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  • Author or Editor: Faith M. Rahic-Seggerman x
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

This study aimed to characterize the bacterial and eukaryotic microbiota of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in domestic rabbits and to evaluate the effect of different diet characteristics, such as pelleting, extrusion, and hay supplementation.

ANIMALS

30 New Zealand White rabbits (15 male and 15 female; 6 to 7 months old) were fed 1 of 6 diets (5 rabbits per diet) for 30 days after an initial acclimation period. At the end of the trial, samples were collected from the stomach, small intestine, cecum, large intestine, and hard feces.

METHODS

The samples were analyzed using 16S rRNA and internal transcribed spacer 1 region-targeted amplicon sequencing.

RESULTS

The bacterial microbiota was distinct between the foregut and hindgut. The most abundant bacterial genera included an unclassified genus in the Bacteroidales order and Alistipes. Candida was the most abundant genus in the eukaryotic dataset. In the bacterial dataset, diet No Hay/Pellet E was shown to have lower diversity (Shannon diversity, P < .05) compared to all diet groups except for No Hay/Pellet M. Few significant differences in alpha-diversity indexes between diet groups were detected in the eukaryotic dataset.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Our findings demonstrated that feeding hay had a significant effect on the beta diversity of the bacterial microbiota. Given the prevalence of gastrointestinal disease in the domestic rabbit population, furthering our understanding of what constitutes a healthy rabbit microbiota and the effects of different diets on the microbial community can help veterinarians implement better intervention strategies and allow pet owners to provide the best level of care.

Open access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research