Nutrient digestibility and fecal characteristics, microbiota, and metabolites in dogs fed human-grade foods

Sungho Do, Thunyaporn Phungviwatnikul, Maria R.C. de Godoy, Kelly S. Swanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human-grade (HG) pet foods are commercially available, but they have not been well studied. Our objective was to determine the apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD) of HG pet foods and evaluate their effects on fecal characteristics, microbiota, and metabolites, serum metabolites, and hematology of dogs. Twelve dogs (mean age = 5.5 ± 1.0; BW = 11.6 ± 1.6 kg) were used in a replicated 4 × 4 Latin square design (n = 12/treatment). The diets included 1) Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe (extruded; Blue Buffalo); 2) Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe (fresh; Freshpet); 3) Beef and Russet Potato Recipe (HG beef; JustFoodForDogs); and 4) Chicken and White Rice Recipe (HG chicken; JustFoodForDogs). Each period consisted of 28 d, with a 6-d diet transition phase, 16 d of consuming 100% of the diet, a 5-d phase for fecal collection, and 1 d for blood collection. All data were analyzed using the Mixed Models procedure of SAS 9.4. Dogs fed the extruded diet required a higher (P < 0.05) daily food intake (dry matter basis, DMB) to maintain BW. The ATTD of dry matter (DM), organic matter (OM), energy, and acid-hydrolyzed fat (AHF) were greater (P < 0.05) in dogs fed the HG diets than those fed the fresh diet, and greater (P < 0.05) in dogs fed the fresh diet than those fed the extruded diet. Crude protein ATTD was lower (P < 0.05) for dogs fed the extruded diet than those fed all other diets. Dogs fed the extruded diet had greater (P < 0.05) fecal output (as-is; DMB) than dogs fed fresh (1.5-1.7 times greater) or HG foods (2.0-2.9 times greater). There were no differences in fecal pH, scores, and metabolites, but microbiota were affected by diet. Dogs fed HG beef had higher (P < 0.05) relative abundance of Bacteroidetes and lower (P < 0.05) relative abundance of Firmicutes than dogs fed the fresh or HG chicken diets. The Actinobacteria, Fusobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Spirochaetes phyla were unchanged (P > 0.05), but diet modified the relative abundance of nearly 20 bacterial genera. Similar to previous reports, these data demonstrate that the fecal microbiota of dogs fed HG or fresh diets is markedly different than those consuming extruded diets, likely due to ingredient, nutrient, and processing differences. Serum metabolites and hematology were not greatly affected by diet. In conclusion, the HG pet foods tested resulted in significantly reduced fecal output, were highly digestible, maintained fecal characteristics, serum chemistry, and hematology, and modified the fecal microbiota of dogs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • canine gut microbiome
  • canine nutrition
  • nutrient digestion
  • pet food

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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