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Dogs' diets as puppies impact how they develop allergies, study finds

Experts say raw foods were linked with the best long-term health outcomes

Puppy eating food from bowl
Photo (c) Stefan Cristian Cioata - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Helsinki explored how puppies’diets can impact their health as they get older. According to their findings, dogs are more likely to develop allergies and atopic dermatitis when they are fed fewer raw foods and more dry foods as puppies

“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,” said researcher Anna Hielm-Björkman. “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.” 

Healthy diets are beneficial for dogs, too

For the study, the researchers analyzed questionnaires from dog owners that included information on more than 4,000 dogs. Dog owners reported on what they fed their dogs when they were between two and six months old, and the researchers tracked their health outcomes into adulthood. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that puppies’ diets may impact their likelihood of developing allergies and dermatitis later in life. Raw foods were associated with a lower risk of allergies and atopic dermatitis, while dry foods and commercial dog foods were linked with a higher risk of developing allergies. 

The study showed that when puppies’ diets were comprised of 20% commercial foods or 80% dry foods, they were more likely to develop atopic dermatitis or allergies when they got older. Conversely, when 80% of their diets consisted of raw food, they were much less likely to have these health concerns. 

“These findings indicate that it was the raw food component that was the beneficial health promoter, and that even as little as 20% of the diet being raw foods, already gives health benefits,” Hielm-Björkman said. 

More research needed 

The researchers hope that more work can be done to better understand the ins and outs of how puppies’ diets can affect their long-term health. 

“We could see an association between lower prevalence of allergy and atopy-related skin symptoms as adults and serving puppies fresh foods and avoiding processed foods as well as sweet fruits,” said researcher Manal Hemida. 

“That’s a good start for any owner. 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 leftovers, and the correct dosing of oils.” 

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