Matt Muir

Exploring the Veterinary Microbiome with Dr Matt Muir

Matt Muir

Exploring the Veterinary Microbiome

Today we are joined by Integrative Veterinarian Dr Matthew Muir,  who has a special interest in exploring the microbiome of animals.

In this fascinating episode we explore:

  • What’s emerging in the world of the animal microbiome
  • The animal gut-brain axis
  • How does the gut microbiome affect an animals behaviour
  • How to approach nutrition with gut microbiome in mind
  • Can our understanding of the gut microbiome in animals translate to people
  • Exploring adjunct therapies for immune dysregulation and gut-brain-skin axis disorders in animals

About Dr Mathew Muir:

Dr Matthew J Muir consults as an Integrative Veterinarian via All Natural Vet Care (www.allnaturalvetcare.com). He is also the co-founder of whole food dog food company,www.lyka.com.au..

Matthew has completed further studies in Western Herbal Medicine, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Chinese Food therapy, Acupuncture and sustainable food development. His special interests are eco-health, gut-brain axis dysfunction, cancer care, immuno-nutrition and nutrient-based psychiatry. All Natural Vet Care is one of the world’s leading Integrative Veterinary Hospitals, founded by Dr Barbara Fougere, the current Chair of the American College of Veterinary Botanical Medicine.

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Transcript

Introduction

 

Andrew: This is “Wellness by Designs” and I’m your host, Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Today we’re chatting with Dr Matthew J. Muir, a veterinarian, an integrative veterinarian whose interests far surpass ordinary veterinary work. Welcome to “Wellness by Designs” Matt, how are you going?

Dr Muir: Well, thanks. Thanks for having me.

Andrew: Absolute pleasure, sir. Now, one of your loves is to look at the microbiota, indeed, the microbiome of animals that you care for, your patients. So let’s first recap what’s emerging in the world of the microbiome with regards to animals, given that there’s a vast variety of normal microbiota in various animals you treat?

Dr Muir: Yeah, so I guess my main focus nowadays, after sort of learning a bit more over the years is not just the microbiome but the metabolome and how it goes hand in hand with the exposome, the transcriptome, it’s all these “omes.” But I guess what’s happening in the world of veterinary medicine, I think I’ll focus on companion animal medicine because there’s just an exponential rate of information coming out in this field. I guess the main thing, which to me coming from a more holistic naturopathic perspective, is that the microbiome is finally getting mainstream recognition within the veterinary profession over the last couple of years.

And so certainly what we were finding originally, I guess, if we talk about the gut microbiota, predominantly, I think that it was initially sort of coming out that it had a role with acute and chronic enteropathies and inflammatory bowel disease. But over time, over the last couple of years, it’s sort of extended beyond the primary gastrointestinal tract with regards to its functions. I think that over the last couple of years, we’ve seen some papers, some interesting papers on the gut-brain axis, the gut-skin axis. And also more recently looking and questioning the role of dysbiosis in the progression of the mitral valve, cardiac disease. And also neurodegenerative diseases like cognitive dysfunction syndrome. So I guess, the equivalent of Alzheimer’s in dogs.

And so that’s really what’s happening in the dog and cat world. And I think what’s happening is in parallel to very active debate about what is the best “diet” for dogs. Because there’s a high protein, low carb camp, and then there’s a higher carb, lower protein camp. And really starting to look at what are the differences in the microbiota between the two?

And I guess the other thing that I touched on earlier about the gut-brain axis, some really interesting work has come out across a few different papers. It’s certainly early days and I have a caveat on all of this, that it’s early days in veterinary medicine, even more so than human medicine. But there’s been some peculiar microbiome layouts, microbiota layouts in dogs associated with aggression, with phobic disorders. And in some breeds, dare I say that the closest, this is in Bull Terriers, something akin to potentially autism-like disorder syndrome, but it’s…really that’s pretty new.

