History

Cat Immune Health

Key Message

WALTHAM has contributed to the understanding of the role of dietary antioxidants in the immune function of cats by:

  • Generating insights that indicate the beneficial effects of dietary antioxidants on kitten immune health.

Background

A healthy immune system is vital throughout life. However, stress can adversely affect the immune response (Shao et al. 2003; Webster Marketon and Glaser 2008). The susceptibility to infection may therefore be increased during times of stress throughout a pet’s life. Stressors might include weaning and separation from the queen and littermates, moving home, infestation with parasites, and meeting other animals and new people, including trips to the veterinarian. This might be particularly relevant in the first few months of life when the immune system is still developing.

Nutrition affects immune function (Puertollano et al. 2011; Wintergerst et al. 2007) including both cellular and humoral immunity. For example, the dietary carotenoid astaxanthin stimulates cell-mediated and humoral immune responses in cats (Park et al. 2011) and dogs (Chew et al. 2011). Dietary antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and taurine are crucially important for protecting host cells against the oxidative stress produced during inflammatory and immune reactions.

Why WALTHAM is Interested

Antioxidant status is a critical factor in developing a healthy immune system that can respond to all immunological challenges. Understanding the impact of dietary antioxidants in developing and maintaining immune health is important for developing diets for cats at risk of immunological stress.

Approach

Routine vaccinations are recommended as part of responsible pet ownership to help maintain cat health. Measuring the response to this standard immunological challenge allowed the determination of the impact of dietary antioxidants on immune function in cats.

Insight Generation (Immune Health and Kittens)

In a study at WALTHAM, kittens were fed a standard nutritionally complete and balanced diet formulated for growth (Koelsch and Smith 2001). Of the 12 kittens participating in the study, 7 were additionally given a daily supplement of antioxidant nutrients (taurine, vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein, ?-carotene and lycopene) from the time of weaning while the other 5 received the diet alone. All the kittens were routinely vaccinated against feline herpes virus, feline panleukopenia virus, and feline calicivirus at the age of 9 weeks (primary inoculation) and 12 weeks (booster), and blood samples taken at various time points after each vaccination.

Serum vaccine-specific antibody titres were higher in the kittens which had received the antioxidant supplement, showing a stronger humoral immune response (Koelsch and Smith 2001). For feline herpes virus, the specific antibody titre was significantly greater than the un-supplemented group 4 weeks after the booster vaccination (Koelsch and Smith 2001). For feline panleukopenia virus, the difference failed to reach significance (Koelsch and Smith 2001). There was no difference observed for feline calicivirus, with only one kitten responding to the vaccine (Koelsch and Smith 2001).

Cat Immune line graph
Reproduced from Koelsch S, Smith BHE. Strengthening the barriers against feline infectious diseases: the benefits of antioxidant-enriched diets. WALTHAM Focus. 2001;11(2):32-33

 
Cat Immune line graph
Reproduced from Koelsch S, Smith BHE. Strengthening the barriers against feline infectious diseases: the benefits of antioxidant-enriched diets. WALTHAM Focus. 2001;11(2):32-33

Figure 1: Vaccine-specific antibody response in kittens receiving a diet supplemented with antioxidants compared with control (Koelsch and Smith 2001). The graphs show the significantly greater anti-feline herpes virus titre in supplemented versus control kittens (P=0.005) and the anti-panleukopenia virus titres (P=0.106)

This study indicated that a combination of dietary antioxidants may have a positive effect on kitten immune health.

References

Chew BP, Mathison BD, Hayek MG, Massimino S, Reinhart GA, Park JS. Dietary astaxanthin enhances immune response in dogs. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2011 Apr 15;140(3-4):199-206.


Koelsch S, Smith BHE. Strengthening the barriers against feline infectious diseases: the benefits of antioxidant-enriched diets. WALTHAM Focus. 2001;11(2):32-33.


Park JS, Mathison BD, Hayek MG, Massimino S, Reinhart GA, Chew BP. Astaxanthin stimulates cell-mediated and humoral immune responses in cats. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2011 Dec 15;144(3-4):455-61.


Puertollano MA, Puertollano E, de Cienfuegos GÁ, de Pablo MA. Dietary antioxidants: immunity and host defense. Curr Top Med Chem. 2011;11(14):1752-66.


Shao F, Lin W, Wang W, Washington WC Jr, Zheng L. The effect of emotional stress on the primary humoral immunity of rats. J Psychopharmacol. 2003 Jun;17(2):179-83.


Webster Marketon JI, Glaser R. Stress hormones and immune function. Cell Immunol. 2008 Mar-Apr;252(1-2):16-26.


Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(4):301-23.


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