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Pharmacological levels of zinc oxide (ZnO) can improve the health of weaning piglets and influence the intestinal microbiota. This experiment aimed at studying the dose-response effect of five dietary concentrations of ZnO on small intestinal bacteria and metabolite profiles. Fifteen piglets, weaned at 25 ± 1 days of age, were allocated into five groups according to body weight and litter. Diets were formulated to contain 50 (basal diet), 150, 250, 1000 and 2500 mg zinc/kg by adding analytical-grade (>98% purity) ZnO to the basal diet and fed ad libitum for 14 days after a 7-day adaptation period on the basal diet. Ileal bacterial community profiles were analysed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and selected bacterial groups quantified by real-time PCR. Concentrations of ileal volatile fatty acids (VFA), D- and L-lactate and ammonia were determined. Species richness, Shannon diversity and evenness were significantly higher at high ZnO levels. Quantitative PCR revealed lowest total bacterial counts in the 50 mg/kg group. Increasing ZnO levels led to an increase (p = 0.017) in enterobacteria from log 4.0 cfu/g digesta (50 mg/kg) to log 6.7 cfu/g digesta (2500 mg/kg). Lactic acid bacteria were not influenced (p = 0.687) and clostridial cluster XIVa declined (p = 0.035) at highest ZnO level. Concentration of total, D- and L-lactate and propionate was not affected (p = 0.736, p = 0.290 and p = 0.630), but concentrations of ileal total VFA, acetate and butyrate increased markedly from 50 to 150 mg/kg and decreased with further increasing zinc levels and reached low levels again at 2500 mg/kg (p = 0.048, p = 0.048 and p = 0.097). Ammonia decreased (p < 0.006) with increasing dietary ZnO level. In conclusion, increasing levels of dietary ZnO had strong and dose-dependent effects on ileal bacterial community composition and activity, suggesting taxonomic variation in metabolic response to ZnO.