HELSINKI, Finland — When nature calls, dogs often leave an untidy mess for their owners to take care of. If you’re hoping to keep your pup’s business as healthy and easy to clean up as possible, a new study out of Finland may interest you. University of Helsinki researchers report feeding puppies a raw food diet reduces the likelihood they’ll develop inflammatory bowel disease later. (On a related note, you might want to review our list of best puppy foods here).
It’s most important to implement this diet during the pup’s late suckling stages until around two months of age. Study authors add, however, that continuing a raw diet until the pup is six months-old also appears to be beneficial. Conversely, feeding young puppies dry food may increase their IBD risk.
What else can influence bowel health in puppies?
The team notes IBD onset depends on more than just diet. Other factors, such as gender, age, and maternal IBD history all play a role in determining whether or not a dog will develop bowel issues at some point in life.
“Puppies whose dam suffered from IBD had a 7.9-fold risk of developing the disease, with male puppies carrying a risk that was 2.1 times that of female puppies. IBD was most prevalent among 5- to 10-year-old dogs,” says principal study investigator Manal Hemida, DVM, from the Helsinki One Health network, in a university release.
If a female dog receives their vaccinations just before or during a pregnancy, researchers say their offspring are 1.5 times more likely to develop IBD. Similarly, underweight puppies are 1.4 times more likely to experience IBD.
“However, it is still unclear if the lower body weight is a consequence of undiagnosed early IBD. All of our study’s findings may suggest causal relationships, but do not prove them. Future prospective longitudinal dietary intervention studies are needed to confirm our findings, as well as to develop primary strategies for IBD prevention in dogs,” adds Docent Anna Hielm-Björkman, leader of the DogRisk research group.
The study appears in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.