Dry food is less suitable for young dogs

A recent study shows that puppies fed unprocessed red meat, fish, offal, eggs, raw bones, and cooked potatoes, vegetables and berries exhibited significantly better health than puppies fed heavily processed kibble.


Helsinki (Finland). New research suggests that feeding puppies and young dogs more naturally could improve their gut health and protect them from certain chronic conditions. A diet that includes raw meat, offal, fish, eggs, raw bones, cooked potatoes, vegetables, and berries may be better than highly processed, high-carb kibble and rawhide chews, which appear to be of little benefit to gut health. Although a study by Finnish veterinarians found a link between diet in the first year and a half of dogs’ lives and later development of chronic gut disease, they emphasize that more research is needed to establish a causal link.

While the study does not make a definitive statement about what type of diet is best for dogs, it does underscore the importance of diet in the development of pet gut health. The results show that a more natural diet tailored to the needs of puppies and young dogs can potentially be beneficial. However, it is important to note that the needs of adult dogs can be different and more research is needed to determine what type of diet is best for pets. Ultimately, it is important for pet owners to understand the needs of their animals and ensure they are receiving a balanced and healthy diet.


Leftovers from the table seem to be beneficial

In their study, published in the journal Nature , Anna Hielm-Björkman from the University of Helsinki and her colleagues write that giving dogs leftover food could be a possible mechanism underlying the observed associations. An intimate bond between human and dog could reduce the stress that a puppy feels and positively influence the immune system of both dog and owner. The researchers see another possibility in the fact that the dogs absorb certain microorganisms through the leftovers from the table, which can have a positive effect on digestion.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 16,000 dog owner reports in a long-term Finnish survey. They focused on the nutrition of puppies (2 to 6 months old) and young dogs (6 to 18 months old) and the occurrence of symptoms of chronic enteropathy. The prevalence of this inflammatory bowel disease in dogs in veterinary clinics worldwide varies from 1 to 17.8 percent. The results of the study suggest that a more natural diet, tailored to the needs of puppies and young dogs, can improve gut health and protect against certain chronic conditions.

Classic chewing bones rather harmful

When analyzing the data, two relationships in particular stood out. The risk of intestinal problems was reduced by 33 percent when puppies were fed raw bones and cartilage several times a week. If berries were given occasionally, the risk went down by almost 29 percent. On the other hand, according to the findings of the Finnish researchers, it really could not be good for the intestines to frequently give rawhide chew bones to keep them busy. In puppies fed these highly processed products daily, the researchers observed a 117 percent higher risk of later developing inflammatory bowel disease.

Veterinarians confirm study results

The vets found that feeding unprocessed food and leftovers during puppyhood was associated with an approximately 22 percent reduced risk of chronic enteropathy. In comparison, the risk increased by almost 29 percent when using highly processed dog food. The connection was similar in young dogs, but not as clear. Unprocessed food and leftovers reduced the risk by almost 13 percent and 24 percent, respectively, while highly processed dry food increased the risk by almost 15 percent.


Anna Hielm-Björkman and her team summarize the results of their study as follows: Feeding raw bones and cartilage, as well as leftovers and scraps during puppyhood and young dogs, and berries during puppyhood was associated with a lower risk of developing a chronic enteropathy. On the other hand, the administration of highly processed, carbohydrate-rich dry food during puppyhood and young doghood, as well as dog chews during puppyhood, were significant risk factors for the onset of chronic enteropathy later in life.

Earlier dog diets caused fewer diseases

In the past, dogs were often given leftover food, a smattering of fresh meat, cheese, and an egg. However, with the rise of the animal feed industry, this habit lost importance. The advertisements suggested that the ready-made food contained everything the dog needed, and made owners afraid that their beloved four-legged friend would not be adequately cared for if he only ate from the table. The trend towards raw feeding, also known as “Barf”, which is based on the food intake in the wild, is the polar opposite of dry and canned food and requires a lot of attention from the owners. The traditional practice of grandparents, in which dogs were given leftovers, was almost forgotten.

However, the results of a new study from Finland suggest that the grandparents may have been right – at least when it comes to gut health. Feeding leftovers and fresh meat was associated with a lower risk of chronic enteropathy in dogs. In contrast, highly processed dry and canned food and dog chews posed significant risk factors for the onset of chronic enteropathy later in life.

Nature; doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-27866-z

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