WASHINGTON — In a recent study published in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal, Microbiology Spectrum, researchers have determined two probiotic strains that could be effective for reducing body fat in overweight and obese dogs.

Pet obesity in the United States has been classified as an epidemic, with more than half of all dogs and cats deemed overweight or obese in 2018, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). This statistic rings true on a global scale as well, according to the researchers, and nutritional interventions are one way veterinarians and pet owners are addressing the issue.

Younghoon Kim, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study and professor in the Department of Agricultural Biotechnology at Seoul National University in Korea, and a team of researchers looked at intestinal microbiota compositions of both young and old dogs to determine how probiotic support could benefit these pets. What they found was a lack of lactic acid bacteria, specifically Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus species. 

From there, the team worked with a test group of 20 beagles, which were separated into four research groups of five dogs each. The control group was fed a standard adult dry dog food, while the other three groups were induced to develop obesity through a high-fat diet. Dogs fed the high-fat diet were then administered various levels of Enterococcus faecium IDCC 2102 and Bifidobacterium lactis IDCC 4301 to determine how effective the probiotic strains could be in reducing body fat and resolving intestinal microflora imbalances caused by obesity.

“The strains we carefully selected demonstrated remarkable success in reducing the body fat percentage in dogs,” Kim said. “What set these strains apart was their ability to not only limit dietary intake or enhance excretion to reduce body weight but, more importantly, activate energy metabolism.

“Even when exposed to a high-calorie diet, we observed a decrease in body weight, alleviation of subcutaneous fat accumulation, and an increase in energy metabolism,” Kim added. “This confirmed a shift in the body’s metabolic orientation towards fat consumption rather than fat accumulation.”

Obesity is also related to systemic inflammation and interrupted hormone metabolism. According to the study, these deleterious symptoms were also improved through the administration of Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus probiotics. Additionally, commensal bacteria levels increased in dogs fed the probiotics, which can boost immunity and help the body defend against harmful bacteria.

These positive results were maintained throughout the course of the study, suggesting these probiotics as a long-term solution for obese pets.

“My aspiration is to catalyze increased attention, funding and collaborative efforts in the scientific community to explore the expansive landscape of probiotic applications in pet health,” Kim said.

Read more from the study through the American Society for Microbiology’s Microbiology Spectrum journal here.

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