History

Dog Immune Health

Key Message

WALTHAM has contributed to the understanding of the role of dietary antioxidants in the immune health of dogs by:

  • Demonstrating the positive effects of dietary antioxidants on the immune health of adult dogs.
  • Generating insights that suggest beneficial effects of dietary antioxidants on puppy immune health.
  • Creating insights that suggest a favourable impact of dietary antioxidants on maintaining a positive antibody response in adult and senior dogs.

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 bitch and littermates, moving home, 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 can affect both cellular and humoral immune function (Puertollano et al. 2011; Wintergerst et al. 2007). 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 involved in developing a healthy immune system that can effectively respond to all immunological challenges. Understanding the influence of dietary antioxidants on development and maintenance of immune health is important when developing diets for dogs at risk of immunological stress.

Approach

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

Discovery (Immune Health and Adult Dogs)

Dietary antioxidants have a positive effect on the immune function of adult dogs

In a study at WALTHAM, 40 adult dogs (mean 4.4 ± 1.85 years of age) were divided into two groups where half received a standard diet and the other half received the same diet supplemented with antioxidant nutrients (taurine, vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein, ?-carotene, and lycopene) (Heaton et al. 2002). At week 8, all dogs received an inactivated rabies vaccine and the response to this immune challenge was measured at 0, 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks post-vaccination.

Production of rabies-specific antibodies was significantly greater (P<0.05) at 2, 4 and 6 weeks post-vaccination in the antioxidant-supplemented group of dogs compared with the control group (Figure 1 Heaton et al. 2002).

Weeks post Vaccination
Reproduced from Heaton PR, Reed CF, Mann SJ, Ransley R, Stevenson J, Charlton CJ, Smith BHE, Harper EJ, Rawlings JM. Role of dietary antioxidants to protect against DNA damage to adult dogs. J Nut. 2002:132;1720S-1724S

Figure 1: Comparison of specific antibody response to rabies vaccination between control and antioxidant (AOX)-supplemented groups of dogs (Heaton et al. 2002). Results are expressed as mean ± standard error, n=20 per group; asterisks denote significant difference (P<0.05) between supplemented and control groups. The dashed line represents the minimum protective antibody level of 0.5 IU/mL

This study shows that dietary antioxidants can help boost the immune response to vaccination.

Insight Generation (Immune Health and Puppies)

Dietary antioxidants may have a positive effect on puppy immune health

In a study at WALTHAM, 14 puppies of two breeds (Labrador retrievers and greyhounds) were fed a standard nutritionally complete and balanced diet formulated for growth from weaning (Devlin et al. 2000a; Smith et al. 2000). The puppies were fed either the nutritionally complete diet alone or additionally received a daily supplement of antioxidant nutrients (taurine, vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein, ?-carotene, and lycopene). All puppies were routinely vaccinated against canine distemper, adenovirus type 2, and parvovirus at the age of 8 weeks (primary inoculation) and 12 weeks (booster), and blood samples were taken at various time points after each vaccination event.

Serum vaccine-specific antibody titres indicated that puppies which had received the antioxidant supplement may respond earlier to the vaccine (Figure 2) (Devlin et al. 2000a; Smith et al. 2000). On day 10 post-vaccination, anti-distemper titres were increased to a clinically significant level in 75% of supplemented puppies compared with 0% of controls (Devlin et al. 2000a). Similarly, on day 7 post-vaccination, anti-parvovirus titres were increased to a clinically significant level in 75% of supplemented puppies compared with 33% of controls (Devlin et al. 2000a).

Anti - Parvovirus Vaccine
Reproduced from Smith B, Devlin P. Enhancing puppy immune response through diet. WALTHAM Focus 2000:10(4);32-33

Anti - Adenovirus Vaccine Response
Reproduced from Smith B, Devlin P. Enhancing puppy immune response through diet. WALTHAM Focus 2000:10(4);32-33

Figure 2: Specific antibody response to routine vaccinations in puppies receiving a dietary antioxidant supplement compared with controls (Smith et al. 2000). Because of the scale of the graphs, initial antibody titre appears to be zero but in fact there are low levels of circulating maternal antibodies for both parvovirus (<8) and adenovirus (<16)

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

Insight Generation (Immune Health in Adult and Senior Dogs)

Dietary antioxidants maintain a positive antibody response in adult and senior dogs

In a study at WALTHAM, adult and senior dogs were matched for time post-vaccination against adenovirus and assigned to a control (n=8) or supplemented (n=9) group (Devlin et al. 2000b). The supplemented dogs were maintained for 6 months on a diet supplemented with enhanced levels of antioxidant nutrients (taurine, vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein, ?-carotene, and lycopene), while the control group were fed the base diet alone (Devlin et al. 2000b). A blood sample was taken at 6 months for the measurement of vaccine-specific antibody titres.

The 9 dogs that received the supplemented diet maintained a significantly higher anti-vaccine titre 6 months later, compared with control dogs (Devlin et al. 2000b). Median anti-adenovirus titres were 128 (mean 220 ± 183) for the supplemented dogs and 48 (mean 66 ± 54) in the control group (P?0.05) (Devlin et al. 2000b).

This study shows that dogs receiving a combination of dietary antioxidants maintain a protective antibody response for longer than unsupplemented dogs.

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.


Devlin P, Koelsch S, Heaton PR, Charlton CJ, O’Reilly JD, Smith BE, Harper J. Effects of antioxidant supplementation on the immune response in weaned puppies. J Vet Intern Med. 2000a;14(3):361 [Abstract 136]


Devlin P, Koelsch S, Heaton P, Smith B, Harper J. The maintenance of a vaccine-induced immune response in adult and senior dogs fed an antioxidant-supplemented diet. Purina Nutrition Forum 2000b; page 157.


Heaton PR, Reed CF, Mann SJ, Ransley R, Stevenson J, Charlton CJ, Smith BH, Harper EJ, Rawlings JM. Role of dietary antioxidants to protect against DNA damage in adult dogs. J Nutr. 2002 Jun;132(6 Suppl 2):1720S-4S.


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.


Smith BHE, Devlin P. Enhancing puppy immune response through diet. WALTHAM Focus. 2000;10(4):32-33.


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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