Digestive health isn’t just about a good diet or calories; it’s the cornerstone of your pet’s health and immunity. The digestive tract has gut cells, immune cells and a huge population of friendly microbes that all work together to use nutrients and provide a balanced immune system. The gut contains about 70% of the body’s immune system, so its role in vitality and immune health is immense.
Friendly gut microbes
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is composed of many specialized cells that process, digest and absorb the important nutrients the body needs. The GI tract, also referred to as the digestive tract or gut, contains most of the immune system. The gut is also home to a huge population of friendly microbes that form a complex and important ecosystem called the microbiota. There are an estimated 100 trillion microbial cells in the gut—10 times the number of body cells.1
What do these trillions of microbes do for the body?
- Play a role in promoting health
- Maintain normal physiologic, metabolic and immunologic functions
The effects of diet in dogs & cats
As you would expect, diet can affect the gut’s microbial populations. For example, shifting from a high-sugar diet to a healthier, high-fiber diet changes the gut microbial populations, promptly signaling other gut cells to release hormones that travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. This information system can alert the rest of the body within 24 hours that you are eating a better diet!
Poor digestive health in dogs & cats
Digestive health means having a robust, normal gut microbiota. In dogs and cats, aging and stressors (such as traveling, boarding, surgery, antibiotics and dietary changes/indiscretion) may alter normal gut microbiota.
Prebiotics and probiotics for dogs & cats
While they sound very similar, prebiotics and probiotics are not the same. However, they both help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut and support proper digestion.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that can be used by gut microbes for fuel and produce healthy compounds that support normal gut functions.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms or “good” bacteria that promote the growth of helpful intestinal bacteria. Probiotics for dogs and cats used daily or during times of stress support normal digestive function and a healthy gut.
What is a synbiotic?
A digestive supplement that contains both prebiotics and probiotics is called a synbiotic, alluding to the benefits of both probiotics and prebiotics for gut health.
Supplements for dogs & cats
Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics can promote a healthy gut microbiota that is essential for a normal GI and immune system. Ask your veterinarian about the use of synbiotics, prebiotics and probiotics for dogs and cats to help support proper digestion and immune health in your pet.
1Suchodolski JS. (2017). TVPJournal.com; 59-65. Accessed August 7, 2018.