As with people, obesity in pets is an increasing problem. The challenge is multi-faceted, but the more we can understand the wide-ranging impacts of weight gain, or loss, the better our chances of designing successful interventions. The microbes that live in our guts are an integral part of our health and illness. Changes in these bacterial species have been detected in humans during obesity, and again with weight loss. The evidence is inconclusive as to whether these differences point to cause or effect. However, they may provide underlying clues for a better understanding of obesity and could possibly be manipulated to help treat the condition.
Initial studies in have dogs shown that the bacteria in the digestive tract do indeed reflect body condition. Although this change has also been seen in humans and mice, the specific details are not the same for dogs. The most abundant bacterial species in obese and lean canines are different, as is the diversity of the population. However, the dogs that participated in these initial studies were family pets and differed in age, breed, lifestyle and diet.
The 2017 ESVCN-WALTHAM Research Grant has been awarded to Dr Daisy Liu at Ghent University. Her project aims to track the changes in the canine intestinal bacteria population through weight gain and loss. The study will use faecal samples that were collected from Beagles over 18 months. All the dogs were managed in the same way and fed the same diet. However, they were divided into two groups that received different daily rations. The DNA of the bacteria in the faeces will be sequenced in order to find out how the gut microbial profiles changed during the study. The findings of the study will improve our understanding of changes in the gut environment with obesity, and potential targets for dietary support during weight loss.
The European Society for Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition (ESVCN)-WALTHAM grant for early career researchers is a valued source of funding in pet nutrition research. The award, for up to £25,000, is available annually to support a project led by a scientist in the initial stages of their career and an ESVCN member.
Find out more about WALTHAM funding opportunities here.