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Several months ago, the company AnimalBiome offered a BOGO deal allowing me to have the gut biome of two of my dogs tested for the price of one. At that time, the tests were $95 each, so I jumped on the BOGO special.
I chose Rodrigo and Scout because they have raised the most questions. I planned to test Sydney and Zoey as well and share the results of all four dogs. But it didn't work out that way.
Why is My Review Biased?
I always add that my product reviews are biased because my dogs mean the world to me and I simply can't be objective when it comes to their health and nutrition. When I try a product, I'm super excited and expect the best and when I'm not blown away, I'm pretty annoyed. But I do share my honest thoughts on a product because I hope my experience can help others.
What Is AnimalBiome?
AnimalBiome is a company that tests the gut biome of our pets, through a stool sample that we send to them to let us know the state (healthy or unbalanced) of their gut microbiome.
I placed an order (and paid for) my kits. They arrived with clear instructions on how to collect a stool sample. They even provide gloves and other tools so that we don’t have to handle the poop with our bare hands. I took the dogs outside and walked around with them, collected their poop with poop bags and then set everything up outside to collect stool samples.
Johan was completely grossed out. I told him that at least I wasn’t doing it at the kitchen counter. Although I pretended that this was my plan just to get the reaction. Priceless.
Another step in the process is to set up an account for each of the dogs being tested. A few weeks later, I received an email that the results were available and I can log onto their account to review a summary and print a full report.
Why I Care About My Dogs’ Gut Microbiome
Rodrigo is the reason I’m obsessed with my dogs’ gut microbiome. He has a history of digestive issues, including gas, loose stool, itchy skin (his paws), environmental allergies (immune system), and trouble keeping on weight. If he wasn’t already a raw fed dog, I’m certain people would recommend switching him over. Transitioning to raw did solve many of his health issues, but many still lingered and they could all be tied directly to the gut and managing his health was overwhelming as I spent years testing out proteins and supplements to see what worked best for him.
A friend of mine (thanks, Tina B.) recommended that I have his microbiome tested and she gave me the heads up about the BOGO deal. Although I had finally figured out how to best manage Rodrigo’s gut health, I still purchased the AnimalBiome kit immediately because I thought it would give me some insight into what was happening with my dog.
My Dogs' Microbiome Test Results
When I received the test results, I immediately printed the full report and sat down for a read. I expected to read a report similar to the dog DNA tests or the allergy test. I was wrong. They gave me a list of the various bacterium floating around my dog’s gut, including how much (and how little).
The report also compared what was happening in each of my dogs' gut to other dogs, however, I don't believe that this is an “apples to apples” comparison. In other words, my dogs' microbiome wasn't compared to the microbiome of other raw fed dogs.
I'll admit that the report was interesting, but I didn't really know what to do with the information. I wanted to get a clear understanding of what was happening in the gut of my dogs, but I was left with more questions because I've never been exposed to this type of information. It seemed like Rodrigo finally has a healthy gut after so much work. Am I reading that right? If so, why is his gut healthy? What did I do right?
I quickly opened Scout’s test results expecting him to score higher; I was wrong. Scout’s test results were awful. What? They read as a dog that has chronic digestive issues. Scout only has loose stool or diarrhea when I feed him too much heart, liver or green tripe, otherwise, he’s very healthy. I'm shocked by the test results.
My Consultation with AnimalBiome
So, this is where I made a huge mistake. I assumed that like with the nutritional blueprint test and allergy test, I’d receive a consultation to go over the results with me. I waited for weeks for an email, completely distracted by life, until I finally reached out to AnimalBiome to find out if they’d answer my questions. The problem was that I didn’t know where to start, I just wanted to know if my dogs were healthy.
My Email to AnimalBiome…
“I had my dogs' poop tested back in January (I believe) and received the results. I planned to do a review, but none of it meant a thing to me. Are my dogs healthy, not healthy, is there something that I can do to help them other than buying your supplements?
Of course, I respect that you're a business and one aspect of that business is supplementation, but I was wondering if the biome test is something that I should take to my vet for review or if you offer a service that better explains the results.”
“Thank you for reaching out with your questions. I have reviewed Scout's and Ringo's reports, and the results are very very interesting to say the least. Scout's report indicates a substantial lack in overall diversity in his gut microbiome which and is very high in Fusobacterium which is associated with symptoms diarrhea and overall digestive issues but I would need to know more about his symptoms to get a better understanding. On the other hand, Ringo is above average in diversity, and in the high average range of richness and evenness indicating a healthy gut microbiome. Yet he has a bit of E. shigella bacteria which could be fine or not fine, we do not test to decipher whether it is pathogenic or not.
Definitely show these results to the vet, I always recommend this. They have the ability to determine if the findings are anything to be alarmed about. I recommend to first go to the vet to make sure there isn't a need for antibiotics first and foremost. In the case that they do need to take antibiotics, our capsules can help restore their gut microbiome of the bacteria that the antibiotics will wipe out and get it back to a more balanced state.
