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Feeding practices of dog breeders in the United States and Canada

Kevin M. Connolly PhD1, Cailin R. Heinze VMD, MS2, and Lisa M. Freeman DVM, PhD3
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.

Abstract

Objective—To determine the proportion of dog breeders who fed diets meeting the Association of American Feed Control Officials regulations for nutritional adequacy for reproduction and growth and to investigate factors that influenced feeding practices of breeders.

Design—Web-based cross-sectional survey.

Sample—2,067 dog breeders from the United States and Canada.

Procedures—A self-administered, anonymous, Web-based questionnaire was used to collect information on breeder demographics and feeding practices during 3 life stages of dogs: adult maintenance for nonpregnant dogs, gestation-lactation, and puppy growth. Appropriateness of commercial diets for each life stage was determined by respondent-reported nutritional adequacy statements on product labels. Data were also collected regarding breeder criteria for diet selection and sources of nutrition information.

Results—A substantial number of breeders reported feeding commercial diets not intended for that life stage during gestation-lactation (126/746 [16.9%]) and puppy growth (57/652 [8.7%]). Additionally, approximately one-seventh of breeders reported feeding home-prepared diets for ≥ 1 life stage. Unsubstantiated health and marketing information influenced diet selection of many breeders. Veterinarians, although generally viewed as a trusted source of nutrition information, were consulted by only 823 of 1,669 (49.3%) breeders and were viewed less favorably by breeders feeding home-prepared diets, compared with the opinion of breeders feeding commercial diets.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Veterinarians should consider taking a more proactive role in directing dog breeders and other pet owners toward scientifically substantiated sources of diet information and in explaining the importance of current nutritional standards for reproduction and early development of dogs.

Abstract

Objective—To determine the proportion of dog breeders who fed diets meeting the Association of American Feed Control Officials regulations for nutritional adequacy for reproduction and growth and to investigate factors that influenced feeding practices of breeders.

Design—Web-based cross-sectional survey.

Sample—2,067 dog breeders from the United States and Canada.

Procedures—A self-administered, anonymous, Web-based questionnaire was used to collect information on breeder demographics and feeding practices during 3 life stages of dogs: adult maintenance for nonpregnant dogs, gestation-lactation, and puppy growth. Appropriateness of commercial diets for each life stage was determined by respondent-reported nutritional adequacy statements on product labels. Data were also collected regarding breeder criteria for diet selection and sources of nutrition information.

Results—A substantial number of breeders reported feeding commercial diets not intended for that life stage during gestation-lactation (126/746 [16.9%]) and puppy growth (57/652 [8.7%]). Additionally, approximately one-seventh of breeders reported feeding home-prepared diets for ≥ 1 life stage. Unsubstantiated health and marketing information influenced diet selection of many breeders. Veterinarians, although generally viewed as a trusted source of nutrition information, were consulted by only 823 of 1,669 (49.3%) breeders and were viewed less favorably by breeders feeding home-prepared diets, compared with the opinion of breeders feeding commercial diets.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Veterinarians should consider taking a more proactive role in directing dog breeders and other pet owners toward scientifically substantiated sources of diet information and in explaining the importance of current nutritional standards for reproduction and early development of dogs.

Contributor Notes

Supported by a grant from the Merial Veterinary Scholars Program.

Presented as an abstract at the Merial-NIH Veterinary Scholars Symposium, Loveland, Colo, August 2012, and the 2013 Nestlé-Purina Companion Animal Nutrition Summit, Atlanta, Ga, March 2013.

The authors thank Lauren M. Conoscenti and Dana Silverberg for technical assistance.

Address correspondence to Dr. Heinze (cailin.heinze@tufts.edu).