The fecal microbiome and metabolome differs between dogs fed Bones and Raw Food (BARF) diets and dogs fed commercial diets.
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INTRODUCTION: Feeding a Bones and Raw Food (BARF) diet has become an increasing trend in canine nutrition. Bones and Raw Food diets contain a high amount of animal components like meat, offal, and raw meaty bones, combined with comparatively small amounts of plant ingredients like vegetables and fruits as well as different sorts of oil and supplements. While many studies have focused on transmission of pathogens via contaminated meat and on nutritional imbalances, only few studies have evaluated the effect of BARF diets on the fecal microbiome and metabolome. The aim of the study was to investigate differences in the fecal microbiome and the metabolome between dogs on a BARF diet and dogs on a commercial diet (canned and dry dog food). METHODS: Naturally passed fecal samples were obtained from 27 BARF and 19 commercially fed dogs. Differences in crude protein, fat, fiber, and NFE (Nitrogen-Free Extract) between diets were calculated with a scientific nutrient database. The fecal microbiota was analyzed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing and quantitative PCR assays. The fecal metabolome was analyzed in 10 BARF and 9 commercially fed dogs via untargeted metabolomics approach. RESULTS: Dogs in the BARF group were fed a significantly higher amount of protein and fat and significantly lower amount of NFE and fiber. There was no significant difference in alpha-diversity measures between diet groups. Analysis of similarity (ANOSIM) revealed a significant difference in beta-diversity (p < 0.01) between both groups. Linear discriminant analysis effect size (LefSe) showed a higher abundance of Lactobacillales, Enterobacteriaceae, Fusobacterium and, Clostridium in the BARF group while conventionally fed dogs had a higher abundance of Clostridiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae, Ruminococcaceae, and Lachnospiraceae. The qPCR assays revealed significantly higher abundance of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Clostridium (C.). perfringens and an increased Dysbiosis Index in the BARF group. Principal component analysis (PCA) plots of metabolomics data showed clustering between diet groups. Random forest analysis showed differences in the abundance of various components, including increased 4-hydroxybutryric acid (GBH) and 4-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the BARF group. Based on univariate statistics, several metabolites were significantly different between diet groups, but lost significance after adjusting for multiple comparison. No differences were found in fecal bile acid concentrations, but the BARF group had a higher fecal concentration of cholesterol in their feces compared to conventionally fed dogs. CONCLUSION: Microbial communities and metabolome vary significantly between BARF and commercially fed dogs.