In a new study, investigators analyzed tummy bacteria populations ("microbiomes") in two dog breeds. The findings showed that the genes in the dogs' microbiomes had many similarities with humans. In fact, they were more similar to humans than the microbiomes of pigs or mice.
"The results of this comparison suggest that we are more similar to man's best friend than we originally thought," said study corresponding author Luis Pedro Coelho, from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.
The report was published online April 18 in the journal Microbiome.
"These findings suggest that dogs could be a better model for nutrition studies than pigs or mice, and we could potentially use data from dogs to study the impact of diet on gut microbiota in humans, and humans could be a good model to study the nutrition of dogs," Coelho said in a journal news release.
The researchers also found that changes in protein and carbohydrate levels in the diet had similar effects on the gut microbiomes of dogs as on humans.
The microbiomes of overweight and obese dogs were more responsive to a high-protein diet than the microbiomes of lean dogs, a finding consistent with the idea that healthy microbiomes are more resilient, according to the study authors.
"Many people who have pets consider them as part of the family and, like humans, dogs have a growing obesity problem. Therefore, it is important to study the implications of different diets," Coelho added.