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C2010-05

Dear Christopher Cat

When Harley, my 2-year-old cat, was a kitten, the veterinarian successfully treated his diarrhea with probiotics. Now I see advertisements for cat food with prebiotics. What’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

Christopher Responds

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that, when ingested, improve an animal’s health.

When Harley had diarrhea, he undoubtedly took a veterinary probiotic, such as FortiFlora, Prostora or Proviable, that contained “good” bacteria which crowded out the disease-causing bacteria in his intestines.

Prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients that assist the beneficial bacteria, helping them thrive. The most common prebiotic in pet food is dietary fiber.

Contrast these products to antibiotics, which kill bacteria. Given the problems associated with antibiotics -– they kill both disease-causing and helpful bacteria, and occasionally they cause unwanted side effects -– some scientists are shifting their focus from killing harmful bacteria to promoting the health of the beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

The gastrointestinal tract is the immune system’s largest organ, and the thousand species of bacteria in it comprise 95 percent of its cells.

It’s essential for overall health that the balance between beneficial and harmful gastrointestinal bacteria remains favorable. Prebiotics and probiotics help restore and maintain a positive balance.

 

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