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    The Link Between Your Cat's Diet and Its Ability to Fight Off Illness

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    When you think about the digestive system and the colon, you automatically think about the breakdown of food and transportation of nutrients from the gut to other parts of the body. However, this is not the only important role the gut has. The gastrointestinal tract is also home to over half of the cells that make up the immune system. This is true for both humans and their pets.

    Because of this important link between intestines and immunity, diet is one of the major factors that can influence your pet’s immune system. A poor diet can have disastrous effects on your cat’s ability to stave off infections and other health problems.

    Nutrients present in your cat’s diet help support its immune system in numerous ways. At a basic level, food provides nutrients that cells need to survive. In a more complex manner, the specific nutrients some foods provide can bolster the immune system to make it much more effective at keeping your cat healthy.

    Components of an immune-boosting diet

    Most formulated cat foods will have a balance of vitamins and nutrients your cat needs to stay healthy. However, sometimes these foods do not provide enough of a particular nutrient to really help your cat and its immune system. Add some of these compounds into your cat’s diet through additional foods or nutritional supplements.

    • Proteins and amino acids: Amino acids such as taurine, arginine and carnitine are known to help boost the function of T-cells, or cells that hunt down and destroy infected cells in the body. These amino acids are commonly found in foods like flax seed, chicken, salmon and eggs.
    • Anti-inflammatories: Anti-inflammatory compounds like omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain balance in the gut and body by reducing inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a wide variety of health problems in cats such as diabetes and arthritis and can be detrimental to the immune system.
    • Vitamins C and E: These vitamins are known antioxidants that protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals, which are naturally produced through metabolizing food. Free radical production increases if your cat is sick, meaning your cat’s diet should contain much more of these vitamins to offset that increase.
    • Probiotics: The gut is filled with healthy bacteria that help to break down foods, deliver nutrients to the cells and support the immune system. These beneficial bacteria are called probiotics. Cats are born with probiotics, but these can be easily wiped out with the use of antibiotics or other medications in the wake of an infection or illness. A lack of probiotics can lead to your cat having a decreased ability to stave off infections. Probiotics can be found naturally in some foods like yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut, but you can also add probiotic supplements to your cat’s meals if your feline friend cannot or will not eat those types of foods.

    In addition to implementing the above-mentioned compounds to your cat’s diet, you should avoid feeding it highly-processed foods with lots of processed grains. These compounds can lead to increased inflammation in cats, which can inhibit the immune system, make it feel lethargic and potentially lead to major diseases.

    Additional ways to boost feline immunity

    Feeding your cat a well-balanced diet is the first step in bolstering its immune system to keep it safe from pathogens. However, there are other ways you can help boost your cat’s immunity for well-rounded support.

    First, make sure your cat is not under stress. Stress is one of the most common causes of immune system failure in cats because it inhibits the immune system’s ability to fight infections effectively. If your cat is hiding more, sounds more vocally distressed or has recently become aggressive, there may be something wrong. Work to identify and mitigate stressors for your cat to keep it healthy.

    You can also implement immunity-boosting supplements in your cat’s daily routine. Supplements like these are formulated with natural ingredients to both add to the dietary nutrients in your cat’s diet and introduce other compounds that fight off infections and bolster the immune system.

    Pay attention to immunity

    Preventative methods are the best way to boost immunity in cats. You don’t want to wait until your cat is severely immunocompromised to begin paying attention to its immune system. Feed your cat a well-balanced, nutritious diet filled with immunity-boosting elements, add probiotics to its diet, cut back on feeding it inflammatory and processed foods and give it immune-boosting supplements to keep it healthy for the duration of its life.

    Meet Our Expert

    Dr. Janice Huntingford

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