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A healthy weight starts with healthy habits

A look through the latest literature on nutrition

by
01 December 2014, at 12:00am

Feeding practices of dog breeders in the United States and Canada

Kevin Connolly and others, Tufts University, North Grafton, Massachusetts

Good nutrition is essential in breeding animals to optimise fertility and the survival and development of the resulting offspring. The authors investigated the proportion of dog breeders providing diets for their animals which met the Association of American Feed Control Officials regulations on adequate nutritional standards for reproduction and growth. They also assessed the factors influencing feeding practices.

More than 2,000 breeders throughout the US and Canada were invited to complete anonymous web- based questionnaires. A substantial number of respondents reported feeding commercial diets that were not intended for that life-stage during gestation or lactation (16.9%) or the puppies’ growth stage (8.7%). Around one in seven breeders reported feeding a home-prepared diet for one or more life stages.

Veterinarians were generally viewed as a trusted source of nutritional advice but were consulted on this issue by only 49.3% of respondents. Veterinary advice was regarded less favourably by those breeders who prepared their own diets for their animals. The authors suggest that practitioners should take a more proactive role in explaining the benefits of scientifically-formulated diets. 

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 245 (6): 669-676.

Use of a topical gel containing essential oils and antioxidants in tackling "dog breath"

Samuel Low and others, University of Florida, Gainesville

Instructions on basic dental care for pets will be offered by most veterinary practices but the numbers of clients who regularly follow that advice would appear to be disappointing. 

The authors examined the potential value of a topically applied gel containing the essential oils menthol and thymol, and the polyphenolic antioxidants phloretin and ferulic acid applied twice daily for four weeks in a blinded, placebo- controlled crossover study. A clinician’s assessment of halitosis levels showed that there was a reduction in malodour in both groups but the improvement was significantly greater in those dogs switching from the placebo to the active treatment group. 

American Journal of Veterinary Research 75 (7): 653-657.

Confounding factors in dietary elimination trials in dogs with food allergies

Jacqueline Parr and Rebecca Remillard, Angell Animal Medical Centre, Boston

Owners of dogs undergoing dietary elimination trials to identify food allergies are encouraged to avoid giving their animals flavoured over-the-counter products such as wormers or toothpaste for the duration of the study. Such products are thought to contain proteins that may confound the results. 

The authors investigated whether there were soy, pork or beef antigens present in these products. They found that a number of veterinary therapeutic products contained antigens that were not included in the ingredient list. They recommend contacting the manufacturer of products such as gelatin-based capsules to determine what antigens they might contain. 

Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 50 (5): 298-304.

Effects of an iodine-restricted diet on client-owned cats with hyperthyroidism 

Marieke van der Jooij and others, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Hyperthyroidism is now recognised as one of the commonest endocrine disorders in middle-aged and older cats. Medical, surgical and radiotherapy treatments have all been used successfully in managing the condition and now there is a further option involving an iodine-restricted diet.

The authors studied the safety and efficacy of this nutritional therapy in 225 client-owned cats. Circulating total thyroxine levels were typically reduced to within the normal range by week four of treatment and remained so throughout the rest of the eight-week study. 

Other clinical parameters such as polyuria, polydipsia, weight loss and hair coat quality also showed significant improvements by week four.

Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 16 (6): 491-496.

Dietary fibre composition of feline diets used in the management of obesity and diabetes

Tammy Owens and others, University of California, Davis

Diets with low carbohydrate and high protein may be advantageous in the management of feline diabetes mellitus cases. However, while most commercial cat food labels indicate the crude fibre content they generally give little information on physiologically more important measures such as insoluble dietary fibre and low molecular weight soluble dietary fibre. 

The authors analysed the content of 25 commercial dry and tinned dietary products. Their findings showed that crude fibre concentrations were not a reliable indicator of total dietary fibre levels and their use may result in an overestimate of both the carbohydrate and energy content of the diet.

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 245 (1): 99-105.

Effects of nutraceutical supplements and exercise on activity in aged horses

M. H. Hugler and others, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Stiff joints are considered by owners of aged equines to be one of the main signs of age-related changes in their animals. Dietary supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate have reported anti-inflammatory properties on equine bone and cartilage cells in vitro but there is inadequate data on their effects in vivo

The authors looked at the results of a mixed supplement given daily for three months on the gait of 24 geriatric horses. There were no observable changes in limb function in the treatment group although improvements in gait were seen in the control group, which were attributed to the benefits of increased exercise. 

