Gut Microbiome Recovery in IBD

Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT

The gut microbiome is all the microorganisms that live in the intestinal tract. These microbes play an important role in maintaining proper digestion and immune function. Most dogs affected by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have alterations in their gut microbiome, a condition known as dysbiosis. Current treatments for IBD aim to decrease inflammation within the gut, but do not address changes in the microbiome. Therefore, AKC Canine Health Foundation funded investigators studied the gut microbiome in dogs with IBD during and after standard treatment with immunosuppressive drugs (prednisone) and an elimination diet to see what can be learned about this important microbial population. Recently published results1 may allow us to support or replenish the microbiome to speed healing and improve treatment response for dogs with IBD.

Microbes and the chemicals products of their metabolic activities were measured in fecal samples collected from affected dogs at 0 weeks, 3 weeks, 8 weeks, and one year after the start of treatment for IBD. Results were compared to those obtained from healthy patient samples. Similar to previous studies, results showed significant changes in the microbiome at the time of IBD diagnosis compared to healthy dogs. After 8 weeks of treatment, all affected dogs showed improvement in their clinical signs. However, the gut microbiome was still significantly altered. It was not until one year after the start of treatment that the fecal microbiome recovered and resembled that found in healthy dogs. Measurement of metabolic products from the microbiome also showed impaired function that took longer to recover than clinical signs would suggest.

Recovery of the gut microbiome – both its composition and function – takes much longer than improvement of clinical signs in dogs with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

These results clearly show that recovery of the gut microbiome – both its composition and function – takes much longer than improvement of clinical signs in dogs with IBD. Future studies of gastrointestinal disease should include long-term follow-up to assess microbiome recovery in addition to clinical improvement. Probiotics and other therapies should also be investigated to support and potentially speed recovery of the gut microbiome. Learn more about CHF-funded research on these important topics at

1. Pilla, R.; Guard, B.; Blake, A.B.; Ackermann, M.; Webb, C.; Hill, S.; Lidbury, J.A.; Steiner, J.M.; Jergens, A.; Suchodolski, J. Long-term recovery of the fecal microbiome and metabolome of dogs with steroid-responsive enteropathy. Preprints 2021, 2021060493 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202106.0493.v1). 

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