In dogs, increasing the tissue n-3 fatty acid (FA) content is associated with potential benefit in some medical conditions, e.g. atopic dermatitis, cancer or heart disease. Therefore effectively and conveniently increasing tissue n-3 FA levels in dogs is of interest. Incorporation of dietary n-3 FA into cell membranes may be studied by FA analysis of erythrocyte membranes (EM), because of the correlation of its FA composition with the FA composition of other cells. Aim of the study was to determine whether an n-3 FA additive added to a control diet is as effective in increasing EM n-3 FA content as feeding an n-3 FA enriched diet. Furthermore the time course of the incorporation of dietary n-3 FA into canine EM was investigated.

Thirty dogs were randomly divided into three dietary groups with ten dogs per group. CONT got a dry dog food diet which did not contain EPA or DHA. FO got a dry dog food diet with a high EPA and DHA content. ADD got the CONT diet combined with an n-3 FA additive rich in DHA and EPA. After a feeding period of 12 weeks the additive was discontinued in ADD and these dogs were fed CONT diet for another four weeks to observe washout effects. Erythrocyte lipids were extracted from venous blood samples and their FA composition was determined by gas chromatography. The Mann-Whitney-U-test was used to detect significant differences between the different groups and time points.

After one week the proportions of n-3 FA, DHA and EPA were already significantly increased in ADD and FO, apparently reaching a plateau within eight weeks. In our study DHA and not EPA was preferably incorporated into the EM. After discontinuing the administration of the additive in ADD, the n-3 FA values declined slowly without reaching baseline levels within four weeks.

In dogs, an increase of dietary n-3 FA content leads to a rapid inclusion of n-3 FA into EM, regardless of whether the n-3 FA are offered as an enriched diet or as a normal diet supplemented with an n-3 FA additive.

PMID: 22024384

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