But yeah, plenty of things are coming out with regards to the microbiome where like postbiotics are getting effect. Like it’s great to see that it’s not quite an everyday language. But like the use of polyphenolic and certainly, prebiotics is becoming not the centre focus, but certainly into the psyche of the conventional vets, particularly internal medicine specialists. So there’s, some really cool things happening. And beyond that, I guess, is the translational aspects that dogs and humans particularly have a lot of overlap with microbiota. So dogs particularly are increasingly validated as translational models for humans. So some cool insights, I think, to come there.

Andrew: Yeah. Okay, so there are about 30 questions going around my mind at the moment. And the first one I need to get out is you’re talking about the gut-brain superhighway. And we know, for instance, certainly in mice, that toxoplasmosis when they eat cat feces, it goes, migrates to the brain, knocks out the fear centre, makes the rat or the mouse, fearless of the cat. And so the cat then eats the mouse. And the cycle repeats itself. But none of that paradigm talks about the effect of behaviour on the cat. So are we seeing any of these parasites having that controlling mechanism on our pets, not just cats?

And also, you spoke about high carb or low carb versus high protein, with no mention of fat, particularly when we’re talking about neurological disorders. Where does fat sit in there? There you go. There’s a double whammy that’s way…

Dr Muir: The fat I’ll come to in a second, and critically important. But with regards to the toxoplasmosis story, I think that there’s actually more evidence for that in humans with regards to risk-taking behaviours in toxoplasmosis zero positive humans rather than fully understanding it with dogs. I think that what we’re learning slowly but surely is more about like glutamate GABA, balance in the brain, you know, whether dogs are in like a hyper glutamatergic state. How that plays into the HPA axis, certainly the production of neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA in the gut. And some of the metabolomics have sort of looked at the higher protein diets. And certainly, GABA is higher in production in animals on higher protein diets. And certainly, a lot of anecdotes around dogs being cool, calm, and collected when they’re not on a high glycemic low diet and so consequently, a higher protein diet.

With regards to the EFAs, the Omega 6 to 3 balance, and nowadays, I’m very critically aware of the Omega 6 to 3 balance plus the vitamin E to polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio. To me, that’s not necessarily controlled for in a lot of these studies, and certainly, that’s an area where I’m looking at contributing to the research myself. But I guess it’s given that a lot of this research, you’d see that if a diet is higher in glycemic load, higher in carb content, generally, what we find is that the Omega 6 to 3 ratio, it’s a bit off and moving more to a pro-inflammatory drive.

So there’s a lot of confounders in this research, about, you know, when you’re looking at a high protein versus a low protein diet, or maybe more correctly, like a low glycemic, low diet. It becomes quite tricky to really elucidate the final conclusions because of variables like fibre, mix fermentable fibre, EFAs. And I guess the other thing is, like Omega 3, is prebiotic. And so it’s complex. And I often say that the more you read about this, the more it makes your head spin. But I guess we just have to jump in and start having conversations around it and discussing the discussions because there’s certainly more to learn in this area.

Andrew: Yeah. But I guess the other sort of part of this, though, is, what if part of the issue is our intervention on a dietary level, would give unconscious confidence to the owner in that they’re doing something good for their pet and that it will elicit a positive behaviour. And so that in itself elicits the positive behaviour in the pet that’s kind of like the Cesar what is it? Cesar Millan, Cesar. Is that right? Cesar Millan? You know, the “Dog Whisperer?”

Dr Muir: Yeah, right. Yeah, I’ve heard of the legend dog whisperer.

Andrew: Yeah, it could be that part of this is actually that the owner has finally got the confidence?

Dr Muir: Yes, so transference placebo, transference anxiety, neuroticism. What they call the psycho-social dyad between pet guardians humans and dogs is complex and fraught with confounders. But to sort of understanding whether if someone thinks that they’re feeding a diet that’s more microbiota friendly, will affect the dog is certainly looking at some of the placebo-controlled, symbiotic, or probiotic formulation trials. You see huge placebo effects across like looking at a decrease in vomiting by like 20%, or maybe 18% in one of these studies in the placebo arm. And so and this is guardian or owner intent observations like this as a transference placebo.

