Have you explored probiotics for feline CKD, IBS, and IBD prevention + support?

cat_exploring2-924x1024 Have you explored probiotics for feline CKD, IBS, and IBD prevention + support? probiotics

Sometimes I think of cats as little magical beings, with their knowing blinks and their way of curling up with you just when you need some extra love and kindness.

But let’s talk about those other little magical beings for moment: microbes. Because I believe they can make a big difference in our feline’s wellbeing.

It’s hard to keep track of everything research is connecting to our gut microbe balance these days: mental health, metabolic syndrome, obesity, liver health, IBS, and IBD, to name a few. But, what I have been extra excited about lately is the realization that augmenting gut flora with certain probiotics can also benefit ailing kidneys.

The ever-insightful Dr. Jean Hofve mentioned some probiotic research in her very helpful blog post Kidney Disease in Cats. It caught my eye and sent me down a road of investigation a while back, because what she shared sounded very hopeful.

Hey kidneys, take it easy!

Here’s the deal: research shows a great potential benefit of probiotics for cats, dogs, and humans with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Specifically, the enchanting probiotics referenced are:

  • Streptococus thermophilus
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium longum

Richard Palmquist, DVM found that elevated kidney blood values (BUN and creatinine) decreased significantly in a clinical evaluation where cats with CKD were given these probiotics (plus a prebiotic) with canned food. (Note: the company that makes the probiotic he used says it’s most effective when taken in whole capsule or liquid form, rather than added to food, but fortunately Dr. Palmquist still saw encouraging results).

The elevated kidney values were reduced because our little “-ophilus” and “longum” friends listed above can take over some of the kidney’s blood cleansing work. The probiotics say, “Hey kidneys, you’ve worked hard enough, sit back and relax more. We’re on it!” In doing so, the probiotics help prevent the dangerous side effects of toxic waste buildup in the bloodstream. That means they can help reduce the crappy life-limiting symptoms of CKD, from dehydration to nutrient deficiency from lack of appetite, potentially preventing full kidney failure.

Dr. Karen Becker has written about this too:

Pet owners who participated in a study to test the effect of probiotics on their dogs and cats suffering from kidney failure reported very positive results.
In pets with mild to moderate kidney disease, there was significant improvement in their conditions. For those animals with more advanced cases of renal failure, their owners reported their pets’ conditions stabilized with the probiotic therapy and quality of life was improved.

IBS, IBD, probiotics, and enzymes

The other thing I want to highlight about probiotics—and digestive enzymes—is that they can help prevent IBS and IBD, which are far too common in cats. What really concerns me is that IBS may lead to IBD—and IBD can starve a cat or even be a precursor to intestinal lymphoma.

Many cat caretakers have found that feeding grain-free raw cat food can make a world of difference to cats who have digestive issues or tummy trouble. As an alternative, if you add high quality enzymes and probiotics to a grain-free food, you’ve gone a long way to bring the nutrition back up. This is because it’s the enzymes in raw food that make the nutrients so accessible—most enzymes are killed in the cooking process. And, when you get probiotics into a cat’s diet too, you are improving the gut flora balance that is key to preventing and managing IBS and IBD.  Again, a high quality range of enzymes and probiotics may help prevent these tragedies. In fact, I like to add probiotics to raw cat food, not just canned.

A personal discovery

I’ve been meaning to write about these topics for quite a while, and I was catalyzed into finally doing so when I was lucky enough to be introduced to a probiotic-enzyme product from a small, family-owned company called Wholistic Pet Organics. The product they sent me a sample of is called Wholistic Feline Digest Plus.

When I read the ingredients I was very pleased at the types of probiotics and enzymes included, and I tried it out on my cats. Now, it happens that we have one cat who, in spite of everything we do (and all the amazing, expensive food we give him), has become a slow and fussy eater—we worry about him getting enough nutrition sometimes. Since using this product, his appetite has improved and he even seems to like the taste of the product.

facts_2 Have you explored probiotics for feline CKD, IBS, and IBD prevention + support? probiotics
Wholistic Feline Digest Plus

With my nutrition background (and though I received a sample, I’m not being paid to say this), I believe this probiotic-enzyme product is a cut above most other feline digestive aids I’ve seen. I like that it includes enzymes AND probiotics, plus some prebiotic to help the probiotics survive. I also like that the company recommends you keep the product in the refrigerator, which shows they have a respect and understanding of the needs of these types of microbes.

Also, getting back to renal health, it made me very happy to discover that the probiotics in Wholistic Feline Digest+ are two of the same ones found to support kidney health: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum.

I already understood the importance of probiotics for a cat’s digestive health and immune system, but now that I understand how good certain probiotics are for feline kidney health too, I’m an even bigger fan of those magical little beings!

