Henrik Ennart

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Families and Dogs Share Microbiota

Our dog Lovis doesn’t like it when I’m writing. I totally get it, it’s much more fun when we play together. They say dogs are our best friends, and now, scientists suggest they have similar intestinal flora to humans. They are actually more similar than we would like to believe, especially thinking about all the things Lovis would chew on if given the chance.

Researchers in Heidelberg have studied Labrador Retrievers and Beagles and they found that, just like in humans, their daily diet have a significant influence on the balance of microbes in the gut. In that respect, humans and dogs are much more similar than humans and mice, and yet we use mice for experiments all the time. However, I don’t want scientists to perform lots of laboratory tests on dogs…

Among other findings, they observed that dogs fed a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet had decreases in the ratio of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes bacteria – just like in humans. If the dog was overweight, it would also lose weight. Also, dogs that ate a high-carbohydrate diet had instead higher abundances of Bacteroidetes. The researchers hope to see the research translate into real-world ways to modify pet food.

There are a lot of theories about this. Researchers say that simply owning a dog can have an effect on overall microbe-sharing. People share microbes on the surfaces they touch, and therefore, family members who live in the same household tend to have more similar gut flora if they have a dog. Also, married couples share more microbes with one another if they have a dog. Interpret that as you will.

Ok, dogs can be pretty dirty, especially after playing around outside. And, they spread the dirt to their surroundings as soon as they come indoors. But remember, this is actually beneficial to your health, and even more, to the health of your children as they crawl around on the floor. Children who grow up around animals are less likely to get allergies, especially if there was already a dog in the family when they were born, or even better, before they were born.

Some scientists suggest that dogs have played a key role in every stage of human development.

The earliest strong evidence for domestication, dating back 14 700 years, is the remains of a dog found buried with its owner. However, some findings suggest that there was a strong connection between humans and dogs more than 40 000 years ago – long before the agricultural revolution and the domestication of other animals.

A theory suggests that early humans and their dogs drove Neanderthals to extinction. Mainly because of the fact that the dogs helped our ancestors hunt more efficiently, and that they could be used as guard dogs.

Well, I’m not sure Lovis would be much use as a guard dog, or what would happen if she ran into a mammoth. But ok Lovis, I’ll stop writing now. Our joint gut feeling tells us it’s time for a walk.

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