But to further complicate things, we need to think, “Okay, what does the thought processes of the dog particular through the vagal nerve?” Or what are the thought processes doing to the microbiota? Because we know that in certain breeds of dogs, exercise, like more intense exercise has significant changes to the microbial composition. So through the gut-brain axis, these things are probably more complex, or they are definitely more complex, and we like to simplify.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s absolutely true.

Dr Muir: Another interesting one on that, is like some of the peculiarities in animals with regards to some of the microbial layouts associated with anxiety disorders, or phobic disorders. Such as one study looked at IgG, I’m not exactly sure which sort of substrain. But they looked at IgG as it had an overabundance in OTU’s in animals that scored higher on anxiety scores, which is completely different to some of the observations that we’ve seen in mice with regards to IgG’s anxiolytic effects. And so then one of the questions that I have is that well, is that actually some form of self-medication that the microbiome like lifts up in response to stress? Like was it chicken before the egg? Like, is the body or the microbiome itself making changes to, you know, calm the body itself to support its host?

Andrew: Did you say that the IgG had an anxiolytic effect in dogs or that it heightened anxiety in dogs?

Dr Muir: Neither, I think there’s an association, not causality, between dogs that scored higher on an anxiety score, have an overabundance of IgG.

Andrew: Could that be simply that it’s the wrong organism? Because dogs have a very, very high count of E. coli? They’re not just, they’re not a hyper carnivore, but they are, you know, mainly they’re a carnivore, they’ll eat plants, but and so we’re using the wrong bug.

Dr Muir: Oh, absolutely. But I think if you’re looking at rodent models versus the canine model like they’re both quite metabolically flexible. And yeah, I think that…and this is where my role in the clinic is trying to, particularly in an age whereas a both professional and a global citizen, how I can personally contribute to, like Planetary Health or Eco-Health or One Health. If I’m trying, I need to be thinking, “Okay, what’s the best recommendations I can make for the patient, my animal patient in front of me, with regards to their diets, and their modifiable lifestyle factors, etc., and their general health care? How can I do that without sort of putting the humans at risk, particularly through zoonotic risk? And/or what can I do to try and also help the humans in the household out by making changes to the microbiome?”

So and where that becomes tricky, and this is sort of a slight tangent, but to bring it back to that question. Where it becomes tricky is that when you look at the differences between the microbiome in dogs on different styles of diet, like you mentioned hyper carnivore. So maybe a diet that’s 60% animal protein through to a dog that’s approaching a vegan diet, will have major

differences to the microbiota. And whether or not they fulfil…like there are different niches and they all fulfil similar metabolite like functional roles, that’s still an area to be elucidated. But yes, for some dogs, some bacteria will… And this I think goes into the kind of pathobiome versus symbiome sort of way of thinking about this spectrum from like, hardcore, pathogenic virulent microbes through to completely harmless microbes. Those things sit on that spectrum and have to intervene with, like have to sort of work with the host.

I mean, I used to sort of, being a new vet, think about us being biomechanic. So I’m like a mechanic looking under the roof of a car, then, you know, starting to understand ecological terrain in the microbiome. Okay, now I’m a gardener and, you know, what’s it akin to? But nowadays, I think what it’s akin to is being a couple’s counsellor, where we’re looking at how the microbiome and the host that are communicating with one another, where the boundaries are? What are their needs? What are they like, how do they function to help each other as a team? That’s kind of where I’ve got to with all of this.

Andrew: But I mean, this must be so confusing for you, because when we’re dealing with humans, we’re dealing with people who…we know a human’s diet. We know what we can handle, and we know what is definitely off the table like there’s no way that we’d eat that. Whereas I’ll always remember Snoopy, my dear dog who died at the beginning of last year. And Snoop would bury a bone and dig it up four or five days later. And it was mankey like we’re talking slimy, grey, green, and he would happily munch on it with no problem at all. So is one of the dangers that we’ve got here is to try and humanize dogs?

