but keep in mind that storage environment and packaging can affect probiotic potency.
One of the easiest ways to give your dog probiotic supplements is to get probiotic treats. Some treats might contain additives that can minimise the effect of probiotics. Remember to review the label before you purchase.
They are easy to hide in your dog's food but some canines can't swallow the pill and will spit them out.
Probiotic powders are great to use. The packaging conveniently stores live probiotics in a moist and air-controlled environment. Just sprinkle the powder over their food and satisfy your dog's daily probiotic needs.
Gut health: many vets are fans of feline probiotics because they help maintain normal gut health. Some studies have found that cats that took probiotics regularly suffered less from digestive distress, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Immune system: Cat's digestive tract and immune system are closely connected and when something is wrong with their gut, their immunity may suffer. Not only will probiotics ease digestive upset but they will promote immune system health at the same time.
IBD: Probiotics can soothe some symptoms caused by conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, infections or ingesting too much hair or things from the environment.
Stool quality: Feline probiotics are thought to be able to minimise the side effects of antibiotics, improve digestion and boost overall health in cats. A recent study also showed changes in stool quality, resulting in firmer and fewer stools for felines that took probiotics.
Weight management: While probiotics can't reduce weight in cats, they can work wonders in conjunction with a healthy and balanced diet. Regular intake of probiotics might boost energy levels and encourage your cat to burn off some of those excessive calories.
The best cat probiotics
It's important to choose the right probiotic form for your cat. They come in an array of options, from chews and scoopable powders to capsules and the ones that are incorporated into cat's food.
You should pick a product that contains the good bacteria strains naturally found in your cat's digestive tract. Opting for probiotic powder might be a good idea because it's easy to administer. You just need to sprinkle your cat's food, while chews and pills are more challenging to use.
Probiotics for cat vs. probiotics for dog – are there any differences?
Cats and dogs have different digestive systems. For example, a feline's small intestine is much shorter than a canine's, so they need less time to digest the food, considering that transit time is quicker.
Cats have a much smaller cecum, a pouch connected to the junction of the small and large intestines, than dogs. The inner lining of the stomach or gastric mucosa differs between these two species. Felines are carnivores in nature, while canines are more omnivores.
Cats are meant to survive on fat and protein, while dogs eat a more varied diet, including fats, proteins, fruits and veggies. If we look at cats' and dogs' teeth, we will notice a significant difference.
Dogs have molars meant to chop plants, while cats lack these teeth. Due to differences in anatomy, diet and physiology, some vets believe that felines might benefit more from probiotic supplements than dogs.
Natural probiotics for cats and dogs
Natural probiotics are fermented foods containing many good bacteria that support gut flora.
Yoghurt is one of the most popular natural probiotics. It's packed with probiotics and safe to use for cats and dogs. This is basically curdled milk with reduced fat content and a great source of friendly bacteria, which can help with fungal infection and gastrointestinal disorders.
The amount of yoghurt you give to your pet will depend on their size. Some pet parents decide to add one or two tablespoons of yoghurt to wet food once a day to maintain overall gut health.
Certain types of good bacteria can't survive in a strongly acidic environment; therefore they never make it to the intestines. Soft cheese is beneficial because it contains bacteria that can survive in erosive gastric juices and can find their way to cats' and dogs' intestines. Soft cheese can help your pet with constipation and improve absorption of nutrients.
Kefir is a food similar to yoghurt but with a less dense texture. It contains a lot of proteins, vitamins, yeast and bacteria. You can make kefir from all types of milk and it works by replacing bad intestinal flora with good intestinal flora. Start by giving small amounts to your pets until you reach the recommended daily dose.
Giving your cats and dogs probiotics can be a great way to support their health and ensure the proper functioning of their GI tract. We hope this article cleared some of the doubts you had. Tell us your experience with animal probiotics if you had any!