Understanding the Relationship between Intestinal Bacteria and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Scientific Title: Tackling the Canine Microbiome in Chronic Enteropathy: Characterizing the Functionally Significant Changes that Occur with Remission of Disease

Summary: Researchers are looking at changes in gut bacteria that stimulate the immune system in dogs with inflammatory bowel disease to help identify novel ways to diagnose and treat this disease.

Description: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a common disease of dogs, causing vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. Some studies suggest that specific intestinal microbiota can drive or exacerbate intestinal inflammation, but this mechanism has not been well studied in dogs. Researchers will assess and track certain bacteria, known to interact directly with the gut immune system, in stool samples of dogs with inflammatory bowel disease. Data will be collected during treatment until the dogs gain remission. Findings will validate if these bacteria are functionally important to the disease process, and how treatment modifies the gut bacteria.

This new information will lead to a better understanding of how the gut microbiome can be manipulated in dogs with IBD and may reduce the need to directly biopsy the intestine to establish a definitive diagnosis of this condition.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D18CA-045


Dr. Caroline S Mansfield
The University of Melbourne, Australia
Amount: $10,000

Defining the Genetic Basis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a group of disorders in which the intestinal tract has become invaded with the dog’s own white blood cells leading to inflammation. Over time, this inflammation causes the intestine to become less efficient at absorbing nutrients from digested food and weight loss, and vomiting or diarrhea often result. IBD can be controlled, but not cured.

The cause of IBD is poorly understood, but it appears that genetics, diet, intestinal bacteria, and abnormalities of the dog’s immune system all play a role. Dr. Allenspach has recently identified genetic markers known as SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) which she believes contribute to disease susceptibility. Beyond genetics, this research group has mechanistic data showing one of the putative mutations contributes to the inflammation seen in the intestine of dogs with IBD. In order to find all underlying genetic factors that could contribute to disease, they propose to perform a genome-wide association study.

This study will lead to the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic avenues for canine IBD as has already been the case in people with IBD.

Co-sponsored with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, Grant Number: 2002


Dr. Karen Allenspach DVM,PHD
Royal Veterinary College
University of London

Investigating a Noninvasive, At-Home Diagnostic Technique for Gastrointestinal Disorders

Gastrointestinal disorders are common in dogs and are often associated with a change in the rate food moves through the stomach and intestines. This study uses a noninvasive, wireless sensor capsule to determine the gastrointestinal transit in dogs. The information will help veterinarians to better diagnose gastrointestinal diseases, including bloat, gastritis and inflammatory bowel disease, while dogs are in their home environment.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D10CA-106


Pedro L. Boscan, DVM, Phd
Colorado State University

Mechanism of Epithelial Injury in Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) occurs relatively frequently in dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia and weight loss. Despite the incidence and severity of IBD in dogs, the underlying causes remain uncertain.

Current theory suggests an interplay of genetic, environmental and immunological factors. Investigators will obtain epithelial cells from gastrointestinal tract tissue during routine gastrointestinal endoscopy in dogs with IBD. They will study these cells to determine their involvement in the inflammatory response of the gut. Results obtained should shed light on this disease and may lead to more specific strategies for treating and preventing IBD.


Although preliminary in nature, investigators showed that epithelial cells, those that line the dog’s intestine, normally express receptors that interact with bacteria and their products. The result of this interaction is production of soluble factors called cytokines, which can have both destructive and protective effects on the intestine. Investigators showed that the receptors on epithelial cells are dysregulated in dogs that are prone to intestinal inflammation. This dysregulation appears to occur before the development of clinical IBD. Investigators also identified potential mechanisms for dampening this response.

Co-sponsored with the Morris Animal Foundation, Grant Number: D04CA-108


Peter J. Felsburg, VMD, PhD
University of Pennsylvania