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The tiny bugs that have a huge influence on your pet's wellbeing; vet 's corner.

MEDICS, both human and veterinary, are becoming increasingly interested in the importance of the several trillion bacteria living inside the gut of all animals.

Although they do need to be fed every day, luckily all those bugs don't require as much individual love and attention as the animal they reside within. It's, however, well worth paying attention to them as they have the potential to exert great influence on a pet's health and wellbeing.

Known as the microbiome, the importance of the health of these bacteria is an interesting area of research. Studies of human skin have shown the skin microbiome to be quite different in certain skin diseases, compared with healthy skin.

Although it would be logical to think that the gut microbiome's health impact would be only in the gastrointestinal system, this may not be the case - studies suggest a connection to conditions as diverse as obesity and allergies through to mental health conditions.

The composition of the microbiome in the mouth is very different in young puppies relative to those just a few weeks older. It is also known that the composition can also be influenced by diet, antibiotics, GI disease, age and other genetic and environmental factors.

Some species whose digestive systems are most reliant on the lower part of the digestive tract are probably most reliant on their gut microbiome for digestion.

Known as hindgut fermenters, they include species such as rabbits or horses who are utterly reliant on their gut microbes to digest their food. Problems can often be more obvious or severe in these animals.

In all species the challenge has been - and continues to be - determining exactly what's gone awry with the microbiome and, importantly for a vet, how to put it right.

One key challenge for the veterinary profession is that the therapies prescribed to combat some conditions may actually cause detrimental changes to the various microbiomes of the body.

Medicated shampoos and other topical treatments may disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria on the skin, while systemic antibiotics can resolve one problem but create another, through overgrowth of normally outcompeted or contained species filling the void left when beneficial species are killed.

This puts increased pressure on the prescribing clinician to try to deal with - or better still, prevent - these deleterious alterations.

We are probably only scratching the surface of this topic but the potential to have a positive impact on pet health is huge.

** As we determine how diet composition, antibiotics and other drug therapies, breed and disease affect or are affected by the microbiome, this information can be used to enhance diets, identify disease biomarkers and develop targeted disease therapies.


Horses and rabbits are more reliant on gut microbes to digest their food than most other animals

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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jul 11, 2019
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