Just as their owners are increasingly obese, many dogs are as well, and their health is endangered. A new study in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology says that probiotics (bio yogurts) and related foods can promote weight loss in obese canines.
Researchers in the agricultural biotechnology department at the College of Agriculture and Life Science at South Korea’s Seoul National University have identified two strains of probiotics that can be used to reduce weight in obese dogs. The research has just been published in the journal Microbiology Spectrum under the title “Dietary supplementation with probiotics promotes weight loss by reshaping the gut microbiome and energy metabolism in obese dogs.”
The team investigated metabolic diseases in companion animals and set out to identify probiotics suitable for long-term and safe treatment. “The initial challenge involved selecting specific metabolic diseases for examination, leading us to focus on the problem of obesity in pets,” said study principal investigator Prof. Younghoon Kim. The global prevalence of obesity is higher in older pets, reaching about half of the total pet population across all age groups.About one-third of households worldwide own a pet. With the growing number of people who share their homes with animals, the relationship between humans and their pets has evolved beyond mere ownership. Contemporary society regards them as more than possessions – they are regarded as friends or family members, and the pet industry has adapted, reflecting the heightened desire of individuals to invest more quality time with their cherished animal companions.
“We initiated experiments with the primary goal of identifying probiotics capable of reducing the body fat percentage in pets,” Kim said. One of their main objectives was to raise awareness about the pressing need for further research on probiotics tailored for pets, emphasizing the vast array of probiotic types that hold potential applications. “By promoting this awareness, 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.
To identify suitable probiotic candidates for companion animals, they studied the variations in the composition of intestinal microbiota between young and old dogs, revealing a decline in the population of the lactic-acid bacteria known as Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus in older dogs.They fed a group of beagles with food with these strains – Enterococcus faecium IDCC 2102 and Bifidobacterium lactis IDCC 4301, along with a high-fat diet. Their results were compelling, showing the strains’ effectiveness in reducing body fat and reversing the imbalances in intestinal microflora induced by obesity.
“The strains we carefully selected demonstrated remarkable success in reducing the body fat percentage in dogs,” said Kim. “What set these strains apart was their ability to not only limit dietary intake or enhance excretion to reduce body weight but to 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. This confirmed a shift in the body’s metabolic orientation toward fat consumption, rather than fat accumulation.”
Kim added that as fat accumulation often leads to systemic inflammation and disruption of hormone metabolism, the study revealed significant improvements. In the group that ingested the selected strains, the researchers observed lowered inflammation levels and enhanced essential metabolic activities such as insulin production. The researchers successfully increased the proportion of beneficial microbes in the body that don’t harm human health.