By Francesca Susca, DVM, Ph.D.,Pet Development Manager at Lallemand Animal Nutrition
Summary from a presentation at the Nordic Pet Food Seminar 2017, Copenhagen, Denmark: Reaching Pet Well-being Through
the Modulation of the Gut Microflora: Gut, the Second Brain?
In the last decade pet food has experienced a shift toward premiumization and humanization. These strong trends are driven by pet owners which consider their pets to be family members. On the other side, pet food manufacturers, combining pet needs and pet owners’ desires have rapidly transferred global food trends from human nutrition to pet food.
According to market research, over 80% of new petfood product launches bear
some health-related claims, and 22% digestive claims (source: Innova Market research, Feb. 2017). In fact, gastrointestinal tract (GIT) disorders are some of the most common reasons for veterinary consultations. Beyond GIT disorders there are some other concerns such as optimal nutrition, obesity, immune defense, healthy aging and stress. Overall, wellbeing can be described as the main concern of any pet owner. But what wellbeing means and how we can define pet wellbeing? There are four main principles commonly used to assess animal well-being: good feeding, good housing, good health and appropriate behavior. Some of these parameters can be linked to a central organ which is often underestimated: the gut and its billions of inhabitants: the microbiota. Is there a way to improve pets’ well-being by shaping their gut microbiota with natural feed ingredients?
The microbiota: a key player
The digestive tract of dogs and cats harbours a complex community of microorganisms, called the gut microbiota, that plays a crucial role on the host’s overall health. Recent developments in the field of sequencing techniques, with the OMICS revolution, have considerably enlarged our understanding of the microbiota and its potential functions.
The gut microbiota is a dynamic system with great intra- and inter-individual variations. Its three main functions are keys to ensuring the maintenance of the overall health of the host’s gastrointestinal tract (GIT): 1) metabolic function 2) protective function, and 3) structural function.
The complex interactions between the microbiota, the host immune system and the host’s genetics influence the balance between health and disease. Genetics, age, environment, antibiotics and diet, are some of the factors recognized as affecting the microbiota. For example, it was shown in dogs that a relatively small amount of dietary fiber was able to detectably change the structure of the gut microbiota. In the same way, functional ingredients such as prebiotics and probiotics — well documented to influence the microbiota of many species — have shown effects on pets microbiota too as illustrated by a positive study in dogs with live yeast
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