Who doesn't want his or her pooch to be healthy and away from inflammatory bowel diseases? The findings of a new study may be of further help to pet parents on how to keep a puppy's gut healthy.
According to the study, a raw diet, starting right from the late stages of suckling to roughly two months of age, may reduce the prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in dogs later in life.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Helsinki, was published in the journal, Frontiers in Veterinary Science.
In addition to this, a raw diet administered subsequently up to six months was found to have a positive effect. At the same time, the study indicates that feeding dry food to puppies early on in their lives can increase the incidence of IBD later. In addition to the diet, the maternal history of IBD, as well as the dog's gender and age, were associated with the onset of the disease in adulthood.
"Puppies, whose dam suffered from IBD, had a 7.9-fold risk of developing the disease, with the risk for male puppies being 2.1 times than that for female puppies. IBD was most prevalent among 5-to 10-year-old dogs," said Manal Hemida, DVM, the principal investigator of the study from the Helsinki One Health network.
Vaccinations given to dams during or just prior to pregnancy made the likelihood of IBD in their offspring 1.5-times more compared to puppies, whose dams had not been vaccinated in the corresponding period.
Another relevant factor was the puppies' weight: slim puppies had a 1.4-fold chance of developing the disease in adulthood as compared to puppies with normal weight.
"However, it is still unclear if the lower bodyweight is a consequence of undiagnosed early IBD. All of our study's findings may suggest causal relationships, but do not prove them. Future prospective longitudinal dietary intervention studies are needed to confirm our findings, as well as to develop primary strategies for IBD prevention in dogs," said Docent Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, leader of the DogRisk research group.
As data for the study, the researchers utilised an online feeding survey introduced in 2009 by the DogRisk research group of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki.
The study investigated environmental exposures in four early life stages of dogs, two of which were the dog's intra-uterine life as a foetus and the lactation period, during which newborns receive all of their nutrition from suckling. The latter two stages were the early (1-2 months of age) and late (2-6 months of age) puppyhood periods.