Probiotic supplements have become increasingly popular in the United States, and a recent study asks whether cats could benefit from them. Though the results hint at certain benefits, the authors call for more work.
Now available in a range of products, including drinks, breakfast cereals, and yogurts, probiotics promise improved digestive and overall health.
However, scientific support for these claims is scant, though research indicates that probiotics can help treat or prevent some specific conditions, such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Regardless of the sizable holes in the evidence, the use of probiotics in the United States quadrupled from 2007 to 2012.
Although scientists are skeptical about the benefits of commercially available food-based probiotics, there is no doubt that the bacteria that reside in the mammalian gut are vital for the health of the gut and beyond.
As the authors of a recent study explain, gut bacteria can boost an animal’s immune defenses, improve digestion, and aid energy metabolism.
Conversely, studies have shown that in cats and dogs, dysbiosis — alterations in the normal gut flora — can cause intestinal inflammation and stress-associated diseases.
Probiotics and fecal quality
Recently, a group of researchers decided to investigate whether a probiotic could influence “nutritional conditions and fecal quality in healthy cats.”
They decided to investigate this topic because, “Although several scientific studies reported beneficial effects of probiotics on gut health in human beings and dogs affected by [gastrointestinal] disorders, few studies on cats have been performed.”