Texas A&M Research May Impact the Way We Feed Dogs in the Future

Bauer and PuppiesCOLLEGE STATION, February 8, 2006 – Researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University are seeing more clearly the relationships between nutrition and visual performance in puppies.

They are studying correlations between dietary intake of docosahexaenoic acid, commonly known as DHA, and its effects on visual stimulus response in canines.

Dr. John E. Bauer, the Mark L. Morris Professor of Clinical Nutrition, and his associates in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences have recently published an article in the Journal of Nutrition concerning the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on neural development in puppies.

Bauer’s research focuses on dietary lipid (fat) metabolism because some fatty acids like DHA cannot be synthesized by animals, including humans, and must therefore be ingested. Bauer explains, “There is evidence in non-human primates and premature infants that omega-3 fatty acids help the overall development and functional capacity of the nervous system as measured by response to non-invasive visual stimulus.”

The team’s three-and-a-half year study, funded in part by Nestlé-Purina PetCare, involved analyzing the visual performance of dogs fed diets with different fat types. Bauer’s team provided the nutritional specifications and Nestlé-Purina’s pilot plant in St. Louis, MO, supplied the DHA-enhanced food for the study.

Bauer’s team analyzed electroretinogram (ERG) responses from a test group of 56 twelve-week-old puppies that were administered clinically safe levels of DHA from the point of gestation, throughout lactation and at the time of weaning. The team found significant improvements in visual performance with puppies on DHA diets not only in terms of perceptual intensity but also in regard to response time, transduction efficiency and low-light sensitivity.

Bauer says this nutritional research will have far-reaching effects on companion animal nutritional guidelines, especially puppy formulas and dietary supplements. He says, “This type of research will change the way we feed dogs in the future-both for gestation and puppy growth.”

Similar research is already benefiting human infant nutrition since the FDA recently approved the use of DHA in infant formula. For example, Bauer says that further comparative veterinary medical research may eventually lead to creating optimal food blends that benefit other sensory functions in companion animals, such as smelling or hearing, which may play an important role in raising and training service dogs.

For more information contact Dr. John Bauer at 979-845-9073 or e-mail.

Contact Information:
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718

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