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JoAnna Lou
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Mapping the Gut
New research seeks to understand the stomach
Does your dog find goodies on the street? New research will help understand the canine gastrointestinal system.

My dog, Nemo, is an expert at getting into the garbage and eating treasures off the street.  Fortunately, to date,  Nemo’s dietary habits have been fairly innocuous, but eating bad food can easily lead to more serious conditions, like gastrointestinal infections.

Until now identifying canine gastrointestinal disease was difficult because scientists could only culture a small percentage of the bacteria in a dog's gut. And for a long time, diagnosis was further complicated because veterinarians didn’t have any information on what a healthy gut looked like. 

Now researchers at the University of Illinois are using DNA pyrosequencing technology to map the canine gastrointestinal system. Having a standard will make it easier to diagnose and fight infections.

For dogs, a balanced and stable microbiota is important for gastrointestinal health, so research in this area can make a big impact on understanding our dogs’ health.  With their newfound information, the scientists at the University of Illinois plan to study how diet, medicine, and age affect microbial count.  They'll also be looking at the link between human and dog illness. This last topic is of increasing interest as more dogs are considered part of the family.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by swanksalot, flickr.

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