Eleonora Fusi (University of Milan) has visited Unité de médecine de l'Elevage et du Sport - Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d'Alfort, France in period October-December 2011.
Host was Dr. Laurence Yaguiyan-Colliard, the Unité de médecine de l'Elevage et du Sport [Breeding and Sports Medicine Unit] - Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d'Alfort, Maisons Alfort
1. Purpose of the visit
The aim of this visit was to assess the role of nutritional intervention to guarantee the animal health. The “lifestage nutrition” is one of the goals to achieve during the medical consultation, recognizing that either below or above an optimal nutrient concentrations can negatively affect the health. In particular, the attention is focused on the practice to feeding animals the proper foods designed to meet their optimal nutritional needs at their specific age, physiologic (i.e. growth, maintenance, or senior) or pathological state (i.e. kidney disease, cardiac disease, obesity). Nowadays, most of the owners prefers use industrial diets. Complete pet foods are usually manufactured to meet the animal minimal requirements on the basis of guidelines published by the National Research Council (NRC, 2006), which also publishes values for the safe upper limit (SUL) of nutrients. Routine use of vitamin-mineral supplements is not needed when a dog or cat eats a high quality commercial pet food. However, many owners increased the use of dietary supplements in their pet diets as mirrored to what happened in their lives (anthropomorphism). The reasons for vitamin-mineral or nutraceutical supplementation by clients can only be speculated. It may be due to clients perception that the quality of the commercial pet food was not as good as they would like, they took vitamin supplements themselves, or as a result of veterinary recommendation or a positive feeling they experienced as a result of supplementing their dog’s or cat’s diet. Several studies conducted on humans and animals showed that nutrition and nutraceutical supplementation could prevent or reduce the incidence of several diseases, but toxic effects may also occur as a result of the presence of inappropriate components in the preparation (human products) as well as by oversupplementation. So the correct use of the diet (commercial petfood, homemade diet and mixed of the two previous diets) such as dietary supplementation will offer new strategies in guaranteeing health and longevity in dogs and cats.
2. Description of the work carried out during the visit
During the STSM period, the nutritional consultations at the CHUVA (École Nationale Vétérinaire d'Alfort hospital) and USME unit were used. In order to assess and guarantee the proper diet to each patient, every visit included the collection of the complete detailed diet history for the animal (i.e. amount and type of diet that the patient received), and a brief discussion of the patient’s performance. The nutritional consultations offered the possibility to analyze the diets that the owner offered to their pet and adjust them to the real need of the animals. During the 66 nutritional consultations, 44 were canine cases, and 22 feline cases. The ideal diet was formulated for each patient using commercial petfood (dry or canned), homemade diet and mixed diet (petfood plus meat, vegetables, etc), adding, when useful, vitamin-mineral or nutraceutical supplementation.
3. Description of the main results obtained
The preliminary results obtained from the STSM project pointed to indicate that the main problem in our pets is obesity. About 21% of cases were carried out to design the proper weight management plan for both dogs and cats. For the achievement of ideal body weight were used commercial petfood diets (29%), homemade diets (14%) and mixed diets (57%). In relation to the many difficulties exposed by the owners in strictly following the suggested dietary management, the addition of cooked vegetables (zucchini) and lean meat to the petfood formulated for obesity offered the best opportunity to achieve the goal. The presence of fresh food in the diet increased the volume of the diet, favoring the satiety in the patients, but at the same time rewarded the owners and the pets.
Only one dog arrived to the consultation for underweight problem, in relation to high rate of activities performed and the amount of the petfood was increased. The rest of the underweight animals were hospitalized for other important diseases. Digestive diseases (about 20%) and renal diseases such as chronic kidney failure and urolithiasis (about 12%) were the most prominent problems. The nutritional approach to these diseases took in account to the patient needs, but also the owner economic possibilities.
In only 7.5% of cases patients were affected by cardiac problems and the dietary plan adopted was homemade diet, in relation to the anorexia and cardiac cachexia (loss of lean body mass) presented by the animals at the visit. The high palatability of fresh food allowed to restart the food consumption, providing adequate calories and protein intakes and modulating cytokine production. In fact, a major factor in this syndrome is an increased production of inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin-1 (IL-1). These inflammatory cytokines are known to directly cause anorexia, to increase energy requirements, and to increase the catabolism of lean body mass. In order to counteract the cytokines activities, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation, in particular fish oil supplementation, was prescribed for all cardiac patients, and for all patients affected by inflammatory diseases.
For the dermatological problems, most of the patients examined showed food intolerance (18%). Exclusion homemade diets were prepared and offered with optimal results, in growing animals too. The provocation test (for the discrimination of the allergens), using the old diet, were performed in only few cases. In most of the cases a strong opposition was showed by the owners.
Neoplastic afflictions represented 3% of the examined patients: in these clinical cases the nutritional suggestions were focused on contrasting anorexia and improving the condition of the patient. Adding fresh food to the usual commercial diet was the main solution adopted.
Dietary supplementation was used only in restricted cases, where the efficacy of the product was proven by literature, such as in case of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation. In order to prevent deficiencies and to balance the diet, mineral and vitamin supplementation was used in all homemade diet.
The STSM was successful because it has allowed to the fellow to learn and well trained several nutritional approaches to main diseases that afflict dogs and cats. The diet represented the starting point for examining the physio - pathological rule of nutrients in the most common diseases and the possible role of nutraceuticals in counteracting stress and diseases that compromise the animal health. This clinical training will give her the possibility to start a nutritional consultation program in her own institution.
5. Future perspectives
The collaboration with the host institution was very successful. Based on the successful collaboration during this short term scientific visit, the host and guest institutes are willing to continue the collaboration.
The continuation of this collaboration will be included the study of the role of the diet contrasting the oxidative stress in high performance working dogs, in relation to the role of the nutrients and antioxidants in these athletes.
6. Projected publications/articles resulting or to result from the STSM
It is planned to disseminate the present and on coming results at least in a conference abstract (16th Meeting of the European Society of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition, September, 2012, Poland). Possible publication in a peer-review journal such as “Archives of animal nutrition” will be also considered. The COST action Feed for Health FA0802 will be acknowledged in the resulting publications.