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PeerJ. 2017 Mar 2;5:e3019. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3019. eCollection 2017.

Key bacterial families (Clostridiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae and Bacteroidaceae) are related to the digestion of protein and energy in dogs.

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AgResearch Ltd., Food Nutrition & Health Team , Palmerston North , New Zealand.
AgResearch Ltd., Bioinformatics & Statistics Team , Lincoln , New Zealand.
Massey University, Institute of Veterinary, Animal & Biomedical Sciences , Palmerston North , New Zealand.



Much of the recent research in companion animal nutrition has focussed on understanding the role of diet on faecal microbiota composition. To date, diet-induced changes in faecal microbiota observed in humans and rodents have been extrapolated to pets in spite of their very different dietary and metabolic requirements. This lack of direct evidence means that the mechanisms by which microbiota influences health in dogs are poorly understood. We hypothesised that changes in faecal microbiota correlate with physiological parameters including apparent macronutrient digestibility.


Fifteen adult dogs were assigned to two diet groups, exclusively fed either a premium kibbled diet (kibble; K; n = 8) or a raw red meat diet (meat; M; n = 7) for nine weeks. Apparent digestibility of macronutrients (protein, fat, gross energy and dry matter), faecal weight, faecal health scores, faecal VFA concentrations and faecal microbial composition were determined. Datasets were integrated using mixOmics in R.


Faecal weight and VFA levels were lower and the apparent digestibility of protein and energy were higher in dogs on the meat diet. Diet significantly affected 27 microbial families and 53 genera in the faeces. In particular, the abundances of Bacteriodes, Prevotella, Peptostreptococcus and Faecalibacterium were lower in dogs fed the meat diet, whereas Fusobacterium, Lactobacillus and Clostridium were all more abundant.


Our results show clear associations of specific microbial taxa with diet composition. For example, Clostridiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae and Bacteroidaceae were highly correlated to parameters such as protein and fat digestibility in the dog. By understanding the relationship between faecal microbiota and physiological parameters we will gain better insights into the effects of diet on the nutrition of our pets.


Dog; Faecal microbiota; Nutrient digestibility

Conflict of interest statement

Emma N. Bermingham, Paul Maclean and Wayne Young are employees of AgResearch Ltd.

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