According to market research, over 80% of new pet food product launches make some health-related claim. Functional ingredients are a must for pet food manufacturers, but these must be carefully sourced, safe, and documented for their benefits.
The first concern for any pet owner is the wellbeing of their beloved pet. There are four main principles commonly used to assess animal wellbeing: good feeding, good housing, good health and appropriate behaviour. Some of these parameters can be linked to a central organ that is often underestimated: the gut and its billions of inhabitants. Is there a way to improve pets’ wellbeing by shaping their gut microbiota?
Understanding gut microbiota
The gut microbiota is a dynamic ecosystem and its composition differs between individuals but also within the same individual. Several factors such as genetics, age, environment, diseases, antibiotics and diet can affect microbiota composition. Functional ingredients such as prebiotics and probiotics, widely used in humans and well-documented in many species, have shown to positively affect pets’ microbiota. In dogs, the probiotic yeast S. cerevisiae var. boulardii has been demonstrated to be beneficial in diarrhoea prevention or management when given together with antibiotic therapy.
Beyond the gut
Gastro-intestinal disorders are well-known to be associated with alteration of the gut microbial communities. More recently, a bi-directional link between certain conditions (i.e. obesity, atopic dermatitis, diabetes, et cetera), and gut microbiota composition has been increasingly documented.
Recent studies have investigated the differences in composition of the faecal microbiota between lean and obese dogs, pioneering the use of natural microbial solutions to provide an alternative approach to canine obesity.
The second brain
Today, stress and anxious behaviour are big concerns for most pet owners. These conditions have been linked to gut health and microbiota composition, but how?
The answer is the gut-brain axis, a complex communication system that is likely to influence motivation and higher cognitive functions. Brain and gut communicate through hormones as well as through a vast network of neurons, the enteric nervous system, or ‘second brain’. This is certainly one of the most fascinating areas of research in the last decade, and one in which functional ingredients, able to influence the microbiota, have a crucial role to play.
Targeting the market for pet wellbeing
Shaping intestinal microbiota by supplementing with specific functional ingredients could be a way to optimize pets’ overall health and, consequently, improve their wellbeing. Lallemand, an expert in developing microbial-based solutions for animal and human nutrition, has developed a platform of natural, research-backed pet nutrition solutions to support immunity, alleviate oxidative stress, or support digestive comfort, and can help target pets’ wellbeing (see table). The company offers specific technical support and expertise in functional ingredients to help manufacturers to formulate pet food and pet supplements in order to address market demand.
Categories of Lallemand natural solutions and their potential benefits in pet nutrition
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