Scientists Track Microbiomes of Stray and Companion Dogs Around the World | Health

TUESDAY, July 5, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Whether they’re pets in South Africa, strays in India, or living in rural Laos, dogs have similar microbes colonizing their digestive tracts.

That’s the key takeaway from a new study that builds on existing research on the canine microbiome – the collection of bacteria that live inside dogs’ guts.

The researchers noted that most of the other studies have involved dogs that eat kibble and live under controlled conditions. This one analyzed fecal samples from dogs with very different diets and living in remote places.

“Most of our previous studies have involved animals that enter a veterinary clinic or are housed in a research facility; they are vaccinated and eat processed foods,” said Kelly Swanson, professor of animal and nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “But that’s different from animals, like those in Laos, that live outdoors and have a variety of environmental exposures. By conducting these studies, we can learn what’s considered ‘normal’ for different populations across the world. “

Co-author Karthik Yarlagadda, a former graduate student at the university, also pointed out the limitations of previous studies.

“It’s similar to how studies of human microbiomes have focused on people who live in cities and eat processed foods,” Yarlagadda said in a university press release.

To better understand dog microbiomethe researchers collected fecal samples from pets in South Africa, stray dogs and shelter dogs in India, and dogs from a rural village in Laos.

Dogs in Laos ate local agricultural products, including maize, maize, bamboo, sticky rice, and fish from nearby rivers. Pets in South Africa were likely fed commercial dog food. Shelter dogs in India ate rice, lentils, yoghurt and dog food, while stray dogs likely ate food left behind by humans.

Despite the different diets, the microbiomes were functionally the same, according to the study.

“It was cool to see that you can have different microbiomes, but they all perform the same metabolic function,” Yarlagadda said. “For example, dogs that ate dairy products in South African and Indian populations had different Lactobacillus species that were probably involved in the same pathway.

The researchers continued their study by comparing the fecal samples to ancient fossilized dog feces. They found that the microbiomes of the ancient puppies closely resembled those of dogs outside the United States.

The researchers said future studies could examine whether the diversity of the human microbiome in non-industrialized settings would follow similar trends.

“Using sequencing techniques from a previous study, we want to find more data on ancient microbiomes in various species of dogs,” said anthropology professor Ripan Malhi. “Since we know what their diet consisted of, we can make more comparisons to see how diet influences the microbiome.”

The results were recently published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences.

More information

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has more on the microbiome.

SOURCE: Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, press release, June 28, 2022