Long-term raw dog food diet ups gut bacteria levels

Some bacteria found at higher levels in dogs eating homemade raw diets could cause health risks.

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Photo by ThamKC | BigStock.com
Photo by ThamKC | BigStock.com

Scientists at Seoul National University in South Korea found eating homemade raw dog food for more than a year correlated to different microbes thriving in dogs’ intestines compared to the guts of dogs fed store-bought dry kibble. The dogs eating a raw diet harbored a wider range of microorganisms, and larger populations of them, including bacteria that can cause health problems.

The potential risk of opportunistic infection could be higher in companion canines fed raw dog food, than in dogs fed commercially available dry kibble, wrote the scientists in the journal Gut Pathogens.

Raw dog food and microbiota study design

In the experiment, six dogs ate a homemade diet of 90 percent raw meat and 10 percent vegetables for at least one year. The meats used were kangaroo, beef, chicken or duck. Another group of five dogs ate store-bought kibble for at least a year, either Natural Balance or LaMer Dr. Heal Skin Care, which were readily available the South Korean pet food market. The dogs were all small breeds, such as Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier and Pomeranian. Feces from both groups was collected. The researchers determined which microorganisms, and how many, were living in the dogs’ guts using genetic analysis and other laboratory techniques.

Bacteria in dogs fed raw dog food diet

The microbiota, or community of microbes in the gut, of dogs that ate the raw pet food diet differed from that of dogs fed conventional dry dog food. The microbiota differed in phylum, family and species of microorganism present.

Of the 81 families of bacteria found in the dogs feces, only 10 were shared between the groups. At the species level, the researchers identified 594 bacterial species. Of these, the core population in the guts of raw-diet-group dogs consisted of 37 species, while the dry dog food group harbored 30. Of these, 14 species were shared between the two groups.

Along with this, the raw diet dogs’ intestines also had larger populations of microorganisms, including the potentially harmful bacteria Clostridium perfringens and Fusobacterium varium.

The researchers concluded that the type of dog food may play a key role in animal health, since it may significantly affects gut microbiota. However, scientists called for more research with larger numbers of animals to determine the details of how raw dog food and conventional diets differ in their effects on pets’ health.

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