Sometimes I think of cats as little magical beings, with their knowing blinks and their way of curling up with you just when you need some extra love and kindness.
But let’s talk about those other little magical beings for moment: microbes. Because I believe they can make a big difference in our feline’s wellbeing.
It’s hard to keep track of everything research is connecting to our gut microbe balance these days: mental health, metabolic syndrome, obesity, liver health, IBS, and IBD, to name a few. But, what I have been extra excited about lately is the realization that augmenting gut flora with certain probiotics can also benefit ailing kidneys.
The ever-insightful Dr. Jean Hofve mentioned some probiotic research in her very helpful blog post Kidney Disease in Cats. It caught my eye and sent me down a road of investigation a while back, because what she shared sounded very hopeful.
Hey kidneys, take it easy!
Here’s the deal: research shows a great potential benefit of probiotics for cats, dogs, and humans with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Specifically, the enchanting probiotics referenced are:
- Streptococus thermophilus
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Bifidobacterium longum
Richard Palmquist, DVM found that elevated kidney blood values (BUN and creatinine) decreased significantly in a clinical evaluation where cats with CKD were given these probiotics (plus a prebiotic) with canned food. (Note: the company that makes the probiotic he used says it’s most effective when taken in whole capsule or liquid form, rather than added to food, but fortunately Dr. Palmquist still saw encouraging results).
The elevated kidney values were reduced because our little “-ophilus” and “longum” friends listed above can take over some of the kidney’s blood cleansing work. The probiotics say, “Hey kidneys, you’ve worked hard enough, sit back and relax more. We’re on it!” In doing so, the probiotics help prevent the dangerous side effects of toxic waste buildup in the bloodstream. That means they can help reduce the crappy life-limiting symptoms of CKD, from dehydration to nutrient deficiency from lack of appetite, potentially preventing full kidney failure.
Dr. Karen Becker has written about this too:
Pet owners who participated in a study to test the effect of probiotics on their dogs and cats suffering from kidney failure reported very positive results.
In pets with mild to moderate kidney disease, there was significant improvement in their conditions. For those animals with more advanced cases of renal failure, their owners reported their pets’ conditions stabilized with the probiotic therapy and quality of life was improved.
IBS, IBD, probiotics, and enzymes
The other thing I want to highlight about probiotics—and digestive enzymes—is that they can help prevent IBS and IBD, which are far too common in cats. What really concerns me is that IBS may lead to IBD—and IBD can starve a cat or even be a precursor to intestinal lymphoma.
Many cat caretakers have found that feeding grain-free raw cat food can make a world of difference to cats who have digestive issues or tummy trouble. As an alternative, if you add high quality enzymes and probiotics to a grain-free food, you’ve gone a long way to bring the nutrition back up. This is because it’s the enzymes in raw food that make the nutrients so accessible—most enzymes are killed in the cooking process. And, when you get probiotics into a cat’s diet too, you are improving the gut flora balance that is key to preventing and managing IBS and IBD. Again, a high quality range of enzymes and probiotics may help prevent these tragedies. In fact, I like to add probiotics to raw cat food, not just canned.
A personal discovery
I’ve been meaning to write about these topics for quite a while, and I was catalyzed into finally doing so when I was lucky enough to be introduced to a probiotic-enzyme product from a small, family-owned company called Wholistic Pet Organics. The product they sent me a sample of is called Wholistic Feline Digest Plus.
When I read the ingredients I was very pleased at the types of probiotics and enzymes included, and I tried it out on my cats. Now, it happens that we have one cat who, in spite of everything we do (and all the amazing, expensive food we give him), has become a slow and fussy eater—we worry about him getting enough nutrition sometimes. Since using this product, his appetite has improved and he even seems to like the taste of the product.
With my nutrition background (and though I received a sample, I’m not being paid to say this), I believe this probiotic-enzyme product is a cut above most other feline digestive aids I’ve seen. I like that it includes enzymes AND probiotics, plus some prebiotic to help the probiotics survive. I also like that the company recommends you keep the product in the refrigerator, which shows they have a respect and understanding of the needs of these types of microbes.
Also, getting back to renal health, it made me very happy to discover that the probiotics in Wholistic Feline Digest+ are two of the same ones found to support kidney health: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum.
I already understood the importance of probiotics for a cat’s digestive health and immune system, but now that I understand how good certain probiotics are for feline kidney health too, I’m an even bigger fan of those magical little beings!
Relevant resources if you need them:
- Wholistic Feline Digest Plus (powdered form). Overall great probiotic-enzyme product for cat digestion and wellbeing that happens to include two probiotics known to support kidney health. (I recommended keeping it in the refrigerator as often as possible to keep the microbes alive.)
- Azodyl Renal Function Support. Veterinary probiotic supplement for cats and dogs with kidney disease. This is a premium-priced product, often prescribed by vets. The positive reviews are encouraging if you have a CKD cat.
Further reading if you want to nerd out:
- Probiotics: A Simple Step to Radically Boost Your Pet’s Immune System
Karen Becker, DVM
- A Preliminary Clinical Evaluation of Kibow Biotics – Richard Palmquist DVM, 2006
- The effects of a probiotic on blood urea nitrogen and creatinine concentrations in large felids.
McCain S, Allender MC, Schumacher J, Ramsay E.
J Zoo Wildl Med. 2011 Sep;42(3):426-9.
- PROGRESS IN DEVISING A BOWEL BASED PROBIOTIC THERAPY FOR UREMIA. Natarajan Ranganathan, Ph D, Eli A Friedman, M.D. Presentation abstract from 2007 Bio International convention
- Gut Bacteria in Health and Disease
Eamonn M. M. Quigley, MD, Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2013 Sep; 9(9): 560–569.
- Unraveling the ties between irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal microbiota
Hong SN, Rhee PL. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Mar 14;20(10):2470-81.
- Role of the gut microbiota in inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis: What have we learnt in the past 10 years? World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Feb 7; 20(5): 1192–1210.
- Kidney Disease in Cats, Jean Hofve, DVM