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Interpretive Summary: The impact of protein source and grain inclusion on digestibility, fecal metabolites, and fecal microbiome in adult canines

By: Stephanie D Clark, Clare HsuSydney R McCauley, Maria R C de GodoyFei He, Renee M StreeterEmily G Taylor, Bradley W Quest

A recent topic of debate in pet food is whether grain or pulse ingredients and varying amounts of animal-based protein compared to plant proteins are better for pets’ health. Thus, the need to examine ingredients used in pet food is important. This study aimed to evaluate macronutrient digestibility, fecal characteristics, fecal metabolites, and fecal microbiota in both mixed-breed hounds and Beagles when fed extruded diets containing different inclusion rates of animal protein and plant-based ingredients. Four experimental diets were studied 1) high animal protein, grain-inclusive (HA-GI), 2) low animal protein, grain-free (LA-GF), 3) low animal protein, grain-inclusive (LA-GI), and 4) high animal protein, grain-free (HA-GF). We found that all four diets were well-digested by the animals and all dogs remained healthy throughout the study. In addition, LA-GF produced a decrease in alpha diversity, yet was greater in the abundance of Megamonas, which are known to produce short-chain fatty acids. The other diets did not differ significantly. Apparent total tract nutrient digestibility, fecal characteristics, metabolites, and microbiota were affected by breed and dietary treatments. While some have postulated that pulse-rich diets could perhaps be a cause of nutrition-associated dilated cardiomyopathy in canines due to a potentially negative effect on digestibility, our results showed all diets were highly digestible.

Read the full article in the Journal of Animal Science.