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Puppies With High DHA Train Better

Although nutrition remains important throughout the puppy’s life, it is especially critical during the early developmental windows of puppy growth (pre-, neo-, and post-natal). Many breeders fail to appreciate the nutritional demands placed on the bitch during pregnancy and lactation. Much as an umbrella protects someone during a rainstorm, optimal nutrition will help protect the bitch and her progeny from the various metabolic and environmental stresses that will occur during pregnancy and lactation. During the reproductive process, a bitch’s diet must support 3 areas: 1) her body maintenance, 2) the growth of her reproductive tissues, and 3) the growth and development of her offspring. Compiled, the total nutritional requirement during pregnancy and lactation can increase several fold (3-5) above the bitch’s normal maintenance requirements.

Maintaining bitches on a diet containing the appropriate level of both n-6 and n-3 fatty acids increases litter size and decreases still-births. Additional efforts demonstrate that reproductive activity (parity number and litter size) reduces maternal essential fatty acids (EFA) stores in a linear fashion, particularly for the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Collectively, these findings suggest that maternal nutrient status is sensitive to diet and that dietary shortages could be a contributing factor for reduced maternal reproductive performance with increasing parity number.

Genetics and environment are key contributors to the development of the puppy and ultimately determine the characteristics that will be expressed as an adult. Environment can be continually modified (for better or worse) throughout growth and development, however, an animal’s genetic potential is, to a degree, fixed at the time of conception. Traditionally, nutrition has been characterized as the supply of necessary building blocks for organ and system growth. Clearly this remains vitally important; however, it is becoming increasingly evident that nutrition can also significantly impact the achievement of genetic potential in the puppy in ways not previously appreciated. Such is the case with increased puppy trainability with appropriate dietary concentrations of DHA.

The benefits of improved trainability can have long-lasting effects by strengthening the owner-companion animal bond and thus increasing the likelihood of a puppy’s successful integration of the puppy into various environments, work or households. While better nutrition cannot overcome inferior genetics and/or training programs, it certainly should not be a puppy’s limiting factor. This clearly points to the importance of continuing to expand nutritional horizons beyond the current dogma and identify opportunities to fulfill the puppy’s genetic potential through optimal nutritional support.

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