Many of you have asked us about testing your pet’s intestinal health. In human medicine, a fecal test called a Dysbiosis Index is run to determine intestinal health. This is important since proper intestinal health is necessary for overall health. Various chemicals, fatty acids, and hormones, which are necessary for health, are produced by normal bacteria in the intestinal tract. When the intestine’s bacterial population is abnormal (dybiosis) both intestinal and systemic disease can occur.

Fortunately, we are now able to offer a similar test for your dog.

The intestinal microbiota

The microbiota (microbial part of the GI system) is an important immune and metabolic contributor to health. Changes in the microbiota have been associated with various diseases, and balancing the microbiota is important in minimizing health problems such as cognitive disorder, immune disorders, allergies, and cancer.

The conversion of primary to secondary bile acids (BA) by intestinal bacteria appears to be of particular importance. In the canine colon, primary BA are converted by C. hiranonis into secondary BA. These secondary BA have local and systemic anti-inflammatory properties, activate various receptors in other organ systems, and play a crucial role in suppression of potential enteropathogens such as C. difficile, C. perfringens, and E. coli. Consequently, a decreased abundance of C. hiranonis, and therefore decreased conversion of primary to secondary BA, is strongly associated with intestinal dysbiosis in dogs

Increased Dysbiosis Index (DI)

A DI below 0 indicates a normal microbiota. A DI between 0 and 2 is equivocal, indicating a minor shift in the microbiota. In such cases, assessment of a follow-up sample a few weeks later can be considered. A DI >2 indicates microbiota dysbiosis. Most of these dogs will have a decreased abundance of healthy C. hiranoni bacteria, indicating abnormal conversion of primary to secondary bile acids, and the lack of secondary bile acids is a major contributor to an abnormal microbiota.

A persistent increase in the DI may suggest presence of an underlying intestinal disease which can be a contributing factor in the development of more serious conditions and must be addressed.

Some environmental factors have been shown to induce intestinal dysbiosis, including proton-pump inhibitoring medications. Similarly, some dogs fed bones and raw food (BARF) diets may show an increased DI. Finally, recent administration of broad-spectrum antibiotics (e.g., metronidazole or tylosin) also induces major shifts in the microbiota and an increase in the DI.

Based upon your pet’s health assessment, the doctor is prescribing a dysbiosis test. Results are typically ready in 2 weeks. If abnormal, steps can be taken to return your pet’s GI health to normal, which may improve symptoms related to other diseases as well as minimize the chances of other problems developing.