The Importance of the Microbiome for Dog Health and Wellbeing
Research, and understanding, of the impact of the gut health and microbiome on both human and animal physical and mental health has increased rapidly in the past 2-3 years.
It is now widely accepted that the human microbiota is positively affected by a plant-based diet with significant positive impacts on inflammation and its role in overall health including a reduction in all-cause mortality, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancers. A vegetarian/vegan diet is effective in promoting a diverse ecosystem of beneficial bacteria to support both the microbiome and overall health. (3)
Coupled with this is a growing understanding of the importance, and relevance, of the gut-brain axis and its effect on not just the physical, but also cognitive and emotional health and wellbeing.
As we increasingly humanise our dogs, thankfully research into the effects of diet on our dogs’ health, which until recently was limited, is now evolving rapidly.
A research paper published in 2020 (1) investigating the impact of various diets on faecal microbiota found:
Furthermore, the microbiota of dogs fed diets enriched in fibres and carbohydrates are more complex and showed a lower abundance of Fusobacteria and Actinobacteria and higher abundance of Bacteroidetes compared to that of dogs fed a diet based on a high amount of animal proteins and fats . An observed reduction of the butyrogenic bacterium Faecalibacterium spp. in faecal samples of dogs fed a diet based on a high amount of animal proteins and fats, which is associated with a healthy microbiota in humans  and anti-inflammatory features , led the authors to the assumption that a meat-based diet is less protective against inflammatory activity . With these observations as a basis, the impression could be created that for a healthy intestinal microbiome, a vegetarian diet of a carnivorous dog might be more advantageous, whereby the avoidance of protein-rich diets of poor protein quality also seems to play a role.
A study (2), The Role of the Canine Gut Microbiome and Metabolome in Health and Gastrointestinal Disease, Gastrointestinal Laboratory, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Texas A&M University concluded:
‘….. for dogs, the kingdom of origin of the ingredients seems to be less important than the overall macronutrient composition. Extruded diets with similar macronutrient contents, but prepared exclusively with vegetable sources of protein, do not seem to significantly alter the microbiome of dogs when compared to traditional (mixed animal and vegetable) extruded diets’ (3)
‘…..The microbial community (abundance and diversity) in HC (healthy control) dogs included in our study did not change after feeding the APFD (animal protein free diet).
We therefore conclude that the faecal microbiota of FRE (food related enteropathy) dogs changed after the dietary trial, not directly because of the composition of the APFD, but because the diet promoted recovery from the disease. Recovery from disease was a strong driver to change the microbiota composition. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the APFD did not drive any changes in the faecal microbiota of HC dogs. (3)’
Research article, Metagenomic dissection of the canine gut microbiota: insights into taxonomic, metabolic and nutritional features by Giulia Alessandri published in Society for Applied Microbiology in 2019 concludes ‘that a meat-based diet is less protective against inflammatory activity in the canine gut.’
Increasingly, as with human health, research shows plant-based diets to be beneficial to our dogs’ overall physical and mental wellbeing. Gut health for dogs is proving as important for their generall health and wellbeing as it is for humans.
It is our ambition as we grow to fund specific research on the impact of plant-based diets on the microbiome and corresponding effects on the health of our dogs.