Should I give my cat probiotics?

Although I have never given my cat probiotics, I am considering it quite seriously and I’ll tell you why. There are two good reasons. With skin problems, problems affecting the stomach and intestines are the most common reason why people take their cats to the vet. The second point is that there appears to be no downside to giving your cat probiotics (in the correct amount and way). It’s a very natural treatment. So, if your cat does not need them there is no harm done. However, if your cat does need them, they might benefit from them. And therefore, the outcome will be either neutral or positive. That’s encouraging. But check with your vet first.

Probiotic powdered supplement may improve your cat's health by improving their gut bacteria
Probiotic powdered supplement may improve your cat’s health by improving their gut bacteria. Image: MikeB.
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Cost

A downside concerns the cat’s caregiver. On my calculation putting a probiotic powder onto a cat or dog’s bowl of cat food is going to cost 28p in UK money every time. It will probably be something similar but in cents in the USA. If you are on a budget this may be significant. Although a short course may do the trick. You can buy a big tub of complete probiotic digestive health powder, enough for 60 scoops, for about £17 on Amazon, UK.

What is a probiotic powdered supplement? What does it do?

What is probiotic powder? It contains live bacteria which helps to rebalance the micro-biome or stomach bacteria of your cat or dog. A lot of people take probiotics. I do in the form of pills. And I believe that they benefit me.

Probiotics help to create a healthy bacterial growth in your stomach which in turn helps to stabilise your digestion and it means that you poop more consistently. And a stomach with good bacteria helps to promote general health and a good immune system. Overall health may well improve.

Probiotics decrease the pH in the gut which helps good gut bacteria to thrive. This is according to veterinarian, Dr. Cross.

Good feedback

It’s probably fair to say that you will find anecdotal but first-hand evidence from cat and dog owners that providing a probiotic powdered supplement to their food has improved their companion animal’s health. In some cases, the animal stops regurgitating food. In other cases, their poop is firmed up. I’ve read one comment were their dog appeared to have IBD and a probiotic powder added to their food helped to stabilise and cure this distressing condition. The dog was going to the loo six times a day and it stopped after adding probiotics.

The point I’m making is that you will find some good stories on the Internet by cat and dog owners who’ve purchased probiotics for their companion animal.

Should not be an attempted fix for an underlying condition

Of course, adding probiotic powders to cat and dog food is not meant to be a cheap fix to a poor diet. Actually, thinking about it, it isn’t that cheap so perhaps the expense of 28p per bowl is good because it stops it being abused as a cheap fix.

It’s quite a tricky point because you’ve really got to get to the bottom of the cause of digestive tract issues resulting diarrhoea and vomiting or constipation. These might symptoms of a serious underlying condition. But straight constipation in an otherwise healthy cat or dog, I believe, can be rectified with probiotics.

Dr. Cross who works for Purina who sell probiotic powders (and therefore she has a vested interest) says that: “Most of our immune system is located in the digestive tract, giving the good bacteria plenty of opportunities to interact with immune cells and support immune health”.

It might be wise to consult with your veterinarian before administering probiotic to your cat or dog. It depends on your confidence and knowledge. This is because you’ve got to look at the digestive problem as a whole and ask whether there is treatable cause for your cat’s condition such as diarrhea or whether it is a matter for gut bacteria to be improved.

Perhaps the basic question is whether your cat is in generally good health but has constipation. Under those circumstances I would suggest that probiotics might be useful. And conversely if your cat has diarrhoea but is an otherwise good health you might try probiotics.

Dr. Cross says if you notice a change in your cat’s faeces probiotics might help. She uses probiotics in her practice daily to treat digestive upset.

Use only probiotics for companion animals

The recommendation is not to give your cat probiotics made for humans. Only provide your companion animal with recommended probiotics that have been shown to be safe for dogs and cats and which have a positive health effect.

More work needed

You will probably find many veterinarians either don’t recommend probiotics or don’t consider them. There appears to be a need to do more work on this area of companion animal health and veterinary care. But as mentioned at the beginning, as there is no downside but a potential upside, I would suggest that they are worth trying if you see a change in your cat’s faeces or your cat has regular diarrhoea or constipation.

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