Dr Muir: Absolutely but some dogs need humanization or particularly in the short-term like I would expect that he would have an appropriate gastric acid secretion. He would have an acidic hindgut. That he would have an intact mucin layer. That he wouldn’t have a dysfunctional liver that he couldn’t cope with the LPS. So there’s so much going on under the surface that…because one of the thoughts is that the reason puppies chew on stinky shoes or dogs bury bones is…I think that the main reason is cacheting your food for use later. But there’s some talk that okay, that’s actually doggy kimchi, they’re fermenting the bones and create their own probiotics. Or, you know, observation of dogs building marsupial feces or that sort of thing.

So I think there’s no universal one-size-fits-all diet for a dog, and it can change dynamically over time. Like I think that in the clinic I do a lot of gut rehab. So I’m looking at saying, “Okay, well, my dog has been eating raw meaty bones for 14 and a half years and his stomach is a tank. And I can give him food that if you smelt it, I certainly wouldn’t eat it.” Because their stomach has a little mini microwave, it just blasts the…like the acid, like it’s pH 1. So you know, put your finger in a dog’s stomach for…if you dip your finger in the dog’s stomach for an hour like it wouldn’t be pretty when you pulled it out.

So yes, there’s a lot of difference between humans…and this is the thing for me like I read and follow the human literature as closely as I can with getting appropriate levels of sleep. And I look at dogs and you know, if you look at the microbiome that’s required for a predominantly plant-based human versus like a more of a carnivorous lifestyle, etc., I think we know where we need to go with regards to plant-based. I think that’s clear. But in dogs and particularly cats, it’s very different.

And I do think that if we transplanted the fecal microbiota, like a fecal microbiome, from a cat into a human, I suspect they would get colonic cancer from the putritive factism and the back like just what’s going on for a cat to digest their food. But it’s complex because we now know that if we’re looking at increasing fibre, it really depends on what the base diet is. Like whether or not the dog’s eating bones or cartilage or around bones as an animal-based prebiotic versus what we think they need. And that we’ve humanized these animals into little humans. And it doesn’t always work and in the same way that there’s a bunch of humans that have a dysbiosis.

Andrew: You know, you’ve said quite a few interesting things there, one, which I can never ever unsee and that is doggy kimchi. But it’s something you said earlier about having a more vegan doggie. What? Like, I thought that dogs required a certain percentage, a large percentage of their diet to be meat-based. This is not so?

Dr Muir: No, not necessarily. I think that when we’re looking at the move to plant-based nutrition, I think the main thing is we need to think about in all of this, we need to think about sustainable agricultural reform and sustainable agriculture, in general. And because if you’re looking…and then looking at crowding in versus crowding out, and what’s optimal off the back of that. Because if you are using a grass-finished beef, the Omega 6 to 3 profile of that is vastly different from CAFO, like intensively farmed beef. If we’re using free-range eggs, the vitamin D content is very different from indoor-raised eggs.

So we have to…or if we’re using fish like if we’re looking at more ancestral diet, because of where the planet’s got to with regards to toxicants in the environment, some ways of feeding are no longer appropriate. So there is an argument that a cleaner, more plant-based lower glycemic load diet, more high biological grade proteins would be better with… And then if we’re thinking about vegans we will say, “Okay, well, all-vegan dogs or plant-based,” which I’m not necessarily a fan of yet because I think that we haven’t really worked out how dogs go from surviving to thriving on these diets, and I see attempts made that they’re often quite metabolically…metabolic x, like syndrome, I think a lot of the time, there’s something just not right with their hormonal balance. And the fact that you have in order to get rid of the animal proteins, and you need a certain protein requirement and an amino acid, essential amino acids, you crowd in a lot of high glycemic or high lectin-containing foods, which deplete zinc and there’s a whole range of problems there.