Relevant resources if you need them:

  • Wholistic Feline Digest Plus (powdered form). Overall great probiotic-enzyme product for cat digestion and wellbeing that happens to include two probiotics known to support kidney health.  (I recommended keeping it in the refrigerator as often as possible to keep the microbes alive.)
  • Azodyl Renal Function Support.  Veterinary probiotic supplement for cats and dogs with kidney disease. This is a premium-priced product, often prescribed by vets. The positive reviews are encouraging if you have a CKD cat.

Further reading if you want to nerd out:

Love to hear your thoughtful thoughts! Leave a reply...


  1. Hi! Do you have a wet cat food that you recommend for cats with CKD? Thanks! I just ordered the Wholistic Feline Digest powder. Excited to try it!

  2. hi, i’ve been reading so much information about CKD and what I should feed my 16 year old boy. He loves his canned pate fancy feast (which I add water to). I’ve tried the prescription diets but he will not touch that. do you think keeping him on fancy feast and adding the probiotic will help in reducing his phosphorus intake and aid his renal function?

  3. I’ve been using Wholistic Feline Digest for the past couple of months for my IBD cat, per the recommendation on this site. Although her stools are better (no loose / soft stools) she still has this horrible “digestive smell” from the stool waste and still has inflammation. She is on budesonide three times a week. I just read on this site, via the IBD link, that IBD cats should avoid in their diet: potatoes, sweet potatoes as well as fructooligosaccharide – prebiotic. Wholistic Feline Digest contains 30 mg of fructooligosaccharide.

    I think the combo of me feeding her foods with potato starch (Lotus Just Juicy – turkey and occasionally Weruva Steak Frites – potato starch and sweet potatoes) as well as the Wholistic Feline Digest with fructooligosaccharide may not be helping her heal. I am going to have to research another probiotic with fructooligosaccharide and change the diet – we recently tried Wild Calling which is potato free. I wish she would eat Instinct LID rabbit but it’s usually hit or miss as well as with Rad Cat despite trying a topper.

    Anyway, I don’t know if the 30 mg of fructooligosaccharide in WFD isn’t enough to make a difference but for now I’m going to switch to another probiotic.

  4. My 16 nearly 17 yr old orange tabby boy and his torti littermate sis both have hyperthyroidism. The girl was shown to have early stage of renal failure and put on Azodyl. She’s eating much better and is gaining weight. My question is, the boy is now not eating well as of a few days ago (which normally he eats like a horse). I have an appt with his ver but it’s 2 weeks away and im worried about him. Can Azodyl be given as a preventative? I just don’t want to wait 2 weeks and have him get irreversibly iII.

  5. Hi Luke, that’s great news about your cat being in remission.
    In my opinion, probiotics are not widely understood yet by conventional doctors like Dr. Hodgkins. As a society, we all have a lot more to learn and understand about beneficial probiotic microbes, but so far I haven’t seen any evidence they do can long-term damage, in spite of the fact they’ve been taken for decades. (Also, traditional cultures all over the world have always consumed natural fermented, probiotic foods.) Azodyl’s ingredients are very simple — the 3 probiotic strains plus some fiber to feed them. Personally, I have no fears of those ingredients, even though the name sounds very pharmaceutical so that they can charge a high price for it. Also, the evidence shows that those 3 probiotics help prevent toxic waste buildup in the bloodstream–including creatinine, not just BUN.
    Regarding fructooligosaccharide – it’s a fiber, not really a sugar. Here’s a research overview “demonstrating consumption of FOS has a beneficial influence on glucose metabolism”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22460261

  6. Our kitty is CKD and an in-remission diabetic. The latter is thankfully to us stumbling across Dr. Hodgkins book and implementing tight regulation insulin control. Her book mentions, and her opinion may have changed, that Azodyl may not be a good thing as it had no long term safety studies of chronic use and if it worked, it may work not by improving kidney function but by only reducing one of the markers of it, being BUN.

    I’m interested in the pre-probiotics, but have always been concerned about the Fructooligosaccharide and it’s affects on a diabetic cat? Any ides. Thanks.

  7. Hi. My 8 year old male Ragdoll, about 6 months ago, changed from a sweet boy to kind of a cranky guy. A thought came to me that maybe his tummy was bothering him. I started him on a probiotic, sprinkling 1/4 tsp.into his food. The sweet boy returned. This cat was also frequently throwing up hairballs, like every other day. I changed to putting the probiotic into a empty capsule and giving it to him in the early evening. What a change. Now he rarely throws up. He is a happy boy and I’m a happy Mom. Thanks to the probiotic.

    1. Carol, that’s wonderful! I’m so glad you shared this story — very astute observation that often a cat’s cranky disposition can come from tummy discomfort, yet we can often help them with this! It makes me sad when people don’t realize what’s going on and just decide the cat has a lousy personality. Seriously.