Effect of dietary protein content and tryptophan supplementation on dominance aggression, territorial aggression, and hyperactivity in dogs

Jean S. DeNapoli Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, Grafton, MA 01536.

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Nicholas H. Dodman Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, Grafton, MA 01536.

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Louis Shuster Departments of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111.

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William M. Rand Community Health, School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111.

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Kathy L. Gross Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc, Science and Technology Center, PO Box 1658, Topeka, KS 66601-1658.

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Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the effect of high- and lowprotein diets with or without tryptophan supplementation on behavior of dogs with dominance aggression, territorial aggression, and hyperactivity.

Design—Prospective crossover study.

Animals—11 dogs with dominance aggression, 11 dogs with territorial aggression, and 11 dogs with hyperactivity.

Procedure—In each group, 4 diets were fed for 1 week each in random order with a transition period of not < 3 days between each diet. Two diets had low protein content (approximately 18%), and 2 diets had high protein content (approximately 30%). Two of the diets (1 low-protein and 1 high-protein) were supplemented with tryptophan. Owners scored their dog's behavior daily by use of customized behavioral score sheets. Mean weekly values of 5 behavioral measures and serum concentrations of serotonin and tryptophan were determined at the end of each dietary period.

Results—For dominance aggression, behavioral scores were highest in dogs fed unsupplemented high-protein rations. Tryptophan-supplemented low-protein diets were associated with significantly lower behavioral scores than low-protein diets without tryptophan supplements.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—For dogs with dominance aggression, the addition of tryptophan to high-protein diets or change to a low-protein diet may reduce aggression. For dogs with territorial aggression, tryptophan supplementation of a low-protein diet may be helpful in reducing aggression. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:504–508)

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the effect of high- and lowprotein diets with or without tryptophan supplementation on behavior of dogs with dominance aggression, territorial aggression, and hyperactivity.

Design—Prospective crossover study.

Animals—11 dogs with dominance aggression, 11 dogs with territorial aggression, and 11 dogs with hyperactivity.

Procedure—In each group, 4 diets were fed for 1 week each in random order with a transition period of not < 3 days between each diet. Two diets had low protein content (approximately 18%), and 2 diets had high protein content (approximately 30%). Two of the diets (1 low-protein and 1 high-protein) were supplemented with tryptophan. Owners scored their dog's behavior daily by use of customized behavioral score sheets. Mean weekly values of 5 behavioral measures and serum concentrations of serotonin and tryptophan were determined at the end of each dietary period.

Results—For dominance aggression, behavioral scores were highest in dogs fed unsupplemented high-protein rations. Tryptophan-supplemented low-protein diets were associated with significantly lower behavioral scores than low-protein diets without tryptophan supplements.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—For dogs with dominance aggression, the addition of tryptophan to high-protein diets or change to a low-protein diet may reduce aggression. For dogs with territorial aggression, tryptophan supplementation of a low-protein diet may be helpful in reducing aggression. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:504–508)

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