But the other thing is to have a vegan dog in captivity, I think would require using like high grain microalgae DHA, and EPA. You’d need to use a B12 supplement or dirt which is increasing. And going back to what I said about the doggy kimchi, I think soil-based probiotics, is very interesting to me.

Andrew: Yes.

Dr Muir: So there’s a lot of factors that apply.

Andrew: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah.

Dr Muir: You can think of that like

Andrew: The other…sorry, Matt you go. Sorry, I cut you off.

Dr Muir: Oh, that’s okay. I was saying, looking at the particularly like studies around soil and in like Amish communities and things like asthma and allergy and HIV. And immune system maturation and that sort of things like I think that’s quite interesting. And going right back to what I said at the start of this rant, is that a lot of the work I’m doing is gut rehab, which is trying to be very upstream with healing. And getting as balanced a microbiome as I can across the first two years of an animal’s life.

Andrew: I totally take your point about soil-based organisms. I’ve heard it said in certain circles with regards to human probiotics that, you know, in certain circles, there’s a disdain of soil-based lactobacillus, so it’s Lactobacillus coagulant. And I don’t think there could be further than the truth, of course, in the same sentence these people will talk about the “Old Friends” theory and getting out and getting dirty. That’s the Lactobacillus coagulans amongst a myriad of other organisms.

There was a point that you made also about with regards to animals, and I think it was cats, for instance. If we transplanted did a fecal transplant of a cat into a human would be looking down the barrel of dire health consequences. But there is also this thing of that certainly dogs and I think cats are included in that, are included in this “Old Friends” theory with regards to farm animals reducing allergies and things like that. But that’s got to do with this cloud of microbes that we share, rather than a bolus dose of a fecal microbial transplant. Is that correct? Like do we find changes where, for instance, a dog, if we have a dog, that the human will adapt to some small degree the canine microbiota, that we’ll incorporate some of those into our own microbiota?

Dr Muir: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely and that there’s plenty of speak to this, I think predominantly around asthma and children. But if we’re looking at the, I guess, the technical term, I think that immunologists talk about is the immigration of bacteria and sources of… And this, I think, is nowadays sort of potentially referred to as ecology theory. Where the inputs into particularly if we’re talking about an infant DNA neonatal to microbiota in a human. There are inputs coming from like prenatally, perinatally, and then from siblings, extended family members, pets definitely.

And I think that if we’re sort of looking at saying, “Okay, well, you know, we’ve got a lot to learn, but normally, increased diversity is a good thing in the microbiome.” Then if dogs are contributing some bacteria into that mix, that they’re not really getting elsewhere in the household or in their environment then I think that is happening. And looking at, particularly around food sensitization, and certainly, childhood asthma, there are some dysbioses in children.

And obviously, I’m a veterinarian, so I can only speak from a sort of outsider’s perspective, I’m not a human doctor, or certainly not an immunologist. So certainly this is just my opinion, from looking at some of the research and presentations in this area, that there are some like Akkermansia fecale bacterium. And I think also, one, there’s another one, but there’s a couple of bacteria that are often [crosstalk 00:27:48]. Sorry. I think if you know [crosstalk 00:27:52].

Andrew: I’m just wondering.

Dr Muir: I think there’s a triad of Bifidobacterium Akkermansia, and fecal bacterium and maybe Ruminococcus, that dogs are potentially a reservoir for. I look at dogs in the household nowadays as like, the modern appendix, that dogs are this sort of reservoir of extra microbes that are in a house that you’ve lost elsewhere, so yes. And I do think that, like speaking to my point about translating the whole microbiome from a cat into a human, I think that’s obviously never gonna Care and Ethics approval.

Andrew: Never.

