About your companion's microbiome

"Gut bacteria are vital to your pet’s health. The microbes in your pet’s digestive tract are referred to as its microbiome. From chronic digestive disorders to mental health, the microbiome affects almost every aspect of your pet’s health and happiness."

The microbiome explained

All animals on earth have unique collections of thousands of different types of microbes in their digestive tracts, collectively termed the gut microbiome. Bacteria in the microbiome are crucial for digestion and obtaining nutrients from the food they eat. When these gut bacteria are out of balance, digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease can occur. Beyond digestion, gut bacteria impact a broad spectrum of biological functions and have roles in developing allergies, diabetes, and even anxiety.

Your pet was sterile until it was born. Your pet’s first (and most important) dose of gut bacteria was inherited at birth from its mother. These bacteria will influence your pet for the rest of its life, but the signature of bacteria in your pet’s gut can shift with age and dietary changes. Certain events, like taking antibiotics, can produce rapid shifts in the microbiome by killing off many good bacteria in addition to bad ones. It takes up to a year to recover the diversity that is lost from antibiotic usage.

The Microbiome and Chronic Digestive Disorders

Millions of dogs and cats suffer from chronic digestive disorders. The reasons for this rise are diverse, but studies suggest one of the major factors could be the over-prescription of antibiotics. When your pet has an acute digestive issue, your veterinarian will often prescribe a short course of antibiotics. Antibiotics, however, are not selective. They will often kill off large portions of your pet’s healthy microbiome, exacerbating digestive problems and adversely affecting your pet’s health.

When the bacteria in your companion’s gut are out of balance, the microbiome can trigger intestinal inflammatory responses. This inflammation, left untreated, will lead to chronic illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Pets with conditions like IBD cost their owners thousands of dollars per year because currently there is no cure. The only solution is to treat the symptoms with expensive diets and medications targeted at reducing inflammation. These medications do not directly cure the underlying condition; they only suppress the symptoms. Unfortunately, constant inflammation can lead to lymphoma and death if allowed to progress untreated.

Although probiotics are sold to supplement pet diets, current probiotics only represent a very small variety of bacteria. Additionally, experiments have shown that popular probiotics only cause temporary changes in gut bacteria (unlike fecal transplants). This means we have not yet identified the optimal probiotic strains for our pets. By building the world’s first truly comprehensive database of gut bacteria specific to pets, we will be able to discover treatments to chronic conditions that would otherwise be impossible.

The location of the microbiome

Digestion is a multi-step process that starts in the mouth, passes to the stomach, and finishes in the intestine. The vast majority of bacteria in the digestive tract are in the large intestine, and when we refer to the microbiome, we are referring to these bacteria. It is in the large intestine that bacteria help our pets digest the food that they can’t break down themselves. These bacteria are also responsible for production of vitamins and other essential nutrients. It may sound crazy that large creatures like humans and their pets need bacteria to digest their food. However, the diverse bacteria in microbiomes have a much wider range of metabolic functions than their hosts, allowing humans and pets to digest a broad range of foods in the large intestine.

After the microbiome helps your pet digest and absorb nutrients from food, a mixture of bacteria and waste products are eliminated as feces. This is why we use stool samples to assess the microbiome. Feces are approximately 50% microbial in volume.

AnimalBiome and your pet’s microbiome

When you purchase a kit for your dog or cat and join our community, we will give you comparison tools to see how your pet’s gut bacteria rank among benchmark healthy and sick pets. As we learn more about the different types of bacteria in your companion’s microbiome, we will keep you informed of the current research. We started this company because we want to use science to improve the lives of pets. We are applying what we learn from your dog or cat’s sample to identify and develop solutions to digestive disorders. Your cat or dog’s sample could provide the missing link we are searching for.