A High-protein, Low-carbohydrate Diet Is Linked to Weight Loss in Dogs

Scientists from the Nestle Purina PetCare Company have found that a dog’s diet can drastically affect their gut microbiome. The ratios of different bacteria change depending on the protein and carbohydrate levels in the diet. The research team believes that their findings could help prevent obesity in dogs. The details are in a paper that was just published in the journal mBio.

The gut microbiome consists of a number of bacteria and other microbes found in the digestive system. Many of these microbes are beneficial; gut microbes help break down food, aid in vitamin absorption, and some even enhance the immune system response. While the functions of these microbes have been studied in humans, there has been very little research on the gut microbiomes of animals. In humans, diet is known to play a large role in the makeup of the gut microbiome. An imbalance of microbes can lead to health problems, including obesity, and these imbalances are often linked to poor diets.

A team of researchers conducted a study to determine if diet had major effects on the gut microbiomes of dogs, hoping that this information could help solve the pet obesity epidemic. The team developed two diets: a high-protein, low-carbohydrate (HPLC) diet and a low-protein, high-carbohydrate (LPHC) diet. The researchers fed 32 Beagles and 32 Labrador Retrievers a basic baseline diet for four weeks. The dogs were then split up into two groups, one group was fed the HPLC diet while the other group was fed the LPHC diet. Both groups contained dogs of varying weights, including overweight and obese dogs. After four weeks, the researchers collected fecal samples and analyzed the microbiomes.

The researchers found that the different diets greatly affected the dogs’ microbiomes. Dogs fed a HPLC diet had increased numbers of Clostridium hiranonis, Clostridium perfringens, and Ruminococcus gnavus bacteria but a decrease in the ratio of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes. The HPLC diet was also associated with gene networks that play a large role in weight loss. The LPHC diet did not produce this effect and dogs fed the diet had different ratios of bacteria. Specifically, the LPHC dogs had increased numbers of Bacteroides uniformis and Clostridium butyricum. The research team concluded that diet has significant effects on gut microbes in dogs. The HPLC diet was linked to weight loss and dogs that were already overweight gained the most benefits from this type of diet.

The team’s findings suggest that a HPLC diet may be beneficial to dogs that need to lose weight. The study also shows that a dog’s diet has major effects on their gut microbes. The researchers plan to conduct a large-scale study to better understand these effects. The results may lead to new pet food formulations designed for weight loss.


Li et al. Effects of the Dietary Protein and Carbohydrate Ratio on Gut Microbiomes in Dogs of Different Body Conditions. mBio (2017).

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