Dr Muir: But that’s…well, who knows, actually, in the world of like…looking at the superbug statistics for 2050. Like, I think we need to be pretty open-minded, but I certainly I’m not proposing that as a research paper right now.

But, looking at transplanting the whole microbiome versus just contributing a little bit to it, I think is a very different thing. And like for me, I mean, I’m very interested in I guess, the atopic march, emerging autoimmune disease. Because a lot of the patients that I meet in the clinic, being an integrative veterinarian are cancer, refractory epilepsy, refractory autoimmune disease, serious like refractory IBD, behavioural challenges.

There’s things that happen later in life, and I get clients coming to me and I have the luxury of doing like a timeline approach to how I think this happened to be, and I get to read back from a scary diagnosis right back to their infanthood. And increasingly, after paying attention and maybe having some cognitive bias like looking at the antibody cues before year one in a dog. And also, what the mother was fed during her pregnancy and lactation. Like, there is research in dogs that what the mother is fed during her lactation dictates lifetime atopic dermatitis risk in the puppies. So to me, I know that the assemblage of the microbiota and the immunomaturation and immunonutrition of a dog, the appropriate T regulation and developing a healthy microbiome and an immune system.

To me, it’s very clear from what I understand in dogs, and then to see, like read about that in humans, particularly the use of like, what antibiotics at certain times of life do for humans. Like if it’s between zero and six months, you’ll get Type 1 diabetes, if it’s between this and that you get obesity later in life, you get asthma during a certain time. I find it fascinating because this is what I see in-clinic for dogs. And what I think is super cool through translational research and One Health, is that what I do for trying to improve the microbiome for the dogs, and cats in my care, has real-world consequences for the humans in the household. So I do feel, like I said, as a global citizen and a professional, I do feel indirectly I’m helping treat households by making sure that their dog’s microbiome is a symbiome, not a pathobiome. And that it’s hopefully contributing to the whole family care.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. You know, what you spoke about with regards to generational priming of the immune system. Smacks of something with regards to how IgG was used to hopefully rescue the atopic priming in infants, born of atopic parents. So the issue there was that the only way it worked was if the mother took the probiotic, I think within the last trimester of pregnancy. And then continued giving it to the baby after birth. If you just gave it to the baby, once you’ve got eczema, didn’t work at all. It’s really interesting how this immune priming has got happening in utero, for it to take effect. And that goes into another bug a little bit of a favourite of mine that’s segmented filamentous bacteria SFB, and Th17 priming. Enough of that, but I did wanna ask you about [crosstalk 00:32:45] Sorry.

Dr Muir: I actually did do some research into SFBs in dogs, because I knew you’d have a penchant for it. So some pretty nuts case studies from the ’70s about indoor versus outdoor dogs. Certainly, research that I don’t support in how cruel it was to the dogs in what they were doing. But and fortunately, that kind of research is behind us. But yeah, I mean, that’s an interesting one. And looking at something like lipopolysaccharide and LPS from Bacteroidetes versus E. coli, that they have different immunoregulatory effects on T helper 17 and T function.

Andrew: It’s really interesting stuff, your mind explodes with it. I did wanna ask you, when you were mentioning skin issues earlier, we’ve spoken about the gut-brain axis. So now we have to really incorporate the gut, brain, skin, immune, metabolome axis. So what sort of adjunct therapies do you use then in-clinic, given your knowledge on the importance of the microbiota?

Dr Muir: Yeah, doing something about it is the first thing I guess. Not to be facetious, but yeah, like diagnose.

Andrew: But do they vary drastically between say cats and dogs?

Dr Muir: What like gut, skin, brain axis?

Andrew: The therapies. Yeah, for instance, you know, we spoke earlier about IgG. And what about other organisms like, for instance, Saccharomyces boulardii?

Dr Muir: Sure, well, I think if the Saccharomyces boulardii can be used in both species and there is an evidence base for it. I think it’s more about when like what would be considered subclinical versus clinical and what you’re looking for. Because I think SB effect on Secretory IgA increasing short-chain fatty acid production to butyrates to feed the colonocytes and repair gut hyperpermeability for sure, for sure. I think that plays a role.

