Study participants get cozy with their gut bugs
We’ve spoken a lot this month about prebiotics, probiotics and the gut microbiome, and it got us curious about what the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study participants were doing regarding pre- and probiotics. We decided to take a peek at the baseline survey to check out prebiotic and probiotic trends in our study dogs.
Sixteen percent (483 study dogs) were receiving probiotics at baseline. Owners reported using many different products. We are continuing to monitor this number, and anticipate it will change over time. As probiotic use becomes more commonplace among veterinarians, this number will likely increase.
Veterinary scientists are hard at work characterizing the normal microbes that live in the canine intestinal tract, as well as noting the changes that occur with different diseases. The research is in its early phases, but once we know which bacteria are normal and which are associated with disease, scientists and nutritionists can begin creating newer probiotics that could replenish beneficial bacteria.
Prebiotics are food stuffs that provide nutrients to gut bacteria – fiber is a common type of prebiotic. Dogs can’t digest fiber but the bacteria in the gut can. An important by-product of fiber metabolism is short chain fatty acids, which are beneficial to intestinal cells, and may be protective against cancer.
We looked at the baseline diet data to see how many study dogs were receiving some kind of vegetable as a routine part of their diet (either as a supplement, treat or consistent part of the diet). Almost 50 percent of study dogs at baseline were eating some kind of vegetable routinely (defined as more than once per week).
We then determined the total number of dogs receiving the vegetables most often used as fiber supplements – pumpkin, squash, yams and sweet potatoes. We found that approximately ten percent of study dogs at baseline are eating these vegetables as treats or food supplements.
Although there are still questions about the place of prebiotics and probiotics in the diets of healthy dogs, mounting evidence suggests they may be beneficial in the treatment of diseases and in maintaining good intestinal health.
The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is one of the first comprehensive studies to extensively record the diet of dogs as they age and then analyze the data for links to disease.