The study ran five weeks and involved 15 healthy adult cats. Results showed the L. acidophilus strain given to the cats survived transit through the GI tract and decreased the numbers of two types of unfriendly gut bacteria.
In addition to improving the good-to-bad GI bacteria balance, administration of the probiotic also improved:
- performance of phagocytes – cells that absorb waste and harmful microorganisms in the bloodstream and tissues
- production of cells involved in immune system performance.
I chuckled at the final statement in the article linked above: “Whether these effects are clinically beneficial remains to be evaluated.”
I have no idea how a supplement that improves gut bacteria, helps the body’s waste-management cells perform better, and enhances immune system cell production could not be clinically beneficial.
For the record, let me state it is my firm belief a high quality probiotic supplement is nothing but beneficial for your pet’s health.
And I’m not alone. Holistic and many integrative veterinarians have long been proponents of probiotic therapy.
Slowly but surely, the traditional veterinary community is beginning to accept that indeed a safe, inexpensive non-drug can significantly improve the health of companion animals.
The Right Balance of GI Bacteria is Essential for Your Cat’s Health
Probiotics are the friendly bacteria found in your kitty’s digestive tract. A healthy level of this bacteria is needed in order to keep pathogenic bacteria from taking over and wreaking havoc on your pet’s system.
Your cat’s digestive tract is the most important immune organ in his body and is home to massive numbers of bacteria. It’s the proper ratio of good-to-bad bacteria that keeps your kitty’s immune system functioning well.
If bad bacteria overruns your cat’s digestive tract, it opens the door not only to a host of GI-related disorders, but also other serious illnesses.
Stress Kills the Good Guys
Stress -- physiological and emotional -- is what throws your kitty’s natural balance of bacteria out of whack, allowing unfriendly bugs to overwhelm the GI tract.
Physical stressors can include:
- A change in diet or a poor quality commercial pet food
- A course of antibiotics or steroids like prednisone
- A GI condition like inflammatory bowel disease
- Other common kitty disorders like feline lower urinary tract disease, renal failure, hyperthyroidism and pancreatitis
Cats generally become emotionally stressed by changes in routine, which can include:
- A stay at a boarding kennel
- Moving to a new home
- Addition of a new pet to the family
If physical or emotional stress upsets the balance of good to bad bacteria in your kitty’s digestive system, it can trigger a flood of nutritional and other health problems, including poor food absorption and intermittent or chronic diarrhea or constipation.
It also opens the door to leaky gut (dysbiosis), which means your cat can absorb partially digested amino acids and allergens into her bloodstream. This can result in a host of other health problems, from allergies to disorders of the immune system.
Link between Chronic GI Inflammation and Lymphoma
Lymphoma is the most common type of feline cancer and accounts for about a third of all cancers in cats.
All forms of lymphoma are caused by changes in cells, however, evidence is mounting that lymphoma of the GI tract may be avoidable.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is often linked to GI lymphoma in cats.
Feline IBD is a collection of gastrointestinal disorders that ultimately causes an increase in the number of inflammatory cells in the lining of the digestive tract.
Food sensitivities and allergies play a role in IBD and contribute to compromised immune function.
Chronic diarrhea and/or vomiting are typical symptoms, resulting in inflammation and scar tissue in the lining of the intestine. These changes can then evolve to cancerous cells and progress to lymphoma of the GI tract.
Traditional treatments for feline IBD involve steroids, antibiotics and other toxic drugs that can wipe out the healthy bacterial balance in your cat’s digestive system, ultimately making her bowel disorder worse, and setting the stage for a life-threatening disease like GI lymphoma.
The best defense against any GI disease is to maintain an optimal amount of friendly gut bacteria through probiotic supplementation.
Probiotics can also be used to help with:
- Detoxification from drug therapy
- Kidney failure resulting from hyperthyroidism
- Malabsorption and other digestive issues
Selecting the Right Probiotic for Your Cat
In most cases, probiotic formulas developed for human consumption aren’t appropriate for companion animals.
Pets have strains of bacteria unique to them – they require organisms derived from their own species for best results.
Many commercially available probiotic supplements for pets are of low quality. Often, what’s on the label can’t be found in the supplement. There are also contamination, potency and purity issues with many products.
And don’t be mislead by slick marketing campaigns selling “probiotic foods.” The bacteria in a probiotic must be live and able to reproduce in order to do its job in your cat’s GI tract.
Tests on pet foods claiming to contain probiotics showed the manufacturing process kills too many of the live bacteria, rendering the probiotic effect useless by the time the food reaches your kitty’s bowl.
There are three crucial components to a high quality pet probiotic:
- It should contain 10 or more strains of beneficial bacteria
- Each serving should contain a minimum 20 million beneficial bacteria – the higher the number, the better
- It should be GMP certified to assure the viability, potency and purity of the product
If your cat has specific health challenges, talk with a holistic veterinarian about the best approach to probiotic supplementation for your kitty’s individual needs.