Unravelling pathogens in the dog gut microbiome

Various bacterial species coexist in the canine gut microbiome, each playing a role in digestion, immune function, and overall health.
3 min read
Dr Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS
Head of Veterinary Sciences

In the intricate ecosystem of the canine gut microbiome, various bacterial species coexist, each playing a role in digestion, immune function, and overall health. Among these are several bacteria that might raise concerns due to their potential to cause illness in humans and animals alike. However, it's essential to understand that the presence of these bacteria in a dog’s gut microbiome does not always signify harm. Let's explore some of these common bacteria and their complexities:

Clostridium perfringens

Clostridium perfringens is a spore-forming bacterium found in the environment and the gastrointestinal tracts of animals, including dogs. While certain strains can produce toxins and cause gastrointestinal issues, C. perfringens is also a normal component of the gut microbiota in many dogs. Its presence doesn't necessarily indicate active infection or harm but rather reflects the complex microbial community within the gut.

Clostridium difficile

Notorious for causing antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and colitis in humans, Clostridium difficile is also found in the gut microbiome of dogs. While certain strains of C. difficile can be pathogenic, dogs can carry this bacterium without showing signs of illness, and not all strains pose a threat to canine health.

Salmonella enterica

Although Salmonella enterica is infamous for causing foodborne illness, dogs can carry Salmonella in their gut without showing any signs of illness. While the presence of Salmonella is a concern due to its potential to spread through faecal contamination, not all strains cause disease in dogs. Proper hygiene practices and safe handling of food can help minimise the risk of transmission.

Helicobacter pylori

Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium known for its association with gastric ulcers and inflammation. While its presence in the dog gut microbiome has been documented, its significance and potential impact remain unclear. Some studies suggest that H. pylori might play a role in gastric health in dogs, while others indicate no association with clinical symptoms. Further research is needed to understand its role fully.

Campylobacter jejuni

Campylobacter jejuni is a common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis, often associated with contaminated food and water. Dogs can carry C. jejuni in their gut without showing symptoms, and while infection with certain strains can lead to diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal issues, not all dogs develop clinical illness upon exposure. Proper food handling and hygiene practices are crucial to prevent transmission.

In summary

Overall, while all of these bacteria have the potential to cause illness under certain circumstances, their mere presence does not always equate to harm. Factors such as the dog's overall health, immune function, and gut microbiome composition all influence the likelihood of infection and disease.

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome in dogs involves promoting a diverse microbial community and supporting gut health through proper nutrition, regular exercise, and preventive healthcare measures. Monitoring for signs of gastrointestinal distress and practicing good hygiene are essential for minimizing the risk of bacterial infections and ensuring the well-being of our dogs.

If you’re concerned about any high levels of pathogens detected in your dog’s GutDiscovery® Microbiome Profile Report, then you should seek advice from your vet.


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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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