Raw food vs. kibble – What is the impact on dogs’ metabolism?

A pilot study performed at the University of Helsinki faculty of Veterinary Medicine has given a preliminary overview of how commercial raw and kibble diets impact canine metabolism

For decades, anecdotal evidence has given weight to the argument that a raw meat–based diet is beneficial for the metabolic health of canines, yet much remains to be proven scientifically. Canine atopic dermatitis, a common skin disease in canines, has also been linked to metabolic health, but its relation to diet remains poorly understood. Hence, a study by Robin Moore aimed to provide information regarding how dietary choice is linked to metabolic health and canine atopic dermatitis.

Healthy and atopic canines were split into two cohorts based on diet, and were fed either a commercially available high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate raw meat–based diet or a commercially available moderate-fat, moderate-protein, high-carbohydrate kibble diet for several months, after which blood and urine samples were analysed, as well as the severity of canine atopic dermatitis.

The differences between the metabolic profiles of the kibble-fed and raw-fed dogs were large, but there were no significant differences between the healthy and atopic canines, either before or after the diet intervention. However, it was observed that the underlying atopic dermatitis condition may modulate the canines’ metabolic response to either diet, as the greatest differences between diet cohorts were found in the atopic individuals at the end of the diet intervention.

“Although quite preliminary, our pilot study suggests that certain changes to the metabolite profile of the raw meat-based diet cohort may be beneficial, while changes to the kibble diet cohort may detrimental to metabolic health,” says Robin Moore, a researcher at the University of Helsinki faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

The raw-fed dogs had significantly higher carnitine and creatine concentrations at the end of the diet trial, likely due to the higher content of these compounds in their diet. They also had higher serum ribose-5-phosphate concentrations, indicating that their metabolism may have shifted towards a heavier reliance on fats and proteins for energy.

“Observing this result made sense for a diet that has little to no sugar and is composed mainly of raw meat,” Moore continues.

The kibble-fed dogs had higher concentrations of sulfur-containing amino acids, which are involved in many detoxification and gene regulation processes, including homocysteine clearance via the transsulfuration pathway and the methionine cycle.

“The robust differences seen in both blood and urine indicate that the canines’ immune system may be more active in the kibble-fed dogs, particularly those that were atopic,” Moore adds.

Citrulline and proline were also found in higher concentrations in the kibble-fed dogs, indicating that the urea cycle was affected by diet as well. Lastly, several bile acids whose higher concentrations have previously been shown to be associated with various chronic pathologies were found in the kibble-fed dogs.

“However, the results are preliminary, and future studies are still needed to clarify these issues,” Robin concludes.

Original publication: Targeted Metabolomics With Ultraperformance Liquid Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry (UPLC-MS) Highlights Metabolic Differences in Healthy and Atopic Staffordshire Bull Terriers Fed Two Different Diets, A Pilot Study. DOI https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.554296

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