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Macronutrient intake of dogs, self-selecting diets varying in composition offered ad libitum

DATE: 2017


CITATION: Roberts, M. & Bermingham, Emma & Cave, Nick & Young, Wayne & McKenzie, Catherine & Thomas, David. (2017). Macronutrient intake of dogs, self-selecting diets varying in composition offered ad libitum. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. 102. 10.1111/jpn.12794.


The diet of the domestic dog has changed significantly from that of its wolf ancestor, with to date only two studies having examined macronutrient self-selection in dogs. Whilst the first focused solely on protein intake, determining an intake of 30% metabolisable energy (ME), the second investigated dietary protein, fat and carbohydrate (PFC), indicating an intake ratio of 30:63:7% by energy. This study's aim was to further elucidate macronutrient intake by providing greater macronutrient range, energy content, and to investigate over a longer duration than previous studies. Fifteen adult dogs were given access to three wet diets providing 500% of daily ME, twice daily over 10 days. The diets were nutritionally complete and formulated using the same four ingredients in different proportions to supply high levels of protein (58% ME), fat (86% ME) or carbohydrate (54% ME). Overall fat and carbohydrate consumption significantly declined from 6,382 to 917 kcals per day (p < 0.001) and 553 to 214 kcals day⁻¹ (p < .01) respectively. Protein intake, however, remained constant over the study and ranged from 4,786 to 4,156 kcals day⁻¹. Such results impacted on percentage total energy intake, with fat decreasing from 68% to 52% (p < .001) and protein increasing from 29% to 44% (p < .01). Our findings suggest that dogs still possess a “feast or famine” mentality, wherein energy dense fat is prioritised over protein initially. With continued feeding over 10 days, a transition to a more balanced energy contribution from both macronutrients is evident. The study also shows that given the option, dogs do not select carbohydrate to be a significant portion of the diet. The health implications of such dietary selection are of interest.


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