Background: Recent advances in next-generation sequencing technologies have enabled comprehensive analysis of the gut microbiota, which is closely linked to the health of the host. Consequently, several studies have explored the factors affecting gut microbiota composition. In recent years, increasing number of dog owners are feeding their pets a natural diet i.e., one consisting of bones, raw meat (such as chicken and beef), and vegetables, instead of commercial feed. However, the effect of these diets on the microbiota of dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) is unclear.
Methods and results: Six dogs fed a natural diet and five dogs fed a commercial feed were selected; dog fecal metagenomic DNA samples were analyzed using the Illumina MiSeq platform. Pronounced differences in alpha and beta diversities, and taxonomic composition of the core gut microbiota were observed between the two groups. According to alpha diversity, the number of operational taxonomic units, the richness estimates, and diversity indices of microbiota were significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the natural diet group than in the commercial feed group. Based on beta diversity, most samples clustered together according to the diet type (p = 0.004). Additionally, the core microbiota between the two groups was different at the phylum, family, and species levels. Marked differences in the taxonomic composition of the core microbiota of the two groups were observed at the species level; Clostridium perfringens (p = 0.017) and Fusobacterium varium (p = 0.030) were more abundant in the natural diet group.
Conclusions: The gut microbiota of dogs is significantly influenced by diet type (i.e., natural diet and commercial feed). Specifically, dogs fed a natural diet have more diverse and abundant microbial composition in the gut microbiota than dogs fed a commercial feed. In addition, this study suggests that in dogs fed a natural diet, the potential risk of opportunistic infection could be higher, than in dogs fed a commercial feed. The type of diet might therefore play a key role in animal health by affecting the gut microbiota. This study could be the basis for future gut microbiota research in dogs.
Keywords: Canis lupus familiaris; Gut microbiota; Natural diet; Next-generation sequencing.