Galacto-oligosaccharides have been evaluated as prebiotics, as they enhance bifidobacteria growth. Despite cats’ carnivorous nature, their fecal microbiota are capable of fermenting specific sources of dietary fiber and indigestible oligosaccharides. Further classification has shown that cats host various intestinal bacterial populations, including bifidobacteria. Composition of feline intestinal microbiota can be influenced by the probiotic Lactobacillus spp strain, but little is known about the influence of bifidobacteria in association with prebiotics. This study investigated the effects of feeding a selected probiotic–prebiotic combination on the composition and metabolism of intestinal microbiota in adult cats; of particular interest were the growth kinetics of a strain of Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum isolated from an adult healthy cat.

Feces of 10 cats were evaluated for moisture, ammonia concentration, and bifidobacteria count. Study length and lack of assessment of intestinal survival of the probiotic strain limited assessment, but results suggested that B pseudocatenulatum may have positive effects on the feline intestinal ecosystem exerted by the ingested probiotic–prebiotic combination. Significantly lower fecal ammonia concentration was observed at the end of and 10 days after the probiotic–prebiotic supplementation period than was observed at the start of the trial. Fecal water content was not affected.

The benefits of feeding probiotics to cats were not evaluated in this study, but evidence suggests potential health and immune function benefits of these supplements. Recent metaanalysis of studies evaluating probiotics in prevention of the common cold in humans suggested that while no significant difference in acquiring the common cold existed, possible immune benefits did. Further studies are warranted to show if there are benefits for dogs and cats: Does concurrent administration of probiotics allow for fewer GI adverse effects of antibiotics? Does administration of probiotics allow for enhanced effect of antibiotics in certain disease states? Overall, the low incidence of adverse effects and relative availability of veterinary probiotics makes their general administration viable and likely warranted. —Heather Troyer, DVM, DABVP, CVA

Effect of feeding a selected combination of galacto-oligosaccharides and a strain of Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum on the intestinal microbiota of cats. Biagi G, Cipollini I, Bonaldo A, et al. AM J VET RES 74:90-95, 2013.