Pet owners may have heard of probiotics and similar ingredients in their own diets and their pets’. Although they may be aware that maintaining a healthy microbiome positively influences health, many may not be familiar with the science backing up the marketing claims for digestive health pet foods. As the research is constantly advancing and often buried in dense journals or proprietary, staying up to date on pet microbiome research remains the domain of researchers and veterinarians, especially those working for pet food companies.

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Those pet food companies can bridge the gap between these empirical observations and the marketing claims about certain ingredients’ effects on pet microbiome health. Juan Gomez-Basauri, Ph.D., global director companion animal business for Alltech, a pet food ingredient supplier, shared his insights into what information pet food companies most need to share with their potential customers about the pet gut microbiome (See video below).

Organisms in the pet microbiome

Dogs, cats, people and wildlife live in biomes, such as forests and savannahs, or at least cities embedded into and dependent upon those biomes. In turn, animals have microbiomes within them. Our bodies serve as habitats for a diverse range of bacteria, virus, fungi and other microorganisms. Those organisms are known as microbiota. As biomes consist of grass, trees, elephants and lions, the microbiota make up the microbiome. Considered collectively, the microbiota form microbiomes within habitats created by our bodies.

A single planet Earth hosts many biomes, and each animal hosts multiple microbiomes. For example, the gut microbiome has a distinct set of microorganisms from the skin microbiome. (In genomics, the collective genetic material of an animal and the microbes living on it also can be referred to as the microbiome, or metagenome.)

Ecosystems in a biome becomes less resilient when faced with invasive species, habitat destruction, pollution or natural disaster. Similarly, the internal environment can fall out of balance. The causes of problems in the microbiome are just as diverse as the disruptions to ecosystems. However, an individual has far more control over the conditions they create in their own body, or that of their pet, than they do over the what happens to swamps, taigas or deciduous woodlands.

Controlling the conditions of the microbiome involves diet, and as the computer programming saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. Research on pets and people has explored how different edibles influence their bodies’ microbiomes. Prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes and now ever post-biotics have entered pet food formulators tool kits for making foods that encourage healthy communities of microbes within dogs and cats. When that complex microbial community shifts out of balance, the gut can fall into a state called dysbiosis. This unhealthy microbiome correlates with chronic inflammation, digestive problems and other health issues.

Petfood Forum CONNECT

Learn more about the pet microbiome during Dr. Gomez session at Petfood Forum CONNECT, “Feeding trillions of bacteria: Bridging the gap between nutrition, the microbiome and well-being.” At Petfood Forum CONNECT, global pet food industry professionals will learn the latest pet food trends, access a wide network of industry suppliers and collaborate in one-to-one meetings to share business ideas. During a time when travel and in-person meetings are inadvisable, Petfood Forum CONNECT attendees will network during virtual meetings and happy hours, have access to more than 15 live or on-demand educational sessions and participate in live Q&A discussions with speakers and chat with pet food professionals from around the world. Registration grants access to options for an exclusive directory of digital showrooms, allowing attendees to schedule one-to-one meetings with key pet food industry suppliers.