Top 5 Things You May Not Know About the Microbiome of Dogs
Prebiotics and probiotics are gaining in popularity with veterinarians, pet owners and veterinary scientists. Understanding how these products work hinges on knowledge of the gut microbiome – the sum total of all the genetic material of all the organisms living in a dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
Here are a few fun facts about the microorganisms riding along in our canine companions:
- Estimates suggest there are 10 times more organisms in the intestinal tract than total cells in a dog’s body.
- Dogs have several hundred families of bacteria in their intestinal tract, but 99 percent belong to one of five main groups: Firmicutes, Bacteroides, Fusobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria.
- The largest number of bacteria live in the large intestine (no surprises there!)
- The skin and urinary tracts also have robust microbiomes.
- Areas previously thought to be sterile, such as the lower airways and even the blood, may have a small but present normal microbiome.
We tend to think of bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc., as the “bad guys.” For scientists, it is becoming increasingly apparent that these organisms perform specialized tasks to help maintain good health, such as fending off invading pathogens and helping digest certain foods (such as fiber). The microbiome also appears to influence inflammation and even can affect brain function.
Researchers, including some funded by Morris Animal Foundation, are searching for ways to tweak the gut bacteria to help treat diseases such as cancer, immune diseases and obesity. Gaining a better understanding of the normal canine microbiome also will help veterinarians identify abnormalities in the microbiome, monitor therapy, and provide guidance to owners on probiotic and prebiotic selection.
Morris Animal Foundation has helped support microbiome research in horses, dogs and cats. Data collected as part of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study also will help shed more light on this exciting new area of research, and adding to the growing body of knowledge about this interesting, but largely unknown, subject.