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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Disentangling factors that shape the gut microbiota in German Shepherd dogs

Vilson, Asa; Ramadan, Ziad; Li, Qinghong; Hedhammar, Ake; Reynolds, Arleigh; Spears, Julie; Labuda, Jeff; Pelker, Robyn; Bjorksten, Bengt; Dicksved, Johan; Hansson-Hamlin, Helene


The aim of this study was to explore the development of the gut microbiota in 168 German Shepherd dogs (30 litters) from 7 weeks to 18 months of age and furthermore, to study the effect of relatedness, maternal microbiota composition and living environment in a large and well-defined population of dogs. Using 454 pyrosequencing, we assessed the effects of preand postnatal probiotic supplementation (Lactobacillus johnsonii NCC533 (La1)) and analysed whether administration of the probiotic strain influenced fecal microbiota composition in a placebo controlled double-blinded study. The bitches were treated with probiotics or placebo during last trimester of pregnancy and until their puppies were 8 weeks old, the puppies received the same treatment as their mothers between 3 +/- 12 weeks of age. Samples from bitches were collected at pregnancy day 42, partum, 4 weeks postpartum and 7 weeks postpartum and from puppies at the age 4 weeks, 7 weeks, 12 +/- 13 months and 15 +/- 18 months. Serum IgA, total serum IgE, fecal IgA and IgG antibody responses against canine distemper virus were analysed by ELISA in order to detect any immune stimulating effects of the probiotic strain. Analysis of the fecal microbiota composition showed that the predominant phyla were the same in 7 weeks old puppies as in pregnant and lactating bitches (Firmicutes, Fusobacteria, Bacteroidetes). Proportions among different bacteria as well as diversity varied from 7 weeks old puppies up to 15 +/- 18 months of age. Litter mates had a more similar fecal microbiota compared to unrelated dogs and 7 weeks old puppies were more similar to their mothers than to unrelated bitches at 7 weeks postpartum but not at partum. We observed a change in the relative abundance of different bacteria during lactation, and an increase in diversity from pregnancy to end of lactation. The microbial diversity was affected by living area where dogs living in big cities had higher diversity compared to dogs living at the countryside. However, we were not able to demonstrate an effect by pre and postnatal exposure to Lactobacillus johnsonii NCC533 (La1) upon the diversity or composition of the microbiota or the levels of serum IgA, total serum IgE, fecal IgA or vaccine response. Our findings provide a better understanding of the canine fecal microbiota in growing dogs as well as in pregnant and lactating bitches. This information forms a basis for further research on the connection between early gut colonization and immune function later in life.

Published in

2018, volume: 13, number: 3, article number: e0193507

Authors' information

Vilson, Åsa
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Ramadan, Ziad
Nestlé Purina Research
Li, Qinghong
Nestlé Purina Research
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Reynolds, Arleigh
Nestlé Purina Research
Spears, Julie
Nestlé Purina Research
Labuda, Jeff
Nestlé Purina Research
Pelker, Robyn
Nestlé Purina Research
Björkstén, Bengt
Karolinska Institute
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Nutrition and Management
Hansson-Hamlin, Helene (Hamlin, Helene)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences

UKÄ Subject classification

Clinical Science

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