Dogs and cats are different species, but their gastrointestinal tracts are broadly similar and they are both carnivores, therefore there are similarities in their gut microbiomes. The canine and feline microbiome is associated with both acute and chronic gastrointestinal disease, as well as metabolic diseases such as obesity. Furthermore, the close interaction between companion animals and their owners means that horizontal transfer of microbes occurs. This means that pet owners generally have a greater microbiome diversity than people without pets, however there is also the possibility that pathogenic bacteria can be transferred to humans. It seems that the pet microbiome affects not only the health of pets but also their owners.
Diarrhoeal episodes in pets leads to lethargy, dehydration and anorexia, reducing quality of life for pets and increasing veterinary costs. Acute episodes of diarrhoea in cats and dogs causes certain characteristic changes in the gut microbiome. Both cats and dogs experiencing diarrhoea undergo a decrease in commensal bacteria such as Roseburia and Faecalibacterium, while Clostridia (a broad class of bacteria containing both beneficial and pathogenic bacteria) increase. In addition, changes to the gut microbiome in cats and dogs caused by antibiotics can lead to diarrhoea. These changes to the pet microbiome are also associated with functional changes such as a decrease in the concentration of short-chain fatty acids in faeces and changes in the immune system. It’s plausible that a prebiotic, probiotic or their combination could be used to return the feline or canine gut microbiome to an equilibrium, but more clinical research is needed.