Article

Effect of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty add supplementation on mental stability, problem-solving ability, and learned pattern retention in young, growing dogs

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Abstract

Behavioral modification through training is an important part of the owner-pet bond and highly impacts the quality of this relationship. The effect of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) supplementation on cognitive function was studied in five litters of puppies. From 3 weeks of age, half of each litter was supplemented with LCPUFA (docosahexaenoic acid as 1% and arachidonic acid as 2% of total fat intake) or a placebo (corn oil as 2% of total fat intake), with 20 puppies included in each treatment group. Tests for mental stability (cry and shriek test), problem solving (U maze and long maze), memory (long maze), and cue association (T maze) were performed at standard ages between 8 and 16 weeks. Differences between treatment groups for each response were tested by nonparametric analysis of variance of ranked data after accounting for differences in litters within treatment groups. No significant difference was found between treatment groups for either cry and shriek times or time to run the U maze. No differences were found for the first trial in the long maze. On the second trial, the mean, median, and minimum run times were significantly lower (P <.05) for the LCPUFA-treated puppies. The median and minimum numbers of errors were directionally (P <.10) lower for the LCPUFA-treated puppies in the long maze. There were no significant differences in run time or errors between treatment groups for the T-maze tests. LCPUFA significantly enhanced memory in puppies, as shown by response differences in the long maze. The significant improvement in memory observed in LCPUFA-fed puppies may enhance trainability and support an improved pet-owner relationship.

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... From 3 weeks of age, puppies consumed a soaked, commercial diet supplemented, as percentage of total fat intake, with 3% corn oil or 2% DHA plus 1% arachidonic acid (11,12). Fatty acid sources are not given. ...
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Puppy training is important for successful socialization and owner interaction. Teaching complex tasks concern future sporting, hunting, police or service dogs. Many new puppy owners turn to veterinary practices or obedience schools for advice and assistance. These same people may be taken by foods that claim to support healthy brain and make puppies smarter and more trainable. Such puppy foods feature omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) for strong brain development. Newborn puppies have only 10 % of their adult brain mass and considerable growth occurs during the first three months of life. DHA is a key building block for neural tissues and undoubtedly is important in brain function. Puppy foods for brain health highlight DHA, but nutrition is not the only source of brain DHA. The brain can produce DHA from ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) or take up blood DHA synthesized in other tissues. Dry foods claiming to bring about DHA-mediated improvement of a puppy's learning ability contain around 0.14% DHA. The function claim is not convincingly supported by published research data. DHA was not the only dietary variable or not reported as such. Taken together the testing of three research groups, increasing dietary DHA, from 0.02% or less to 0.14% or more, was associated with lack of benefit in 7 out of 13 learning and memory tasks. Trainability relates to puppy's ability to understand what the owner or caregiver wants, willingness to learn and remembering the tasks being taught. Nutrient-deficient diets may disrupt trainable performance, but for a puppy fed a regular, nutrient-adequate, commercial food, its intelligence and the method of training determine success. DHA requirement The dietary amount of DHA needed for growth of young dogs has not been determined experimentally. This also applies to the other omega-3 fatty acids, ALA and EPA. The adequate intakes are based on canine milk composition and an arbitrary multiplying factor (1). The recommended total amount of DHA plus EPA is 0.05% in the dietary dry matter. The minimum requirement of ALA equals 0.08% at 1.3% linoleic acid (LA). The high concentrations of DHA in the brain and retinas point at a functional role in these tissues. As happens with rat pups, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may cause subnormal growth and impaired cognitive and visual development in juvenile dogs. In puppies that had been exposed during gestation, lactation and weaning to a dry diet that approximates omega-3 requirements (ALA-EPA-DHA-LA = 0.14-0.02-0.02-1.75%), electroretinographic abnormalities were not detected (2). Extra DHA pre-and post-weaning Kelley et al. (3-9) have reported on learning ability in puppies born to bitches fed diets containing different amounts of DHA during gestation and lactation and weaned to the same diets. The diets,
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