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Study shows dietary use of prebiotics supports canine intestinal health (Sponsored by Iams)


Prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria in the intestines and, thus, may improve the host's health.

Prebiotics are nondigestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria in the intestines and, thus, may improve the host's health. In particular, fructooligosaccharide (FOS), a fermentable fiber and prebiotic found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and grains, has been shown to improve the intestinal microflora population, improve stool quality, and enhance nutrient absorption.1 Results of a recent study (described below) suggest that FOS inclusion in the matrix of a wellness diet could support intestinal health through promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibiting the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria.

Figure 1: Fecal concentrations of potential pathogens

The study

Forty-seven healthy adult dogs were included in a randomized parallel-design study that included two phases, a 21-day control period and a 36-day test period. During the control period, all of the dogs were fed Eukanuba Adult Maintenance without FOS (control diet). Then during the test period, the dogs were fed Eukanuba Adult Maintenance with one of two wellness levels of FOS. Each dog served as its own control.

Figure 2: Fecal concentration of lactobacilli

Fresh fecal samples were collected at four days and at one day before the test period and then on test period days 14 and 28. Collected samples were analyzed using conventional microbiological plating techniques for the following potentially pathogenic intestinal bacteria: bacteroides, Escherichia coli, eubacteria, and Clostridium perfringens and for the beneficial bacteria lactobacilli. The mean bacterial concentration from the samples taken four days and one day before the test period from each dog was used as that dog's control value. By using a repeated measures mixed linear model, these control values were then compared with values from test period days 14 and 28 and with the mean value for these two days; P < 0.05 was considered significant. Results from the test period were expressed as mean percent change from the control value.

Did you know?


The results of the study showed that FOS supplementation:

  • Significantly decreased mean fecal E. coli concentration (see Figure 1) at both levels of FOS inclusion.

  • Decreased fecal concentrations of bacteriodes and eubacteria (see Figure 1). These decreases were statistically significant only with FOS level 2 inclusion.

  • Increased fecal concentrations of lactobacilli (see Figure 2). This increase was statistically significant only with FOS level 1 inclusion.

  • Did not significantly change fecal concentrations of C. perfringens.


Supplementation of FOS in a canine wellness diet matrix affected the intestinal microbial population by increasing concentrations of beneficial bacteria and decreasing concentrations of potential pathogens. In boosting the number of beneficial lactobacilli—and in other studies, the number of bifidobacteria1 —FOS promotes competition with pathogens for nutrients and mucosal attachment sites. FOS also enhances the production of lactate from lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which decreases gut pH and acts as a potent antimicrobial substance to many pathogenic species. With about 70 percent of the immune system located in the gut tissues,2 the intestinal environment plays an influential role in defending overall health. FOS inclusion should be considered when recommending wellness diets for enhancing gut health and the innate defense system.

Client education


1. Swanson KS, Grieshop CM, Flickinger EA, et al. Fructooligosaccharides and Lactobacillus acidophilus modify gut microbial populations, total tract nutrient digestibilities and fecal protein catabolite concentrations in healthy adult dogs. J Nutr 2002;132:3721-3731.

2. Hall JB, Schmidt GA, Wood DH. In: Principles of critical care. 3rd ed. Chicago, Ill: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2005;118.

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