I hope this was helpful!”
Update on the Phone Consultation
I received an email from AnimalBiome on July 5, 2019, in response to this blog post and was told that they did reach out to me and offered a phone consultation (I don't have record of this email) and that my failure to respond led them to believe that I wasn't interested in learning more.
When I emailed AnimalBiome in April 2019, to learn more about the test, I wasn't offered a consultation and I wasn't the only one who didn't receive this service.
My Dog Needs Antibiotics???
No, this wasn’t helpful at all. I’ve had these test results for months and I’m just now learning that I need to have the results reviewed by a veterinarian. I don’t remember that in the instructions. Did I just miss that part completely? Was Rodrigo supposed to go through a round of antibiotics? What the hell is happening?
Needless to say, I was not amused and kept looking at Rodrigo to see if I could see signs of illness. He just kept looking back at me, enjoying all the attention. Anyway, I followed the advice and asked my friend, Dr. Laurie Coger (28 years as a holistic veterinarian, genius, and graduate of Cornell Veterinarian School) to review the results.
Update on Antibiotics
In the email from AnimalBiome that I received on July 5, 2019, the company said: “I apologize if some of the information around antibiotics was not communicated clearly by my team. But to be clear, AnimalBiome has never, and will never, recommend a cat or dog go on antibiotics based on the results of our microbiome test. We appreciate honest reviews, but we feel that the component of the review pertaining to our recommendation of antibiotics misrepresents our core mission and values.”
I'm not sure how I misrepresented them when I shared the email (their words) that I received in respect to my query. To show that I didn't “misrepresent” their words, here is a screenshot of the email that I received from the company:
My Dogs' AnimalBiome Test Results
The following was taken, word for word, from the reports I received from AnimalBiome for Rodrigo and Scout. I attempted to add screenshots, however, the words were too small to read.
- Rodrigo: 37.28
- Scout: 49.58
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 19.8
Bacteria belonging to the Fusobacterium genus help your pet digest animal proteins. If your pet lacks Fusobacterium, increasing the protein content in their diet will likely be helpful. At the same time, elevated levels of Fusobacterium are associated with diarrhea and chronic digestive issues, so moderation is key. For correcting overabundances of Fusobacterium, consider adding more dietary fiber to your pet's diet.
- Rodrigo: 4.11
- Scout: 0
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 15.9
Bacteria belonging to the Prevotella genus help digest carbohydrates in your pet's diet. They are present in moderate amounts in most healthy pets, but when they become too abundant, they are associated with unhealthy levels of inflammation. Prevotella may even play a role in chronic conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). If your pet has too much Prevotella, consider decreasing or eliminating simple carbohydrates from their diet. This includes grains, starches, fruits, and vegetables.
- Rodrigo: 10.45
- Scout: 29.49
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 12.2
Bacteria belonging to the Bacteroides genus help prevent harmful bacteria from colonizing in the gut. Pets with more of these bacteria tend to have healthier body weights. If your pet's sample is low in Bacteroides, consider adding a prebiotic supplement like psyllium husk powder, inulin, or acacia gum to help feed these bacteria.
- Rodrigo: 0
- Scout: 0
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 11.5
Bacteria belonging to the Megamonas genus help regulate your pet's metabolism. Megamonas bacteria kick into high gear if your pet stops eating or is unable to absorb nutrients from their food; in these cases, the Megamonas bacteria help preserve energy so your pet does not lose weight. When too much Megamonas bacteria is present, however, it can make your pet more prone to becoming overweight.
- Rodrigo: 1.77
- Scout: 3.9
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 5.5
Bacteria belonging to the Blautia genus produce anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect the digestive tract from becoming damaged due to chronic inflammation.
- Rodrigo: 1.24
- Scout: 3.81
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 4.4
Bacteria belonging to the Peptoclostridium genus help protect your pet against a number of intestinal pathogens, including Clostridium difficile and certain harmful strains of Escherichia coli. Pets with healthy levels of Peptoclostridium tend to have healthier immune and digestive systems. These bacteria may be deficient in overweight or obese pets.
- Rodrigo: 10.34
- Scout: 1.7
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 3.5
Bacteria belonging to the Collinsella genus help detoxify poisons and protect the gut against pathogens. While Collinsella are helpful in moderate amounts, an overgrowth can be problematic: elevated levels of Collinsella have been associated with diarrhea and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Increasing fiber consumption may help to keep Collinsella levels in check.
- Rodrigo: 2.57
- Scout: 2.08
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 3.5
Bacteria belonging to the Sutterella genus help keep the immune system active, counteracting other types of bacteria that suppress the immune system. Moderate levels keep your pet safe from illness; at the same time, higher levels are associated with digestive issues like diarrhea and food sensitivities.
