Bacteria in the gut: friends and foes and how to alter the balance

J Nutr. 2004 Aug;134(8 Suppl):2022S-2026S. doi: 10.1093/jn/134.8.2022S.


The activities of the bacteria resident in the colon of companion animals can have an impact upon the health of the host. Our understanding of this microbial ecosystem is presently increasing due to the development of DNA-based microbiological tools that allow identification and enumeration of nonculturable microorganisms. These techniques are changing our view of the bacteria that live in the gut, and they are facilitating dietary-intervention approaches to modulate the colonic ecosystem. This is generally achieved by the feeding of either live bacteria (probiotics) or nondigestible oligosaccharides (prebiotics) that selectively feed the indigenous probiotics. Feeding studies with a Lactobacillus acidophilus probiotic have shown positive effects on carriage of Clostridium spp. in canines and on recovery from Campylobacter spp. infection in felines. Immune function was improved in both species. Prebiotic feeding studies with lactosucrose and fructo-oligosaccharides in both cats and dogs have shown positive effects on the microflora balance. Recently synbiotic forms (a probiotic together with a prebiotic) targeted at canines have been developed that show promise as dietary-intervention tools.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bifidobacterium / isolation & purification
  • Bifidobacterium / metabolism
  • Bifidobacterium / physiology*
  • Diet
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus / isolation & purification
  • Lactobacillus / metabolism
  • Lactobacillus / physiology*
  • Probiotics* / administration & dosage
  • Probiotics* / metabolism
  • Probiotics* / therapeutic use