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A healthy weight starts with healthy habits

Obesity - and other nutritional issues

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01 April 2009, at 12:00am

Dry food and disease risk in cats

Tony Buffington, Ohio State University, Columbus 

An incident involving the contamination of imported pet food with toxic melamine in North America in 2007 prompted a broader debate about the safety of feeding dry diets to cats. The author reviews some of the issues surrounding the use of dry food in this species and examines the possibility of an association between carbohydrate content and the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

 Current data provide little evidence for diet and carbohydrate levels playing a direct role in the development of disease in cats. However, environmental and developmental factors may play a much greater part in the process than is generally appreciated. In the absence of conclusive data, he suggests a number of actions that owners may make to reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes, such as controlling overall food intake and environmental enrichment to encourage more physical activity.

 Canadian Veterinary Journal 49 (6): 561- 564.

Dietary sodium and the safety of commercial pet foods 

Marjorie Chandler, University of Edinburgh 

The optimal level of sodium in the diet of cats and dogs has become a controversial issue in recent years, with some veterinarians and pet food companies suggesting that salt levels in many commercial foods are too high. The author reviews evidence on the potential benefits and possible adverse effects of differing levels of dietary sodium. Healthy animals appear to cope with different amounts of sodium and high levels have no apparent ill effects on blood pressure. But there is a need for greater caution in patients with renal disease.

 Topics in Companion Animal Medicine 23 (3): 148-153.

Associations between dietary factors and pancreatitis in dogs 

Kristina Lem and others, Texas A&M University, Houston 

Anecdotal accounts have suggested a link between dietary factors and the development of pancreatitis in dogs. There is certainly a link between high fat meals and the onset of clinical signs but there is little solid data from experimental studies. The authors assess the clinical records of 198 dogs with this condition and 187 controls showing renal failure but no pancreatitis. Multivariate analysis suggests that there is a link between diet and pancreatitis but factors such as being neutered and surgery for other reasons also increase the risk.

 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 233 (9): 1,425-1,431.

Attitudes of owners towards dietary management of cats and dogs 

Kathryn Michel and others, University of Pennsylvania 

The vast majority of pet owners feed their animals commercial pet food for at least half their diet. But other sources, such as table scraps, homeprepared foods and bones are used as part of the diet for substantial numbers of animals. The authors investigate attitudes among the owners of 469 cats and 635 dogs in the USA and Australia towards the dietary needs of their animals. The results show a strong correlation between the use of home-prepared diets and owners who distrust the products of the commercial pet food industry.

 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 233 (11): 1,699- 1,703.

Cobalamin, folate and inorganic phosphate abnormalities in ill cats 

Nicola Reed and others, University of Edinburgh 

Cobalamin (vitamin B12) and folate are two water soluble vitamins needed to maintain health in cats. The authors examined levels of both compounds in cats suffering from diseases of the alimentary tract which could cause malabsorption and inadequate vitamin uptake.

 Among 103 cats, 16.5% had low cobalamin levels, 38.8% had low folate and 48% also showed abnormally low inorganic phosphate levels. These findings suggest that supplementary treatment may be necessary more often than currently recognised. 

Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 9 (4); 278-288.

Review of the role of nutrients in modulating disease 

Daniel Chan, Royal Veterinary College, London 

The role of nutrition in veterinary medicine has traditionally focused on achieving estimated dietary requirements, correcting deficiencies and as a supportive measure during convalescence. However, there is increasing evidence of nutrients having a direct role in modulating a range of disease processes. The author examines the rationale behind nutritional-based approaches to treating disease and discusses the available evidence in both human and animal studies, which may guide future therapy.

 Journal of Small Animal Practice 49 (6): 266-273.

Associations between obesity and survival in dogs with heart failure 

Jamie Slupe and others, Tufts University, Massachusetts 

Obesity is a risk factor in people with cardiovascular disease and yet survival with cardiac failure is better in overweight patients than those of normal or below normal weight. The authors examine whether the same “obesity paradox” is present in dogs with heart failure.

 In a group of 108 dogs with heart failure it was found that those animals that gained weight during the course of the disease survived longer than those that maintained or lost weight, showing that bodyweight changes may be an important consideration in these patients.

 Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 22 (3): 561-565.

Protective effect of alphatocopherol on oxidative injury in the canine retina 

G. L. Zapata and others, La Plata National University, Buenos Aires 

The retina is highly sensitive to oxidative damage due to its high polyunsaturated fatty acid content, high consumption of oxygen and exposure to light. The authors investigate the in vitro effects of alpha-tocopherol on lipid peroxidation in the canine retina. Their results show the presence of the vitamin E component and antioxidant helped maintain levels of the fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid under these experimental conditions. This suggests that alpha-tocopherol may protect the retina against damage caused by free radicals.

 The Veterinary Journal 177 (2): 266- 272.

Review of the role of commonly fed herbs in equine nutrition 

Carey Williams and Emily Lamprecht, State University of New Jersey 

Herbal products are used extensively by equine owners despite there being even less published evidence on their efficacy in the horse than in other species. The authors review the literature on the pharmacological effects of a range of herbal-based supplements, including echinacea, garlic, ginger, ginseng and yucca. They say there have been some studies demonstrating antiinflammatory and antioxidant effects but some herbs are capable of causing drug-like interactions, while others may contain prohibited substances.

 The Veterinary Journal 178 (1): 21-31.

Improvement in short-term memory in dogs receiving a nutraceutical supplement 

Joseph Araujo and others, University of Toronto 

Aged dogs may develop a form of neurodegenerative disease similar to age-related cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease in humans. The authors tested a commercial nutraceutical preparation with claimed neuroprotective effects in elderly beagles. The product, containing phosphatidyylserine, Gingko biloba, vitamin E and pyridoxine,was tested in dogs which then performed a test of short-term visuospatial memory. Performance was significantly improved in treated dogs and the effect was long lasting.

 Canadian Veterinary Journal 49 (4): 379-38

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