What Are Probiotics And Prebiotics, And Why Do Animals Need Them?

First, you need to figure out what prebiotics and probiotics are and how they differ. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria. Usually, many microorganisms are found in any animal’s intestines, and probiotics can replenish their number and, accordingly, suppress harmful microflora. The intestinal microflora is an essential component for the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. It performs many different functions that are not always within the power of the animal’s body.

Effects of Probiotics on the body of Dogs and Cats - BuskerscatLisa Algra on Unsplash

If we talk about prebiotics, they are food components that are not digested or absorbed in the stomach and intestines of an animal but are food for microorganisms. And most importantly, these components nourish only useful microflora, not allowing you to eat harmful ones.

In the scientific world, probiotics are defined as living microorganisms that, when introduced into the body of animals or humans, in adequate quantities, bring it benefits. For humans, examples of foods rich in probiotics are yogurt. As for our pets, everything is arranged a little differently, and the beneficial effect of fermented milk products on their body is not so unambiguous and sometimes controversial.

You have probably heard that probiotics are useful for forming healthy intestinal microflora – this is true, although the mechanism of action is somewhat broader. At ThePets.net research you will find out why probiotics needed for animals are?

Intestinal Microflora of Dogs and Cats

Cats and dogs are predators by nature. Unlike humans, they have much shorter bowels and are much better equipped to digest meat. A recent study indicated that fragments of the bones and skins of prey are essential for forming healthy intestinal microflora. Moreover, the fermentation process of these pieces is very similar to the human fiber fermentation process.

Cats are fortunate for the opportunity to hunt birds and mice. Their intestinal microflora develops correctly, the immune system works properly, and the risk of allergies is reduced. But not everyone has such an opportunity.

In the modern world, few people feed their pets with fresh meat and game brought from the hunt – the nutrition of cats and dogs is based on ready-made feed or prepared by humans at home. And in this case, willy-nilly, you have to think about probiotics for animals.

Intestinal Microflora of Dogs and Cats - Buskerscat42 North on Unsplash

Why do animals need Probiotics?

Firstly, probiotics for animals can be useful for various diseases, significantly when the pet’s microflora is inhibited by taking antibiotics. Secondly, by licking, cats build up hairballs in the digestive tract, which can lead to inflammatory bowel disease – in such a case, probiotics can help.

In recent years, the number of studies examining the effects of probiotics on animals’ bodies has increased, so you can rely on scientific evidence when deciding whether to give food with probiotics to your pet.

Effects of Probiotics on the body of Dogs and Cats

The mechanism of action of probiotics is different. First of all, good bacteria compete with bad bacteria by consuming nutrients and attaching themselves in the intestines, physically expelling them. In a study of Lactobacillus acidophilus in healthy adult cats, the probiotic was shown to improve intestinal microflora balance by suppressing harmful bacteria.

Vaccination period

Probiotics modulate the immune system: they activate immune cells and increase antibodies against various pathogens. Because of this, the consumption of probiotics is indicated in animals that have received vaccinations.

Three puppies that received the appropriate vaccination were given regular food and food supplemented with probiotics in the experiment. Puppies receiving a probiotic specific to the plague virus of carnivores developed better immunity than the control group. In particular, the production of particular immunoglobulins IgG cells was higher.

Why do animals need Probiotics - BuskerscatFrancis Nie on Unsplash

The benefits of lactobacilli

Let’s not forget about the connection between the health of the pet and the owner. For example, Salmonella is well known as an animal-to-human infection. It has been experimentally proven that lactobacilli can suppress reproduction and the production of Salmonella toxins.

In another study, it was shown that the use of various types of lactobacilli reduced the number of helminth eggs (hookworms that can be transmitted to humans) in the feces of dogs and the increase in white blood cells. It should be added that in this study, the dogs were infected with helminths in a natural, not laboratory way.

Probiotics for Diarrhea

Continuing on the topic of intestinal infections, it is interesting to mention the epic study carried out at an animal shelter in which 217 cats and 182 dogs took part. Stress caused about 20% of cats (one in five!) to develop diarrhea. In dogs, this effect was not found in this study; however, they did not have diarrhea regularly as in cats.

Vitamin synthesis

Probiotics are also known to synthesize substances important to health. For example, lactobacilli synthesize B vitamins (niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid) and digestive enzymes. It has been shown that the use of Lactobacillus acidophilus is especially beneficial for puppies for their growth and body weight gain and contributes to the formation of healthy immunity, reducing the risk of allergies. Thus, probiotics are not a useless preparation or additive in the composition of dry food, it is just they must be used correctly.

Probiotics for Diarrhea - BuskerscatRobin de kesel on Unsplash


Prebiotics and probiotics are essential supplements that keep the intestinal microflora at the level necessary for useful gastrointestinal function. Many factors in our pets’ lives negatively affect beneficial gut bacteria. Stress, diet change, poor-quality food, and feed, decreased immunity, and much more can affect the microflora, reducing its quantitative and qualitative composition.

Most often, this does not lead to visible consequences for us, such as diarrhea. But this does not necessarily mean that the microflora has not been affected. It is just that the intestines and the animal’s immune system cope and compensate for the lack of microflora.

To restore the number of beneficial intestinal bacteria, pre- and probiotics are used. Prebiotics, being food only for beneficial bacteria, indirectly improve the intestinal microflora, and with the help of probiotics, you can “populate” the intestines with bacteria directly. The healthy microflora not only participates in the gastrointestinal tract but also destroys harmful bacteria, preventing the animal from getting sick.

Pre- and probiotics are not drugs; they have no side effects and cannot overdose. The worst thing that will happen if you give your pet a lot of supplements at once – most of them will not be able to gain a foothold and come out with feces, but the required amount will remain in the intestines.

Prevention is the best cure. If your pet is expecting any changes soon, if it ate or drank something inappropriate, you can give it a course of pre- and probiotics to prevent dysbiosis. Or you can provide these supplements in the terms recommended in the instructions to always keep your pet’s intestinal microflora at the proper level.