AnimalBiome releases its 2022 State of the Gut Report
AnimalBiome has spent the last seven years testing and restoring the gut microbiomes of tens of thousands of cats and dogs
“When we launched the KittyBiome Kickstarter back in 2015 as the first large-scale attempt to describe the gut microbiome of cats, we were surprised to find that 20% of the participants had a chronic GI problem. In order to obtain investment in AnimalBiome, we focused on the chronic cases and found in a small survey of about 1,000 pet parents and found that about 10% of cats and dogs had a chronic digestive problem,” explained Carlton Osborne, CEO, AnimalBiome.
Core issues identified
Since the research began in 2015, AnimalBiome has used its database to identify a range of common problems in the gut microbiome:
- The presence of unhealthy levels of E. coli — found in nearly 1 in 3 dogs and 1 in 7 cats
- Unhealthy (high) levels of certain bacteria, which prevent other important groups of beneficial bacteria from colonizing
- Absence or low abundance of core beneficial gut bacteria
- Lack of diversity of core beneficial gut bacteria
The survey said that a common sign of dysbiosis is diarrhea or itchy skin. It also noted that there are a variety of reasons why a pet’s microbiome may be out of balance, but the most common reasons are antibiotic use, diet, parasites, pathogenic bacteria and disease.
This year, AnimalBiome surveyed 2,000 US cat parents and 2,000 US dog parents. Osborne said when looking at symptoms related to gut health overall (not just chronic), the problem was much bigger than they originally thought back in 2015.
The findings revealed that more than half of all cats and dogs experienced some level of digestive and skin issues in the last year. Additionally, 10% of cats and 13% of dogs have chronic digestive problems and 13% of cats and 20% of dogs have chronic skin problems.
“This means that about 30 million cats and dogs would benefit from their parents doing a better job tending to their gut health and another 20 million cats and dogs need significant microbiome restoration to address their chronic conditions,” said Osborne.
Survey participants were asked about their pets’ exposure to risk factors and whether their cat or dog experienced any of the following changes in the previous 12 months. These risk factors that impact gut health include:
- Antibiotics use
- New prescription medication (not antibiotics)
- New over-the-counter medication
- New supplement(s)
- Change in diet
- Accidental consumption (such as pesticides, socks, rocks, etc.)
- Major surgery
- New pet introduced into household
- Drastic change in activity level
The survey found that 6 out of every 10 pets were exposed to one of these risk factors in the past year, with antibiotics being a top risk factor for an imbalanced gut.
According to the survey, over 60% of pet parents correctly identified diet as a key driver of pet gut health. A majority of pet parents correctly identified some of the key drivers of pet gut health, including diet (66%), disease (58%), and the use of medications (52%). That said, fewer than 51% of pet parents correctly identified important drivers of pet gut health like the age of the pet (49%), the use of antibiotics (50%), weight (44%) and exercise (31%).
When pet parents were asked to rank a list of health-related activities, few were aware of the importance of gut microbiome health testing — listed last and second-to-last in order of importance among dog parents and cat parents, respectively. The report said this indicates that more education is needed to help pet parents understand the importance of regularly testing their pet’s gut microbiome.
Personalized pet opportunity
When asked where gut health ranks in terms of growth areas for pet health, Osborne said that when pet parents understand that systemic inflammation in the digestive tract can also contribute to skin conditions, gut health is the biggest opportunity in pet health. “These two conditions account for over 50% of veterinary visits and about 30% of pet parents say that the treatment plan from their vet did not solve the problem. We estimate that over $14B is being spent on vet visits, diagnostics, rx diets, medications and supplements and pet parents are telling us that these solutions are not working.”
Veterinarians and pet parents now have the opportunity to increase the use of gut microbiome testing to identify factors that may be contributing to dysbiosis. But with gut health testing still in its infancy for humans, how can companies reach pet parents? Osborne said collaboration is key.
“As the technology leader in microbiome testing and restoration in pets, we plan to enable the largest players in Animal Health to bring microbiome testing to their customers,” explained Osborne. “One example is our partnership with Embark Veterinary, who is now bringing to market a microbiome test powered by AnimalBiome. We plan to partner with other companies to spread the awareness and availability of microbiome testing.”