Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pet probiotics: What they are, and why your dogs and cats might need them

Pug and brown cat sitting close together
Liam and Eamon share a deep-set love of food they find on the floor, and that means this pug and this cat often have digestive troubles. And I have a secret weapon: Probiotics. A bit of powder sprinkled on a meal can help get their digestive systems back on track. But recently, I've discovered that these products can do just a little more. And that research is pretty amazing, and more than a little creepy.

Let me explain.

How veterinarians use probiotics for cats and dogs

I was first introduced to probiotics a few months ago, when Troy had a persistent case of diarrhea. He was a little stressed about transitioning to this multi-pet home, and he was going through a diet change. Then, he had a course of antibiotics for a dental, and his system just went haywire.

My veterinarian recommended probiotics.

These products are made up of either live or semi-live microbes that can survive the hostile environment of the digestive system. A healthy gut has hundreds of thousands of these things, of all different shapes and sizes, and they help with the digestive process. But stress and antibiotics can wipe out these healthy colonies, and that can cause diarrhea.

In humans, researchers suggest that a course of probiotics can shorten an episode of digestive distress by about a day. And, probiotics can assist in cases of severe diarrhea that just doesn't resolve with conventional methods. When teams apply critters, great things happen.

I'm not sure they're a magic bullet for diarrhea in pets, but I will say that I've used a course to amend garbage gut in both Eamon and Liam, and I've seen great results. Troy is back on the stuff again now, too, as he seems to be dealing with some food woes. It worked for him the first time as well.

Unusual uses for probiotics in dogs and cats

Here's where things get weird. During my "real job" work as a medical SEO, I stumbled across some research that suggests probiotics could amend the way that humans think and behave. And that's made me wonder if these supplements could do even more to assist the pets we love.
Black cat lying in front of computer
Troy likes to help me with my research.
Quite a few human studies (including this one, this one and this one) suggest that probiotics can shift emotional control. Basically, a dose of probiotics seems to amend brain chemistry in some way, allowing for better focus, fewer emotional outbursts and better overall mental health.

It's fascinating stuff, and it seems to suggest that there's a tighter link between the health of the gut and the working of the brain. Maybe a distressed gut sends signals to the brain that we're just not aware of, and those signals make us cranky, depressed and unfocused. By altering the gut, we could stop those signals and just feel better.

For those of us with sometimes cranky pets (hello, Eamon!), this is pretty heady stuff. If a probiotic could help him to feel a little better in his gut, maybe he'd behave with a little more consistency and kindness.

And there's more!

Research from 2014 suggests that gut bacteria can actually prompt human food cravings. The bacterial types we have can call out for all sorts of nasty food, including sugary sweets and salty snacks. By altering the composition of the gut, we could end up shifting the way we eat.

If this same theory holds true for cats, we might be able to alter picky cat syndrome (hello, Troy!) with probiotics, too!

Harnessing probiotic power

There's a lot more research to be done on probiotics. For example, researchers don't yet know what types of supplements humans should use and how the should use them. They haven't even touched those topics with dogs and cats. That means no one out there should leap to daily use without talking with a trusted veterinary medical professional. It's sort of uncharted territory, at the moment.

But as for me, I'm keeping this stuff in the refrigerator for periodic use. Upset tummies, be gone! Cranky kitties, no more!

This is the product I use: NATURVET 978045 Enzymes and Probiotics for Pets. But there are many out there to try. Just remember: Talk to your veterinarian first!

Anyone out there using a product like this? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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  3. I know gut health is so important to humans, but I hadn't thought how beneficial it can be for our pets. Thanks for the great info! ~RascalandRocco