Exploring early life events including diet in cats presenting for gastrointestinal signs in later life
Kathrani, A. et al. (2019) Exploring early life events including diet in cats presenting for gastrointestinal signs in later life. Veterinary Record, 185 (5), p. 144
The aim of this study, which received financial support from Waltham Pet Nutrition and Cats Protection, was to identify if certain early life events were more prevalent in cats presenting to veterinary practices on at least two occasions for gastrointestinal signs between six and 30 months of age, compared to those that had never visited for gastrointestinal signs.
Cats used in this study were originally prospectively enrolled onto the Bristol Cats Study, a long-term longitudinal study of cat health, during 2010-2013. Cat owners in the Bristol Cat Study completed a questionnaire when the cats were aged between 8 and16 weeks (Q1), and then when their cats reached 6 months (Q2), 12 months (Q3), 18 months (Q4), 30 months (Q5), 48 months (Q6) and then annually.
For this study, data was gathered from Q1-Q5 on the following four early life events: (1) name of commercial pet food and whether it complied with guidelines from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Global Nutrition Committee; (2) proportion of diet that consisted of raw fresh food, cooked fresh food and cow’s milk or cream; (3) owner-reported vomiting, diarrhoea, or both; and (4) presence of helminths in the faeces, as reported by owners.
Cats included in the study as cases were those whose owners had reported a visit to a veterinary practice specifically for gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhoea, or both) at one or all of the four time points (Q2-Q5). Controls were the cats that were reported by their owners to have never visited a practice specifically for gastrointestinal signs.
In total, data from 1212 cats was available for review: 1014 cats were reported to have never made a visit to a veterinary practice for gastrointestinal signs; 168 cats made one visit; 26 cats made two visits; and 4 cats made three visits.
Of the early life events considered, cats with vomiting, diarrhoea or both and/or those not exclusively feeding on a commercial diet meeting the WSAVA guidelines, before 16 weeks of age, were significantly associated with frequency of visits to a veterinary practice specifically for gastrointestinal signs between six months and 30 months of age.
Limitations to the study, acknowledged by the authors, include: the lack of detailed information on the commercial diets fed and the fact there was no record of dietary changes any time in the 6-30 month period; the definitive diagnosis for the gastrointestinal signs being unknown as medical records were not available for review; and the limited number of early life risk factors considered and the small number of cats (30/1212) with recurrent gastrointestinal signs.
This study provides some evidence that cats with reported vomiting, diarrhoea or both and/or those not exclusively fed commercial diets that meet the WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee guidelines in early life are more likely to present at a veterinary practice for gastrointestinal signs before 30 months of age. Further studies considering a wider range of early life events, e.g. antibiotic use, are encouraged.
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