Aug 3, 2022
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Dogs adapt very quickly to new diets.

Dogs adapt very quickly to new diets.

The digestive system contains an amazingly dynamic microbiome. And when one element changes, other parts usually change as well. The intestines of dogs work in the same way. When diet changes, the microbes in the gut change as different species find their role in the new environment. Changing microbial diversity affects which by-products, known as metabolites, are produced in the gut.

Scientists already know this, which is why we are usually advised to gradually change our dog’s food. However, they did not know how quickly the microbiome adapted to a new diet.

“For as long as I’ve been involved in animal nutrition research, we’ve been arguing about how long to feed a new diet before collecting samples when things stabilize,” says study co-author Kelly Swanson. “No one has ever tested it definitively”

The results of the study showed that gut microbes in dogs quickly come into balance. “Metabolites change very quickly, within a couple of days. Bacteria are responsive to metabolism and cope with the substrates they receive in the new diet. Then it takes a few more days to figure out the microbial order, if you want,” Swanson explains.

“Our data shows that everything stabilizes by day six, so animal nutrition researchers can sample with confidence and find a stable microbiome within 10 days.”

For the study, scientists fed dogs dry food for two weeks and then suddenly changed their diet. Half of the dogs ate high-fat, high-protein canned food, while the other half ate high-fiber food. They repeated the study, swapping dogs with the opposite experimental diet a second time.

The experts took stool samples two days after the change in diet, and then every four days. They analyzed the feces and then linked the metabolites to bacterial species, which is no easy task.

“Often we diet and collect feces, but it’s kind of a black box in terms of what’s going on in the gut. We know what some types of bacteria metabolize, but a lot is still unknown,” says Swanson. “Our correlations are a starting point for connecting some dots, but more targeted research remains to be done”

According to the researchers, the most surprising knowledge gained from the study is how quickly dogs can respond to a change in diet. Experts believe that other mammals could achieve bacterial equilibrium in a similar time frame.

The study is published in the journal Animal Microbiome.

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