Equine Veterinary Journal 46 (5): 611- 617.

Medical treatment for the inappetent cat

Wendy Agnew and Rachel Korman, Veterinary Specialist Services, Underwood, Queensland

Inappetence is a common condition in cats and may cause physiological disturbances that exacerbate the underlying disease that causes the loss of appetite. The authors note that the first priority is to identify and treat the causal condition but suggest that pharmacological appetite stimulants may help in the management of these cases.

They examine the pros and cons of the many different agents that have been proposed to encourage ill cats to feed, but warn that there are significant problems with many of these options. Only cyproheptadine and mirtazapine are recommended for use in these patients.

Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 16 (9): 749-756.

Time of concentrate feeding influences subsequent feed intake in dairy cattle

Akbar Nikkhah, University of Zanjan, Iran

The time of day that housed dairy cattle receive concentrate feed has been shown to affect their later behavioural and physiological responses to food. 

The author investigated the effect of giving concentrate at either 9am or 9pm. His results showed that an evening feed increased the amount of feed consumed within the next three hours. 

Overall, however, the provision of concentrate at night increased dry matter intake in primiparous but not in multiparous cows. Time of feeding is therefore confirmed as a determinant of postprandial circadian intake patterns in lactating dairy cattle.

Cattle Practice 22 (1): 92-94.

Nutrient composition of commercial dog milk replacers compared with natural milk

Caitlin Heinze and others, Tufts University, North Grafton, Massachusetts

Commercial dog milk replacers have been available for decades for use in rearing orphan puppies, helping to manage large litters and to assist in the weaning process. 

The authors investigated how well the composition of these products compares with natural canine milk. Analysis of 15 brands showed substantial variation in nutrient composition and that some were much closer than others to the natural product. 

Nearly all these products would benefit from more accurate calcium, amino acid or essential fatty acid concentrations, and more appropriate feeding directions. 

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 244 (12): 1,413-1,422.

Effects of a high grain diet in altering intestinal structure in small ruminants

Jun-hua Liu and others, Nanjing Agricultural University, China

Ruminants kept in intensive production systems will frequently receive a diet rich in grains and readily fermentable carbohydrates. The authors questioned whether these diets may have an effect on epithelial barrier function in the gastrointestinal system of goats. 

After seven weeks on a diet containing 65% grain, the omasal contents of these animals had a significantly lower pH than others receiving a hay-based diet. There were also significant changes in omasal epithelial structure and in the expression of the tight junction proteins claudin-4 and occludin. 

The Veterinary Journal 201 (1): 95-100.

Primary anoestrus due to dietary hyperthyroidism in a miniature pinscher

Besim Hasan Hontas and others, University of Veterinary Sciences, Vienna, Austria

Hyperthyroidism is a relatively rare condition in dogs and is usually the result of a neoplasm affecting the thyroid glands although recent cases have been reported where there is dietary involvement, due to the ingestion of raw glandular material. 

The authors describe an unusual case of hyperthyroidism in a two- year-old bitch which had received a raw diet from birth. The bitch was referred for investigations into primary anoestrus and had previously received a 40-day course of cabergoline, used to treat false pregnancy. 

Elevated thyroxine levels were found in the dog’s serum and in the juices of the raw meat on which it was fed. After changing to a conventional diet, the bitch conceived and gave birth to five puppies. 

Canadian Veterinary Journal 55 (80): 781-788.

Recurrent gastric dilatation linked to autonomic neuropathy in a Great Dane

Joseph Spoo and Diane Shelton, Tea Veterinary Clinic, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

A five-year-old spayed female Great Dane was presented with recurrent episodes of gastric dilatation and one incident of gastric rupture. A range of symptomatic treatments were attempted but failed to influence the clinical course of the disease. 

Biopsies taken from the biceps femoris and triceps brachii muscles showed a pattern of denervation atrophy indicating possible polyneuropathy. The animal was euthanised and a post-mortem examination revealed a severe loss of myelinated fibres with extensive endoneurial fibrosis in the vagus nerve, consistent with an autonomic neuropathy.

Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 50 (3): 221-226. 

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