Action: Carnivores: Supplement meat-based diets with prebiotic plant material to facilitate digestion
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Certain carbohydrates are beneficial for the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Strict carnivores consume connective tissues that have similar effects as these carbohydrates. However, these animal products are not always easy to obtain and can be unhygienic if animals refuse them in captive conditions. Therefore, a plant alternative aims to replicate the digestive functions of animal tissues in obligate carnivores.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, before-and-after study in 2012 of Indian leopards Panthera pardus fusca in a zoo in India, found that supplementing food with Jerusalem artichoke Helianthus tuberosus, increased two types of gut microbiota, faecal scores and moisture content. Lactobacillus (8.24 log10cfu/g faeces) and Bifidobacterium spp. (13.04 log10cfu/g faeces) and mean faecal scores (2.39) and faecal moisture content (232.1 g/kg) were higher compared to a diet with no Jerusalem artichoke (Lactobacillus: 7.15 log10cfu/g faeces; Bifidobacterium spp.: 12.13 log10cfu/g faeces; faecal score: 1.80; faecal moisture content: 183.7 g/kg). The Jerusalem artichoke appears to improve gut health by promoting beneficial bacteria in the colon. Prior to treatment, eleven leopards housed individually were fed their normal diet of buffalo meat-on-bone with no supplement and during treatment a supplement of Jerusalem artichoke (2% of the diet dry matter basis) was added. Each trial consisted of 18 days of adaptation followed by four days of data collection (blood and faecal samples). Faecal scores were recorded daily (1-5, 1 being the most firm) and blood samples were taken using physical restraint in crush cages on the 22nd day of each trial.
- Pradhan S.K., Das A., Kullu S.S., Saini M., Pattanaik A.K., Dutta N. & Sharma a.K. (2015) Effect of feeding Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) root as prebiotic on nutrient utilization, fecal characteristics and serum metabolite profile of captive Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) fed a meat‐on‐bone diet. Zoo Biology, 34, 153-162