To go back to thinking okay, what does an adjunctive solution, what does the treatment protocol look like with my approach with the appropriate informed consent of the pet guardian? Would be saying, “Okay, well your dog’s got skin problems but when I’ve asked you questions on the dog’s, or cat’s, bowel motion frequency or flatulence, or tendency to vomit or coprophagia, you’ve given me its fussiness like you’ve given me a whole bunch of clues as to my suspicion of a dysbiosis. Or at least a suspicion that this diet is not working for this pet at this particular moment.”

And to me, if someone comes to me and either they throw their hands in the air and say, “We’ve tried everything with our dog’s skin, then often diet and behaviours is what’s lacking. And I think a lot of the time I routinely provide a behaviour modification plan for each, in essence, licking and scratching in dogs. Because regardless of whether it was involved in the primary problem, by the time I generally see an animal and most vets, there will be some probable secondary self-soothing fiddle clustering behaviour. Where the dog licks the skin and gets some sort of attention relief serotonin production, and it may not be just a genuine itch anymore.

But so what I think about is the concept of the gut lining and epidermal mirroring. So looking at what inflammation is happening like what inflammation do I expect to be happening at the gut lining? And how is that manifesting in the skin?

I think the big ones for me, I mean to go back to your love of SFBs and T regulation and T helpers 17 the medicinal mushrooms are one of my favourite things to build into clinical practice. Like I think that the mushrooms particularly in this instance I’m thinking of Ganoderma lucidum Reishi, its role as a prebiotic and oligosaccharide. And looking at I think some of the stuff in humans around like HMO like the human milk oligosaccharides and stuff and the kind of profiles of the medicinal mushrooms. I think that there might be some overlap there but that’s kind of one of the avenues I take.

So behaviour, nutrition definitely need the appropriate EFAs, definitely they need zinc. You know, I might be reaching for things like L-glutamine, SB, mixed fermentable dietary fibre, lowering their glycemic load so there’s less diet driven inflammation. Then looking at topical approaches too like changing the skin microbiome. And all of this is designed with what else is going on in the dog, you know, do they need appropriate Omega-3s, assimilatable Omega-3s anyway for their brain health, heart health, anti-cancer effects?

So a lot of the time just cleaning up the whole holistic health of the house of the dog. And then the other thing I guess it’s like the flood damage issue. Like I practice in Sydney and so much flood damage, so much probable mould and dust mite issues affecting dogs. Like dust mites is the most likely offending allergen in canine atopic dermatitis. So that’s I guess the things that I’m doing a lot of in-clinic, liver detoxing, another one.

Andrew: Gotcha. And with regard to now, I know, forgive me Ganoderma, a common name I’ve just gone blank.

Dr Muir: Reishi.

Andrew: Sorry.

Dr Muir. Reishi.

Andrew: The reishi mushroom. Thank you. Reishi. So with regards to reishi mushrooms a little bit hard to procure as a culinary item but shiitake mushrooms, for instance. Do you advocate incorporating shiitake mushrooms, cutting them up and making, you know, like a beef stroganoff for the dog so that you can actually have a dietary impact there? Or do you just because of dose and dose uniformity, certainly but because of convenience, do you tend to use preformed supplements for this?

Dr Muir: It depends on what my therapeutic goals are and the severity of the issue and how long I need to get this right or what phase we’re in. Because I mean, like I am head of product development for a whole food pet food company called Lyka. And one of our recipes, I have cooked shiitake, you know, cooked shiitake in the recipe for immunomodulation and skin support. It needs to be cooked because the dogs can get that…I think it happens in humans as well, but that lentinan is associated with dermatitis. So, depends is the answer depends on what I’m trying to achieve. I mean, if I’m thinking about okay, well, going back to your question about can we just do a beef diet with added shiitake? Yes, potentially, if it’s part of the nutritional strategy that is clear and coordinated with appropriate zinc and A, D and E vitamins, etc.

