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PLoS One. 2014 Apr 10;9(4):e94699. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094699. eCollection 2014.

Comparison of microbiological, histological, and immunomodulatory parameters in response to treatment with either combination therapy with prednisone and metronidazole or probiotic VSL#3 strains in dogs with idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease.

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School of Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy.
Clinic "St. Antonio", Cremona, Italy.
San Marco Laboratories, Padova, Italy.
Gastrointestinal Laboratory, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, United States of America.
Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, United States of America.
Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, United States of America.



Idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a common chronic enteropathy in dogs. There are no published studies regarding the use of probiotics in the treatment of canine IBD. The objectives were to compare responses to treatment with either combination therapy (prednisone and metronidazole) or probiotic strains (VSL#3) in dogs with IBD.


Twenty pet dogs with a diagnosis of IBD, ten healthy pet dogs, and archived control intestinal tissues from three euthanized dogs were used in this open label study. Dogs with IBD were randomized to receive either probiotic (D-VSL#3, n = 10) or combination drug therapy (D-CT, n = 10). Dogs were monitored for 60 days (during treatment) and re-evaluated 30 days after completing treatment. The CIBDAI (P<0.001), duodenal histology scores (P<0.001), and CD3+ cells decreased post-treatment in both treatment groups. FoxP3+ cells (p<0.002) increased in the D-VSL#3 group after treatment but not in the D-CT group. TGF-β+ cells increased in both groups after treatment (P = 0.0043) with the magnitude of this increase being significantly greater for dogs in the D-VSL#3 group compared to the D-CT group. Changes in apical junction complex molecules occludin and claudin-2 differed depending on treatment. Faecalibacterium and Turicibacter were significantly decreased in dogs with IBD at T0, with a significant increase in Faecalibacterium abundance observed in the animals treated with VSL#3 strains.


A protective effect of VSL#3 strains was observed in dogs with IBD, with a significant decrease in clinical and histological scores and a decrease in CD3+ T-cell infiltration. Protection was associated with an enhancement of regulatory T-cell markers (FoxP3+ and TGF-β+), specifically observed in the probiotic-treated group and not in animals receiving combination therapy. A normalization of dysbiosis after long-term therapy was observed in the probiotic group. Larger scale studies are warranted to evaluate the clinical efficacy of VSL#3 in canine IBD.

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