How do pets influence our gut microbiota?

How do pets influence our gut microbiota?

Kevin Meza Achahue, Scientist - R&D Specialist at Bifidice. 3 minutes reading.

Intestinal microbiota goes beyond just discussing the microorganisms residing in our gut; it is equally (if not more) influenced by multiple external and environmental factors, whether for better or worse. One of the most interesting emerging connections links it with those who, for many, are also part of the family: our pets.

Pets in numbers

Data from the American Pet Products Association indicates that approximately 86.9 million households in the United States (66%) own at least one pet, with dogs being the most popular (65.1 million households with at least one dog), followed by cats (46.5 million households with at least one cat) [1]. A census conducted in 2021 revealed that in Europe about 90 million households (46% of households on the continent) had at least one pet. The same study showed that there would be about 110 million cats and 90 million dogs at the time of the census. [2].

The global trend is an increase in pet presence in households

Finally, the trend observed in Western territories is recently emerging in the Asian continent. Among all countries, the Philippines stands out with 83% of households owning at least one pet, followed by Thailand with 72%. Countries like Japan have only 11% of households with at least one pet [3]. Regardless of the territory and culture, the global trend is an increase in pet presence in households, which brings challenges to the market and people's health.

What do we know about the impact of pets on our microbiota?

Although further research with a larger volume of cases is still needed on the subject, there is sufficient evidence regarding the importance of pets in modulating human intestinal microbiota. For example, a recent study with 332 participants found that while there are no major changes in microbial diversity, certain bacterial genera are more present in people living with pets [4].

Pets would have a special impact on the microbiota of newborns

The impact of man's best friends, dogs, has been studied in more detail. These furry pets could alter the surrounding microbiota in household dust [5] and have a particular impact on the microbiota of newborns, which could explain the connection between the presence of a pet in a home and a reduced risk of allergies, especially in children born via cesarean section [6].

The modulating effect of dogs on microbiota has also been observed in adults. A study found that beneficial bacteria from the Ruminococcus and Bifidobacteria genera significantly increased in older people living with dogs in their homes, although further research is needed to confirm the positive effects of this phenomenon [7].

Let's take care of our pets!

Just like humans, pets like dogs and cats have their own intestinal microbiota, and multiple conditions or diseases worsen due to dysbiosis (microbiota imbalance). Dysbiosis in domestic animals can lead to weight loss, bloating, flatulence, loss of appetite, and changes in stool consistency, such as diarrhea. In addition, intestinal dysbiosis is associated with obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal, immunological, and neurobehavioral disorders in pets [8][9].

Beyond the possible impact of pet microbiota imbalance on their owners' health, which is still under study, companion animals play an important role in maintaining the well-being and health of people in all stages of life. The worldwide increasing trend in pet ownership makes it increasingly necessary to find solutions to ensure the quality of life of our furry companions.

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References

  1. Forbes Advisor (2023). Pet Ownership Statistics 2023. Retrieved from
    https://www.forbes.com/advisor/pet-insurance/pet-ownership-statistics/ 
  2. The European Pet Food Industry (2022). New FEDIAF Facts & Figures highlights the growth of European Pet Ownership. Retrieved from
    https://europeanpetfood.org/_/news/new-fediaf-facts-figures-highlights-the-growth-of-european-pet-ownership/ 
  3. Pet Food Industry (2022). Lowest, highest pet ownership rates in Asia; Japan bottom.  Retrieved from https://www.petfoodindustry.com/news-newsletters/pet-food-news/article/15469060/lowest-highest-pet-ownership-rates-in-asia-japan-bottom 
  4. Kates, A. E., Jarrett, O., Skarlupka, J. H., Sethi, A., Duster, M., Watson, L., Suen, G., Poulsen, K., & Safdar, N. (2020). Household Pet Ownership and the Microbial Diversity of the Human Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 10, 73. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2020.00073 
  5. Sitarik, A., Havstad, S., Levin, A., Lynch, S. V., Fujimura, K., Ownby, D., Johnson, C., & Wegienka, G. (2018). Dog introduction alters the home dust microbiota. Indoor Air, 28(4), 539–547. https://doi.org/10.1111/ina.12456 
  6. Hein, M. T., Konya, T., Takaro, T. K., Brook, J. R., Chari, R., Field, C. J., Guttman, D. S., Becker, A. B., Mandhane, P. J., Turvey, S. E., Subbarao, P., Sears, M. R., Scott, J. A., Kozyrskyj, A. L., & the CHILD Study Investigators. (2017). Exposure to household furry pets influences the gut microbiota of infants at 3–4 months following various birth scenarios. Microbiome, 5, 40. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-017-0254-x 
  7. Jiang, C., Cui, Z., Fan, P., & Du, G. (2022). Effects of dog ownership on the gut microbiota of elderly owners. PLoS One, 17(12), e0278105. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0278105 
  8. The Wildest. (2022). Gut Feelings: How to Balance Your Pet’s Microbiome. Retrieved from https://www.thewildest.com/pet-nutrition/microbiomes-pet-gut-health 
  9. Purina Institute. (2022). Intestinal Dysbiosis in Dogs and Cats. Retrieved from https://www.purinainstitute.com/centresquare/therapeutic-nutrition/intestinal-dysbiosis-in-dog-and-cats 

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