Cat Immune Health
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.
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.
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.
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.
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