Most of us know, stress – especially chronic stress can negatively affect the immune system. Even though our domesticated indoor kitties don't have the stressors an outdoor cat would face, they still can have stress. A cat in their natural state is both predator and prey. They have to hunt for their food and always be aware of a potential threat to them. Our indoor feline friends don't have to worry about their next meal or literally becoming a meal as prey, but many things may disturb them. Something as simple as your friend coming over could upset them. A new baby, a new cat, or you being away on vacation can cause anxiety. Cats and kittens living in shelters definitely have environmental stress living in close quarters.
With cats, one of the consequences of stress is the recurrence of upper respiratory infections. Most cats are exposed to viruses that can cause these respiratory infections during their lifetime. Many cats have been diagnosed with the FHV-1 (feline herpesvirus type 1) which after initial infection, can stay hidden or remain dormant until the cat is under certain stress and the virus is reactivated.
Dr. Michael R. Lappin from Colorado State University has done several studies using probiotics in cats. He has found evidence that suggests positive benefits to boost immune system and balance immune cells to enable the immune system to function correctly. More than 65 percent of the immune cells in the body (human and cat) are located in the gut!
Certain strains of probiotics can greatly influence the immune system. Dr. Lappin found Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora to have positive effects in cats. The study conducted at Colorado State University gave FortiFlora to some cats with chronic herpesvirus infections and a placebo to others. They added certain stressors to the cats such as changing their housing by putting in cages then moving to crowded group living quarters multiple times. The results were those fed the FortiFlora had significantly fewer episodes of conjunctivitis associated with the herpesvirus than the placebo group.
Dr. Seth Bynum at Lewiston Veterinary Clinic sees the importance of utilizing probiotics such as Purina FortiFlora. Probiotics not only help decrease the clinical signs of upper respiratory infections such as sneezing, watery eyes, lethargy ans conjunctivitis, but can also be beneficial for cats that are on antibiotics. Many of you are probably familiar with antibiotic-induced diarrhea. The diarrhea is a result of the normal gut microflora being disrupted. Dr. Bynum always sends home probiotics with antibiotics. He also recommends any cat that is boarding should be using FortiFlora. It is especially beneficial for cats that are anxious and may get stress-induced colitis or refuse to eat right away . Cats Meow Veterinary uses FortiFlora as an appetite stimulate for frightened kitties before they settle in to their boarding “suite”.