But if it’s an ad hoc like adding shiitake to a diet strategy that’s not fully realized may not be exactly what the dog needs, and certainly not for the long-term. I think like shiitake, Reishi, nettle leaf, powdered nettle leaf. As I often think about, “Okay, what do I need to do to get control over this and heal the current barrier function of the skin or deal with like a dog’s immune systems fatigued?”

Get that under control for three months and then say, “All right, then the longer-term sustainable thing is de-escalating from maybe like nutraceutical quercetin on to like a higher grade like nutraceutical zinc. And move to something like using mushrooms or nettle leaf as a nutritive herb as part of the longer-term diet strategy.” So it depends, but I do reach for the dual extracts so often. Or I guess the other thing is like because I do a lot of Western phytotherapy like, I’ll often put reishi tincture alongside some of the other alternative and adaptogenic herbs for my skin patients. So that’s in the kind of acute phase.

Andrew: Gotcha. So the last question, research. Now, you’re hell-bent on research. Well, what research would you like to see that will give a real bang for the buck in this area that we’ve spoken about?

Dr Muir: Great question. So I think that we need to catapult forward in understanding what a sub-optimal microbiome looks like. Diagnose it and have the clinical rationale in front of all vets and all pet guardians and other stakeholders, to understand that we need to properly validate what a diet can do,

and particularly the diet in gestation and lactation. Because as you have pointed out about looking up if you don’t get the right probiotics in the third trimester, that you’re already kind of behind and potentially unable to catch up postnatally.

That we need to look at being able to thoroughly validate, publish, and utilize what an appropriate microbiome is, on what the best diet for an appropriate microbiome is. A diet that’s sustainable and something that can be fed to, essentially the grandmother of a puppy, so that over time, we’re not seeing this huge amount of atopic disease and inflammatory disease that we’re currently seeing in dogs. And understand that this is an issue through eco-health, an issue for the planet, an issue for translational health for humans. Dogs and cats share our environment, we need to look at their health as the canary in the coal mine for what environments we’re living in.

And also through what, unfortunately, has happened with the pandemic, the understanding of spillover events, and how to protect against like a more zoonotic disease. We need to understand that in our pets and stop that from, our pets being a reservoir for zoonotic risks and actually have them to protect us by making our microbiome better. So I think it needs a big like eco-health, One Health focus to quite efficiently validate that, beyond…

And I guess in veterinary medicine, we don’t have the luxury of a lot of the functional tests that you have on the human side. So like I’m looking at saying, “Okay, well, I wanna compare one diet to another, control for fibre, control for EFA balance. And actually, look at this diet versus that diet with the protein to fat ratio of protein to carb ratios.” And actually, look at this microbiome and say, “This microbiome leads to better telomere function, better T helper cell balance, better, like reduced cytokine, reduced insulin growth factor, better metabolic fitness, better mitochondrial function.” And sort of say, “Okay, that research is now done,” because that hasn’t been properly validated yet.

Andrew: Yeah, there’s so much to learn. But we are very drawn to concentrating on the patient in front of us. But Matt, I’m so impressed with the way that you think generationally, that it’s not just the mother, it’s not just the parent, forgive me, of the offspring. But you’re now looking at a generation before that. And this is a big lesson that I think animal breeders are gonna have to really look at if they want the best out of the offspring that they’re going to provide for loving owners to have down the track. It’s really interesting how your mind works. But thank you so much for sharing some of this expertise and passion that you have with us today on “Wellness by Designs.”

Dr Muir: That’s my absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Andrew: So thank you, everyone, of course, for joining us as well. You’ll find all of the other podcasts and the show notes for today’s podcast up on the designsforhealth.com.au website. I’m Andrew Whitfield-Cook. This is “Wellness by Designs.”