Center for Companion Animal Health

Photo: Dog and cat eating

Nutrition and Obesity

The CCAH has recently funded several studies related to nutrition in companion animals.  A healthy diet for your pet can minimize or prevent many health problems, including obesity.  The fall 2012 issue of the CCAH Update highlights the role of nutrition research in combating obesity in pets.  Below are research summaries of the three studies cited in the fall 2012 CCAH Update.

FIBER IN PET FOODS

Total Dietary Fiber and Oligosaccharides in Obesity and Diabetes Diets

Principal Investigator: Andrea Fascetti
Co-investigators: Jennifer Larsen,  Amy Farcas, Richard Nelson

Lay Abstract:
Research has shown that there are significant health benefits from consuming increased concentrations of dietary fiber. Some diseases, such as obesity and diabetes in dogs and cats are frequently managed with changes in dietary fiber intake. In order for veterinarians to make these recommendations, it is necessary to define the concentrations and types of fiber present in pet foods. Dietary fiber may be soluble or insoluble, with varied chemical structures, and may be natural or synthetic. Oligosaccharides are a type of fiber that can be found naturally in some ingredients such as bananas and barley. Purified forms of oligosaccharides are often added to both human and pet foods to promote healthy bacterial populations. Since different fiber types do not share many common features, a single laboratory test to measure them does not exist. Pet food labels must report fiber content as “Crude Fiber” or CF as a component of the guaranteed analysis required on the product label. A recently completed study by the authors has demonstrated that the analytical test to determine CF does not accurately reflect the total fiber concentration. In contrast, fiber in human foods is measured and reported as “Total Dietary Fiber” or TDF. The test used to determine TDF measures both soluble and insoluble fiber but does not account for oligosaccharides. Most pet food companies do not report TDF or oligosaccharide concentrations on the label, or in associated product information.  This study aims to analyze a variety of canned and dry veterinary diets with added fiber to manage obesity or diabetes in dogs and cats using a test that includes both TDF and oligosaccharide content. The results will be compared to manufacturer’s values (in instances when it is available) as well to results for over-the-counter diets occasionally recommended in place of these therapeutic diets. This will help increase awareness by veterinarians and pet owners regarding the limitations of the CF information provided by the guaranteed analysis and provide more details regarding the composition of fiber, including oligosaccharides, in these therapeutic foods. Study findings may also be used as supportive data to encourage regulatory changes to improve fiber content reporting on pet food labels.

Evaluation of Fiber Content of Commercial Dog Foods Using Crude Fiber and Total Dietary Fiber Methods

Principal Investigator: Andrea Fascetti
Co-investigators: Jennifer Larsen, Amy Farcas,

Lay Abstract:
Research has shown that there are significant health benefits from consuming increased concentrations of dietary fiber. Some diseases of pets are better managed with changes in dietary fiber intake. In order for veterinarians to make these recommendations, it is necessary to define the concentrations and types of fiber present in pet foods. Dietary fiber may be soluble or insoluble, with varied chemical structures, and may be natural or synthetic. Since the different fiber types do not share many common features, a single analytical test to measure them does not exist. Pet food labels must report fiber content as “Crude Fiber” or CF. The test used to determine crude fiber measures only some of the insoluble fiber present in a food, and does not measure any soluble fiber. Since many pet foods may contain significant amounts of soluble fiber (especially canned foods), the crude fiber value on labels does not accurately reflect the total fiber concentration. In contrast, fiber in human foods is measured and reported as “Total Dietary Fiber” or TDF. The test used to determine Total Dietary Fiber measures both soluble and insoluble fiber. This study aims to analyze a variety of canned and dry dog foods using the tests for both Crude Fiber and Total Dietary Fiber content. The results will be compared to determine the degree of discrepancy between the two tests, and to evaluate for trends among diet types (canned vs. dry diets, for example). This will help increase awareness by veterinarians and pet owners regarding the limitations of the Crude Fiber information provided by the guaranteed analysis, and may be used as supportive data to encourage regulatory changes to improve fiber content reporting on pet food labels.

EVALUATING HOME-PREPARED DIET RECIPES FOR DOGS

Evaluation of Published Recipes for Canine Maintenance Diets

PI Jennifer Larsen

Resident: Jonathan Stockman

Lay abstract:

Pet nutrition has been a topic with growing interest in recent years, as many owners understand the connection between nutrition and their pet’s health. Many owners choose to prepare their pets’ diets themselves for different reasons such as distrust in commercial pet food companies, or a desire to have more control over their pet’s diet. Recipes for home-prepared pet food are widely available in media such as the internet, magazines, and books. Previous studies have shown that many home-prepared diets are not nutritionally balanced which may lead to detrimental effects when fed for extended periods of time. The current study aims to be the first large scale study to evaluate the nutritional adequacy and balance of published recipes for home-prepared diets for dogs. Computer software will be used to assess 200 recipes, while laboratory methods will be used to analyze 15 of the diets prepared as directed by the recipes. The results of these evaluations will allow comparisons with canine requirements for essential nutrients and an assessment of the adequacy of these recipes.