Dogs and cats have short digestive tracts and complex gastrointestinal (GI) ecosystems. 

Up to 500 species of bacterial cells account for roughly 95% of all GI cells. Some are beneficial (“good bacteria”), while others are potentially pathogenic. 

Maintaining bacterial balance determines whether a pet’s digestive system is healthy and functional. When bacterial balance is disrupted, digestive upsets and loose stools often result. 

About half of all pet owners seek natural solutions to digestive problems, and one growing trend is probiotics and prebiotics: 

  • Probiotics are live bacteria supplied in treat or supplement form, which provide health benefits.
  • Prebiotics feed the good bacteria, allowing them to grow. 

“These bacteria support the immune system and its function, produce important B vitamins and take up space in the intestines,” says New York veterinarian Elizabette Cohen. “This is important because this space could be taken up by disease-causing bacteria instead of the healthy bacteria.” 

Dr. Cohen recommends Iams Prostora Max, available at veterinary offices. Her dog, Allie, accepted the supplement, even though she’s a picky eater. 

“Her problem is that she has a very sensitive digestive system and would suffer from upsets pretty often,” Dr. Cohen says. “I love it because I’m able to help support her digestive health naturally.” 

Dr. Cohen also encourages pet owners to look for fructooligosaccharides (FOS) in pet-food ingredient lists. These prebiotics, found in foods like bananas, barley, garlic, honey, rye and wheat, are fibers that feed the good bacteria to help suppress the bad bacteria. 

For Your Organic Bookshelf: Most of My Patients Wear Fur: Tales of Small Animals and Their Big City Vet, by Dr. Elizabette Cohen 

Photo courtesy of Iams