- Rodrigo: 1.27
- Scout: 0
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 2.7
Bacteria belonging to the Faecalibacterium genus are more abundant in active animals at healthy weights. These bacteria also help combat inflammation in the body. Animals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and other chronic inflammatory conditions tend to have low levels of Faecalibacterium.
[Ruminococcus] gnavus group
- Rodrigo: 0
- Scout: 0.33
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 2.5
Bacteria belonging to the [Ruminococcus] genus possess potent anti-inflammatory properties and also help kill pathogens that have entered the digestive tract. To increase [Ruminococcus] levels, try adding a source of dietary fiber like psyllium husk, inulin, or acacia gum to your pet's diet.
- Rodrigo: 1.05
- Scout: 0.35
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 2.2
Bacteria belonging to the Clostridium genus have been linked with high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, which are recommended for healthy weight loss. They also tend to be more abundant in pets that are on raw diets. But too much Clostridium can be problematic; to reduce Clostridium levels, consider adding S boulardii, a yeast-based probiotic, to your pet's regimen. This strain of yeast helps decrease the amount of Clostridium bacteria in the gut.
- Rodrigo: 11.38
- Scout: 1.75
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 1.4
Bacteria belonging to the Escherichia genus are normally present at low levels in many healthy pets. However, excessive levels of particular strains have been linked with chronic diarrhea and other health issues.
- Rodrigo: 0.24
- Scout: 0.82
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 1.3
Bacteria belonging to the Lachnospiraceae family possess potent anti-inflammatory properties and also help kill pathogens that have entered the digestive tract. To increase Lachnospiraceae levels, try adding a source of dietary fiber like psyllium husk, inulin, or acacia gum to your pet's diet.
- Rodrigo: 1.03
- Scout: 1.43
- Average for Healthy Dogs: 0.8
Bacteria belonging to the Lachnoclostridium genus possess potent anti-inflammatory properties and also help kill pathogens that have entered the digestive tract. To increase Lachnoclostridium levels, try adding a source of dietary fiber like psyllium husk, inulin, or acacia gum to your pet's diet.
Final Thoughts on AnimalBiome
After I sat down and really read the reports, I was able to gain a better understanding of the reports and my initial takeaway is that my dogs need more fiber in their diet.
Sources of Fiber:
- fur (they eat rabbit feet and ears with hair)
All in all, I think that this is an informative test but I don't think the information was easy to understand.
I wish that part of the test was a consultation to explain the test, something beyond the email exchange I had with AnimalBiome. However, should they not add this as part of your service, I suggest planning on having your veterinarian review the results with you.
I Still Have Questions About AnimalBiome
When I was talking about the test with my boyfriend, someone who knows less than I do about dog nutrition and health, he had the following questions that I found compelling:
- What dogs are our dogs being compared to? How many dogs do they have in their database? – I'm certain AnimalBiome has this information listed somewhere on their website, but I was stumped. I don't know.
- Our dogs are fed raw, are they being compared to other raw fed dogs or kibble fed dogs? If AnimalBiome has kibble fed dogs in their database, is it a fair and accurate comparison?
- What about the age and breed of the dogs in their database? Or where the dogs live? Does that impact the microbiome? And if our dogs are being compared to them, are the results accurate?
Speaking to J made me realize how much I don't know about the microbiome and while this is interesting information, we are at the start of this groundbreaking path to understanding our dogs' health. Right now, I think there are too many unknowns, however, as this company (and their database) grows, I believe that the information will become more accurate and valuable. What comes to mind are dog DNA tests; over the years, the tests have become more accurate as their breed/breed-mix database has grown.
My Disappointment with AnimalBiome
I think my biggest disappointment about AnimalBiome is that there are people who have veterinarians who are so against pet parents taking the time to learn more about their dog's health and nutrition (my first vet was one of them). Pet parents who don't have access to a veterinarian who can help them understand the results and any action to take (if needed) may be at a loss to how to apply this information to their dog's diet.
I Do Not Recommend AnimalBiome
At this time, I wouldn't suggest investing in this test unless AnimalBiome begins to offer a consultation should their customers have questions or you have a veterinarian who can help you better understand the results. I'm very disappointed because we're learning about the importance of the gut microbiome and here we have a test that allows us know what's happening in our dogs' gut – unfortunately, but it fails to guide us on what we should do next for our dogs.
Update on AnimalBiome Review
Update: AnimalBiome now regularly offers consultations to go over their tests with customers. I've heard from several customers that they were able to get more information about the test as well as guidance on next steps to help their dog.
Although I had less than a stellar experience with AnimalBiome, I am hearing from more people who have had a positive experience. Of course, there will always be a blend of experiences, both positive and negative, with any service or product, and this review represents one person's negative experience. I highly encourage you to speak to others about their experience if you are considering this service. For me, it's not a service that I plan to repeat, but you never know.