The Role of the Canine Gut Microbiome and Metabolome in Health and Gastrointestinal Disease.
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The gut microbiome contributes to host metabolism, protects against pathogens, educates the immune system, and, through these basic functions, affects directly or indirectly most physiologic functions of its host. Molecular techniques have allowed us to expand our knowledge by unveiling a wide range of unculturable bacteria that were previously unknown. Most bacterial sequences identified in the canine gastrointestinal (GI) tract fall into five phyla: Firmicutes, Fusobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria. While there are variations in the microbiome composition along the GI tract, most clinical studies concentrate on fecal microbiota. Age, diet, and many other environmental factors may play a significant role in the maintenance of a healthy microbiome, however, the alterations they cause pale in comparison with the alterations found in diseased animals. GI dysfunctions are the most obvious association with gut dysbiosis. In dogs, intestinal inflammation, whether chronic or acute, is associated with significant differences in the composition of the intestinal microbiota. Gut dysbiosis happens when such alterations result in functional changes in the microbial transcriptome, proteome, or metabolome. Commonly affected metabolites include short-chain fatty acids, and amino acids, including tryptophan and its catabolites. A recently developed PCR-based algorithm termed "Dysbiosis Index" is a tool that allows veterinarians to quantify gut dysbiosis and can be used to monitor disease progression and response to treatment. Alterations or imbalances in the microbiota affect immune function, and strategies to manipulate the gut microbiome may be useful for GI related diseases. Antibiotic usage induces a rapid and significant drop in taxonomic richness, diversity, and evenness. For that reason, a renewed interest has been put on probiotics, prebiotics, and fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). Although probiotics are typically unable to colonize the gut, the metabolites they produce during their transit through the GI tract can ameliorate clinical signs and modify microbiome composition. Another interesting development is FMT, which may be a promising tool to aid recovery from dysbiosis, but further studies are needed to evaluate its potential and limitations.