This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ Preprints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
Aggression is a serious behavioral disorder in domestic dogs that endangers both dogs and humans. The underlying causes of canine aggression are poorly resolved and require illumination to ensure effective therapy. Recent research links the compositional diversity of the gut microbiome to behavioral and psychological regulation in other mammals, such as mice and humans. Given these observations, we hypothesized that the composition of the canine gut microbiome could associate with aggression. We analyzed fecal microbiome samples collected from a small population of pit bull type dogs seized from a dogfighting organization. This population included twenty-one dogs that displayed conspecific aggressive behaviors and ten that did not. Beta-diversity analyses support an association between gut microbiome structure and dog aggression. Additionally, we used a phylogenetic approach to resolve specific clades of gut bacteria that stratify aggressive and non-aggressive dogs, including clades within Lactobacillus, Dorea, Blautia, Turicibacter, and Bacteroides. Several of these taxa have been implicated in modulating mammalian behavior as well as gastrointestinal disease states. Although sample size limits this study, our findings indicate that gut microorganisms are linked to dog aggression and point to an aggression-associated physiological state that interacts with the gut microbiome. These results also indicate that the gut microbiome may be useful for diagnosing aggressive behaviors prior to their manifestation and potentially discerning cryptic etiologies of aggression.
This is a submission to PeerJ for review.
Co-variate data for all dogs included in our study
Two clades within Turicibacter that manifest opposite associations with aggression
This image is similar to figure 3, except that two clades within a subtree of Turicibacter highlighted: node1504, which is common to and more abundant in the aggressive dogs, and node 1573, which is common to and more abundant in the non-aggressive dogs.