NUTRITIONAL EPIDEMIOLOGY IN CANINE POPULATION: USING PET DOGS AS AN ANIMAL MODEL FOR STUDYING DIET-DISEASE ASSOCIATIONS

L. Uusitalo PhD, S. Beasley PhD, M. Palmunen DVM, L. Korkalo MSc, J. Roine MSc, A. Hielm-Björkman DVM, PhD

The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland

 


Rationale

Open questions in using traditional animal experiments:

•Ethical considerations

•Generalizability of the results to human populations

Applying methods of nutritional epidemiology to analyze the diet-disease relationships in pet dogs is a novel approach which combines some of the advantages of animal and human research:

Strenghts in comparison with human epidemiology

•Shorter lifespan → Shorter follow-up times to endpoint, results faster

•Diet tends to be more monotonous → Improved reliability of long-term dietary estimates

•Feeding in owner's control

Strenghts in comparison with animal experiments

•Non-invasive, observative studies → Minor ethical problems

•Living conditions shared with humans

•Many human health problems occur spontaneously in pet dogs- e.g. atopic disorders, osteoarthritis, diabetes, epilepsy, overweight, and cancer

DOGRISK project

Multidisciplinary project involving veterinary science and human nutritional epidemiology

•Data collected on feeding, living conditions, and diseases of Finnish pet dogs

•Owner-administered internet-based questionnaire now under validation

•10072 collected answers between December 2009 and April 2015

Feeding data

•Collected separately for puppyhood, youth, and adulthood periods

•Intended to cover the total diet

•47 feeding frequency questions with dropdown menus for further specifications

• Five frequency options ranging from "never" to "daily or almost daily".

•Huge variation in size of the dog - no 'standard meal sizes' → no inferences on amounts eaten will be made

Other data

•Questions on 43 disease conditions, including age at first occurrence, recurrence, and specific diagnosis

•Dog characteristics (e.g. breed), living conditions (e.g. house type, time outdoors), health status of the dog's dam

Perspectives

Epidemiological analyses of diet-disease associations: diseases shared with humans

•Testing existing hypotheses

•Generating novel hypotheses to be further tested in dogs and humans

•Analyzing interactions of environmental factors and feeding in relation to disease risks

•Modifying human dietary assessment methods for optimal performance in dogs and other pet species

 ICDAM Conference. September 2015. Brisbane, Australia. Poster.