According to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, feeding your puppy a non-processed and meat-based diet — which includes table scraps and leftovers from your meals — might help in protecting your furry companion against gastrointestinal disorders at a later stage in the dog’s life. Whereas puppies who regularly ate rawhide chews and a carbohydrates-based processed kibble diet were at an increased risk of suffering from gastrointestinal diseases like chronic enteropathies as adult dogs.
“Canine chronic enteropathies (CE) and human infammatory bowel diseases (IBD) share many similarities,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “Symptoms include persistent and/or recurrent vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal sounds and gas, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, nausea and/or weight loss which last longer than three weeks. Te symptoms have severe and stressful impacts on the dog’s life and increase the caregiver burden of the owner.”
While the factors which contribute to the development of CE in dogs and IBD in adults are still unknown, studies have found that some causes could be genetic predisposition, lower diversity in gut microbiota, and even consuming highly processed diets. “In humans, the Western diet which contains ultra-processed foods and high amounts of sugar has been connected to IBD risk. Thus a greater understanding of dietary choices and dietary components that are a risk or can have a protective effect can help in preventing the disease. As early dietary exposures are modifiable, the dog owners would then have a chance to act proactively and have an impact on their dog’s health,” the researchers added.
To delve deeper, Kristiina Vuori and colleagues at the University of Helsinki used data from an online questionnaire called DogRisk where pet parents are told to answer questions related to their dog’s diet. This includes what type of food and how often they feed their dogs and also, during which stage of the dog’s life. The data the researchers used included around 16,607 answers. While 4,681 diets were of puppies who were two to six months old, the researchers studied 3,926 diets of adolescent dogs who were six to 18 months old in 2019.
Each dog’s dietary patterns were then associated with whether or not that particular dog developed CE at a later stage in their life or not. In that sample size, dog parents had reported that 21.7% puppies had experienced CE symptoms and another 17.8% from the adolescent group.
The team observed that dogs who were regularly fed non-processed diets which included raw red meat, fish, eggs, bones, vegetables, and berries, were at a lower risk of suffering from CE symptoms during adulthood. Surprisingly, even feeding puppies table scraps or leftovers from human beings’ meals like cooked potatoes and fish were associated with a healthy gut or up to 22.3% reduced risk of CE later in life. Raw bones or cartilage being fed to puppies a few times a week was linked to a 33% reduced risk.
“Dry dog food is ultra-processed by heat treatment, rendering, milling, and/or extrusion and contains food additives such as emulsifiers, colouring agents and palatability enhancers. In contrast, meat-based non-processed foods for dogs are composed of fresh ingredients which may be chopped, mixed, and frozen and the only additives they might contain are minerals and vitamins if needed for balancing,” the researchers noted.
“In addition, although the number of feed additives in ultra-processed carbohydrate-based dog food is vast, very little is known about their single or synergistic effects on gastrointestinal health,” they added. “Domesticated dogs can utilise non-animal foods such as plant material and carbohydrates in their diet. However, only protein and fat are essential to the dog, they do not have dietary requirements for carbohydrates. In addition, research indicates that dogs intuitively select a dietary macronutrient composition dominated by protein and fat.”