Puppyhood and adolescence diet may have impact on dog’s gut health later in life

Puppyhood and adolescence diet may influence the incidence of canine chronic gastrointestinal problems later in life, according to a study carried out at the University of Helsinki.

The reasons behind chronic enteropathies (CE), also referred to as long-standing gastrointestinal problems, are not well known. As data for the study, the researchers utilized data collected through an online feeding frequency survey, introduced in 2009 by the DogRisk research group. The data consists of survey answers from several thousand of Finnish dog owners on issues such as their dog’s diet at three different timepoints, the diseases their dogs have or have had, and several environmental factors.

-"A large proportion of chronic gastrointestinal ailments can be treated with diet. That is why we wanted to look at the connection between puppyhood and adolescent diet and chronic enteropathy incidence later in life" says Docent Anna Hielm-Björkman, leader of the DogRisk research group.

There is a difference in what you feed your dog

According to the study, feeding a non-processed meat-based diet (“raw food”) and giving the dog human meal leftovers and table scraps especially during puppyhood, but also at young age, were protective against CE later in life. In contrast, feeding mainly or exclusively an ultra-processed carbohydrate-based diet, namely dry dog food or “kibble”, during puppyhood or at young age, or rawhides (which in fact are not raw) often during puppyhood were found to be a significant potential risk factors for CE later in life. The quality or differences between different brands were not studied in this research.

The owner can affect the health of their dog’s gut

As protecting raw foods owners had used raw meats, raw organ meats, raw fish, raw eggs, bones and cartilage, and berries such as blueberries and lingonberries. As it was not possible to study the mechanisms behind why rawhides and kibble increased the risk of disease in this study setup, the researchers suggest that dog owners try to find out the origin and processing methods of these, and ask the manufacturers for additional information.

We could see an association between puppyhood and adolescent diet and the prevalence of chronic gastrointestinal symptoms later in life. Thus, proactive owners can influence their dogs’ gut health by providing a variety of fresh, “real” foods for the puppies and young dogs, even as an addition to a kibble-based diet” says Kristiina Vuori, PhD, from the DogRisk research group and from the Helsinki One Health network, and the main researcher of this study. “However, the study only suggests an association. Finding out detailed mechanisms and confirming the causal relationship would require diet intervention studies. We have these under way.

About CE:

Canine chronic enteropathy (CE) symptoms include persistent and/or recurrent vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, abdominal pain and weight loss which last longer than three weeks and may appear at young age or later in adulthood.  The symptoms have stressful impacts on the dog’s and owner’s life.

Further information:

Anna Hielm-Björkman +358443270462 anna.hielm-bjorkman@helsinki.fi

Original article:


Vuori, K.A., Hemida, M., Moore, R. et al. The effect of puppyhood and adolescent diet on the incidence of chronic enteropathy in dogs later in life. Sci Rep 13, 1830 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-27866-z


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