Objective: To assess effects of foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich fish oil on cognitive, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal function and other measures of development in healthy puppies.
Design: Evaluation study.
Animals: 48 Beagle puppies.
Procedures: Puppies were assigned to 3 groups after weaning (n = 16/group) and received 1 of 3 foods (low-DHA, moderate-DHA, or high-DHA food) as their sole source of nutrition until 1 year of age. Visual discrimination learning and memory tasks, psychomotor performance tasks, and physiologic tests including blood and serum analysis, electroretinography, and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry were performed at various time points. Anti-rabies virus antibody titers were evaluated 1, 2, 4, and 8 weeks after vaccination at 16 weeks of age.
Results: Foods had similar proximate analysis results but varied in concentration of DHA from fish oil; the high-DHA food also contained higher concentrations of vitamin E, taurine, choline, and l-carnitine than did other foods. The high-DHA group had significantly better results for reversal task learning, visual contrast discrimination, and early psychomotor performance in side-to-side navigation through an obstacle-containing maze than did the moderate-DHA and low-DHA groups. The high-DHA group had significantly higher anti-rabies antibody titers 1 and 2 weeks after vaccination than did other groups. Peak b-wave amplitudes during scotopic electroretinography were positively correlated with serum DHA concentrations at all evaluated time points.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Dietary fortification with fish oils rich in DHA and possibly other nutrients implicated in neurocognitive development following weaning improved cognitive, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in growing dogs.