HELSINKI, Finland — A new study finds what you feed your puppy today may determine their health in the years to come (see our list of best puppy foods here). Scientists from the University of Helsinki investigated the connection between a puppy’s diet early in life and allergies or immune system-related skin symptoms in adulthood. In short, the findings suggest puppies should be eating more raw food.
“The puppies that had been fed raw tripe, raw organ meats, and human meal leftovers during puppyhood showed significantly less allergy and atopy related skin symptoms in adult life. On the other hand, puppies not getting any raw foods, eating most of their food as dry food, i.e. kibble, being fed fruits, and heat-dried animal parts, had significantly more allergy and atopy related skin symptoms in adulthood,” says DogRisk research group team leader, Docent Anna Hielm-Björkman from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, in a university release.
Researchers tracked over 4,000 dogs for this project, assessing both general diets and individual food items. They determined each dog’s typical diet using a series of online surveys completed by owners while the pups were two to six months-old.
More raw food leads to better health
Study authors report that a puppy’s diet consisting of at least 20 percent raw food or less than 80 percent dry food led to a much lower prevalence of allergies and immune system-related skin problems in adulthood. Similarly, pups who were fed mostly dry food or no raw food at all were much more likely to develop allergies or skin conditions.
Processed commercial dog foods, such as canned or sausage-packed foods, also appear to cause health issues later in life, the researchers say. Puppies whose diets contained more than 20 percent of such processed foods were more likely to develop allergies or skin issues. Canines that never ate processed dog food displayed decreased disease prevalence.
“These findings indicate that it was the raw food component that was the beneficial health promotor,” Hielm-Björkman adds, “and that even as little as 20% of the diet being raw foods, already gives health benefits.”
‘Fresh’ meat helps out too
Notably, even pups who ate wild animals outside were less likely to develop allergies or skin problems.
“Our mission is to find ways for the dog-owner to impact their own pet’s health-span. We could see an association between lower prevalence of allergy and atopy related skin symptoms as adult and serving puppies fresh foods and avoiding processed foods as well as sweet fruits. That’s a good start for any owner,” comments main researcher Manal Hemida, DVM from the DogRisk research group and from the Helsinki One Health network.
“However, the study only suggests a causal relationship but does not prove it. Diet intervention studies are required to further elucidate the in-depth association between the development of atopy and allergy related skin symptoms and dietary factors such as raw and dry foods, human meal left-overs and the correct dosing of oils.”
The study is published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.