Understanding Your Dog's Behaviour: The Microbiome Connection

There are many tools to help manage our dogs' behaviour, such as training and physical activity. However, did you know that the microbiome is an underused resource in addressing unwanted behaviours and even influencing your dog's anxiety and stress levels?
3 min read
Bushra Schuitemaker
Lead Microbiologist

There are many tools to help manage our dogs' behaviour, such as training and physical activity. However, did you know that the microbiome is an underused resource in addressing unwanted behaviours and even influencing your dog's anxiety and stress levels?

A recent article in the Mirror highlighted a warning from dog experts urging owners to watch out for 'red flag' behaviours this summer. Among these behaviours, excessive grass-eating has been suggested to be linked to the gut microbiome.

However, the gut microbiome's influence is not limited to grass-eating. It may also drive other undesirable food behaviours, such as eating mud, consuming other animals' faeces, or developing unhealthy sugar cravings.

Research has shown that the composition of the gut microbiome is associated with canine aggression, particularly in rescue dogs [1]. Additionally, long-term stress has been found to influence the gut microbiome's composition [2]. Furthermore, scientific evidence has linked specific bacteria, like Bifidobacterium pseudolongum, to improved memory in working dogs. This insight could be applied to ageing dogs to enhance their longevity, providing a solid foundation for further research and potential interventions [3].

Understanding and managing your dog's gut microbiome can be a powerful tool in addressing and mitigating these unwanted behaviours, promoting overall health and well-being.

The Gut-Brain Connection: How Microbiome Affects Your Dog's Behaviour

The gut microbiome is crucial to your dog's day-to-day behaviour and neurological function. Gut bacteria produce chemicals that communicate with the brain via nerves and hormones, forming a connection known as the "gut-brain axis."

This connection is bidirectional. Chemicals from specific bacteria can send messages to the brain, potentially leading to anxiety and behavioural issues. Conversely, stress and anxiety in your dog can impact the gut microbiome, altering the balance and composition of the bacteria. This two-way communication highlights the intricate link between your dog's mental state and gut health.

Understanding and managing your dog's gut health can be essential in addressing behavioural issues and promoting overall well-being.

The Link Between Microbiome Diversity and Behavioural Issues

Our preliminary data indicates that dogs with anxiety have less microbiome diversity. Specifically, these dogs had an average of 13% fewer species and 9% less balance in their gut microbiome. Similarly, aggressive dogs showed reduced microbiome diversity, with 9% fewer species and 2.5% less balance.

Additionally, dogs with recent behavioural changes have an average Invisible Health Score that is 9% lower than that of healthy dogs.

Assess your dog's gut health with the BIOME9 GutDiscovery® test and report. This comprehensive analysis can help determine how your dog's gut microbiome contributes to neurological health and provide valuable insights into its immune system and digestive function.

Read more about your dog's behaviour and their gut health from our Head of Veterinary Sciences, Dr Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS: Dog behaviour and the gut microbiome — BIOME9 

[1] Kirchoff, N.S., Udell, M.A. and Sharpton, T.J., 2019. The gut microbiome correlates with conspecific aggression in a small population of rescued dogs (Canis familiaris). PeerJ, 7, p.e6103.

[2] Mondo, E., Barone, M., Soverini, M., D'amico, F., Cocchi, M., Petrulli, C., Mattioli, M., Marliani, G., Candela, M. and Accorsi, P.A., 2020. Gut microbiome structure and adrenocortical activity in dogs with aggressive and phobic behavioral disorders. Heliyon, 6(1).

[3] Ma, X., Lazarowski, L., Zhang, Y., Krichbaum, S., Smith, J.G., Zheng, J., Cao, W., Haney, P.S., Wilborn, R.R., Price, S.B. and Singletary, M., 2024. Associations between memory performance and Bifidobacterium pseudolongum abundance in the canine gut microbiome. Iscience, 27(5).
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Frequently asked questions

  • The microbiome is the name given to the collection of microbes, mostly bacteria, but also fungi and protozoa, that exist within your dog’s gut. It is a diverse and complex microbial community which can directly affect health and wellbeing. We know that 90% of a human’s body cells are microbes, with only 10% being human cells – it’s just that human cells are markedly larger than the microbes. It’s similar for our four-legged friends. Testing the microbiome gives us an idea of exactly which bacteria are present in your dog’s gut and this can help indicate existing or future health problems.

  • A healthy diversity within the microbiome has been found to be an accurate indicator of overall health and wellbeing. If your dog appears healthy, but has an imbalance in their microbiome, then this could be an indicator of a potential future health issue. If your dog has any existing health complaints, then improving the health of their microbiome can help to improve immune system health and overall wellbeing, as well as improving disease symptoms.

  • Testing and treatment have the potential to help with a whole range of different health complaints. The immune system is very closely associated with the gut, so any imbalance in the microbiome can influence immune system health, overall vitality and wellbeing. Our supplement recommendations are also tailored to your individual dog, with specific ranges designed to help with gastrointestinal inflammation, joint problems, allergies and skin complaints, to name a few.

  • All you need to do is order a kit online and fill in our questionnaire about your dog and their general health. We will then send the kit out to you by post. You then just need to collect a sample and return it to us, again by post. Once the test is performed, we will email the results directly to you.

  • You do not need to get your vet’s permission to test, or talk to them about performing the test beforehand. We do recommend that you pass on a copy of your test results to your regular vets, as it may help them in understanding your pet’s current health, and any future complaints they may have.

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