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It can be a real challenge to keep dogs from stealing food from countertops, unwatched plates, and soft-hearted family members. But maybe you shouldn’t try so hard – eating some human foods, even table scraps, could be good for them.
According to a new study from the University of Helsinki in Finland, puppies whose owners occasionally supplemented their dry food diet with non-processed meat (including some raw meat and bone), eggs, vegetables, and berries were around 22% less likely to develop gastrointestinal issues than those that ate exclusively kibble. Similarly, puppies that were regularly given table scraps were 23% less likely to have digestive issues. The effect appears to be more significant in puppies than in adolescent dogs, suggesting that variation in diet is most helpful from a young age.
Giving young dogs a greater variety of foods, including some raw meat, table scraps, and leftovers, appears to have a protective effect by helping them develop a balanced gut microbiome. However, veterinary experts warn that you shouldn’t suddenly switch your dog’s diet, and that dogs can get sick when their owners indiscriminately give them leftovers and raw food. More research will be needed to balance the risks and benefits of giving dogs unprocessed food.
Give a dog a bone:
- The researchers looked at over 7,000 responses to the university’s DogRisk food questionnaire to find out what puppies and adolescent dogs were eating and whether they developed any gastrointestinal issues.
- Nearly 22% of puppies and nearly 18% of adolescent dogs had issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, gas, or appetite loss lasting at least three weeks – symptoms of chronic enteropathy (CE). The average age of onset was around a year and half.
- Another interesting finding was that puppies that gnawed on rawhide chews had a significantly greater likelihood of having chronic enteropathy as an adult. On the other hand, chewing on cartilage and raw bones appeared to have a protective effect against CE – as did eating berries (especially blueberries).