OAKLAND, CALIF. — How the microbiome influences overall health and wellness in dogs and cats has become a central conversation in the pet nutrition industry in recent years, and several companies have since emerged with the goal of advancing our understanding of gut health in pets. One of these companies is AnimalBiome, which offers “the first-ever at-home gut microbiome test for cats and dogs,” according to the company.

Earlier this year, AnimalBiome released the results of its study, “The Kitty Microbiome Project: Defining the Healthy Fecal ‘Core Microbiome’ in Pet Domestic Cats,” led by Holly Ganz, Ph.D., chief science officer at the company. This is one of more than 40 studies AnimalBiome has conducted in partnership with various universities, private research firms and pet food companies since it was founded in 2016.

This latest study, The Kitty Microbiome Project, started in 2015 as a “citizen science project” on Kickstarter, the company explained, wherein more than 1,800 fecal samples were collected from cat owners and animal shelters across North America. The study was conducted in partnership with the University of California-Davis’s Department of Evolution and Ecology, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and published in the Journal of Veterinary Sciences in November 2022.

Through the study, AnimalBiome aimed to determine the natural range of gut microbiome variation among healthy cats. The study also accounted for lifestyle differences, including age, diet and living environment.

Researchers found more than 300 different types of bacteria in the fecal microbiome of these cats, of which 30 were found most commonly in heathy cats. These 30 kinds of bacteria represent “the core heathy microbiome,” according to AnimalBiome, and accounted for 161 samples collected.

Diet, age and living environment — whether living in a home or a shelter — were all found to have an impact on the bacterial composition of these cats’ microbiomes. For example, cats who ate kibble diets have a “slightly but significantly greater amount of beneficial core bacteria” compared to cats that were not fed kibble diets. On the other hand, cats who were fed raw food had fewer groups of beneficial core bacteria compared to kibble-eating felines, according to the study.

Additionally, beneficial core bacteria were found to decrease notably with age in healthy cats, and beneficial core bacteria was improved in cats living in private homes compared to those living in animal shelters, the study found.

With this data in mind and to support pet adoption efforts across the United States, AnimalBiome recently announced a new campaign for National Adopt-A-Shelter-Pet Day in April. The company has committed to donating more than $100,000 worth of products and resources to various animal welfare organizations in 2023.

“I created AnimalBiome to help improve the health of ailing pets after we were able to resolve our rescue dog, Yuki’s hemorrhagic diarrhea with microbiome support,” Ganz said. “We know firsthand how cats and dogs without pet parents can struggle with poor health, and how hard, yet rewarding, it is to bring a shelter pet into a loving home.”

The company has also supported work by the Morris Animal Foundation, donating $200,000 to research on the relationship between canine cancer and dogs’ gut microbiomes.

“It is valuable to identify which groups of beneficial bacteria occur in the core microbiome in order to monitor for effects of the environment, diet, disease and medications,” AnimalBiome stated about The Kitty Microbiome Project. “By establishing the expected range of microbiome composition within a healthy population of cats, this study provides valuable insights for veterinarians, pet owners and pet-related industries.”

Read more from the study in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine here.

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