white cat and white dog

Help Boost Your Pets’ Immunity and Promote Gut Health with Probiotic Supplements 

What are Probiotics, Anyway?

Probiotics are more than just a trendy buzzword. These live microorganisms–which are friendly bacteria and yeast–are teeny-tiny superheroes that aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.  Even more impressively, they combat disease and boost immunity in humans, dogs, and cats. Veterinarians therefore highly recommend that pet parents use probiotic supplements to prevent as well as treat many acute illnesses and chronic conditions.

Just like humans, a large part of our pets’ immunity lies in their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, so probiotics–whether given everyday or on occasion when our pets are sick–can greatly enhance their overall health and wellbeing. Even better, probiotics for cats and dogs come in a variety of forms that are very easy to give, including tasty chews, freeze-dried treats, and delicious powders you can easily mix with food or water. 

Do Different Species Need their Own Probiotics? 

While probiotics enhance the health of all animals, there is currently no research on whether we can share probiotics formulated specifically for us with our dogs and cats. In absence of those studies, veterinarians agree that it is best to use products designed specifically with our pets’ microflora in mind. This is especially important because cats and dogs have very different digestive tracts and different dietary needs. The Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus families of bacteria have been proven to enhance feline health; while enterococcus faecium (strain SF68), bacillus coagulans, bifidobacterium animalis (strain AHC7), lactobacillus acidophilus, and lactobacillus rhamnosus have been shown to tangiblibly improve the stools of canines with sensitive stomachs and shorten the duration of bouts of diarrhea. Given these species-based distinctions, many probiotics on the market cater to cats OR dogs.

However, most veterinarians also concur that there is no harm in giving pets a wide-variety of strains of helpful bacteria and yeast, and there are plenty of probiotic supplements that work well for both cats and dogs. This is super convenient for those of us who share our lives with both canine and feline family members. Karen Anderson, writing for the Dog People powered by Rover.com, offers a very useful guide to many major brands of probiotics for cats, but she includes several products that are good for dogs too–and she even tells you where to shop for them! If you are supplementing the diets of multiple species in your household, these are good options.

Probiotics for Cats

Just like you and your BFF, our cats’ immune and digestive systems are pretty much inseparable.  So if your cat has an upset stomach, helpful bacteria and yeast can help get her back on track by restoring a healthy balance of bacteria and enhancing gut health.  In this insightful article, Nicole Pajer at PETMD articulates why many veterinarians believe that cats–due to their unique physiology, anatomy, and diet–often benefit even more than dogs do from probiotic supplements. This is especially true if they eat kibble–which does not exist in the wild–and can wreak havoc on our kitties’ digestive system. Learn more about alternatives to kibble, including raw diets, here.

As we discussed above, the Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus families are the best strains for felines, although using a supplement that contains those–as well as other strains–rarely cause any harm, and may provide extra health benefits.  

Probiotics for cats can be used regularly to prevent illness or whenever your cat is suffering from:

  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • vomiting
  • intestinal inflammation
  • chronic digestive upset such as inflammatory bowel disease

They also help if your cat:

  • has eaten something she shouldn’t have
  • is overgrooming and ingesting too much fur
  • is on or has finished a course of antibiotics–which disrupts the balance of the good bacteria she needs for proper digestion and optimal health
  • has a suppressed immune system due to a chronic condition, such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Probiotics for Dogs

Like cats, dogs do well with regular probiotic supplements as immunity boosters, or may need them occasionally to ease digestive problems–such as diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation. Moreover, dogs often get into and eat things they shouldn’t, and helpful live microorganisms can act as a barrier against pathogens and harmful bacteria. 

For example, as Mary Straus explains in her article for Whole Dog Journal, “all dogs can benefit from probiotics, which aid digestion and modulate the immune system. Probiotics produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which inhibit the growth and activity of harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens, as well as providing other benefits to the intestines”. 

Probiotics for dogs can also:

  • prevent urinary tract infections
  • increase energy levels
  • improve health of the coat and skin
  • offset seasonal allergies 

Since dogs love to eat, you may try feeding your pups foods that naturally contain probiotics. But it is important to understand that not all probiotic-rich foods are good for dogs, as Elizabeth Kennedy points out. You can read more here about which probiotic-rich foods are good and bad for dogs.

Pro-Tips for ProBiotics 

  • Probiotics are not prescription medications, so if your pet has an upset stomach, you need to get to the root of the cause. Once your veterinarian diagnoses the problem, aapp recommends that you ask her whether probiotic supplements could aid in your pets’ recovery and healing. 
  • Probiotics work best when the bacteria and yeasts are live and in high concentration. Measured in colony-forming units (CFUs), an effective daily dose of probiotics might contain up to one billion CFUs–so get the highest concentration possible. 
  • Many probiotics need to be stored in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry place to stay viable, and they do expire–so read the labels and carefully follow instructions.
  • Specific strains of bacteria offer different benefits, so choose probiotics with several strains to get the best results.

*Because our pets are individuals, they may respond differently to various products, so you may need to try several kinds of probiotics and gauge which seem most effective in treating your pets’ ailments.

Published On: May 16, 2021|Categories: Cat Health, Cat Nutrition, Dog Health, Dog Nutrition, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition|