DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)

Food For Thought™ Technical Bulletin No. 46R

Innovative Research in Dog and Cat Nutrition™

What is DHA?

DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid important for neural development of young mammals.

DHA is a major structural component of the brain as well as the most abundant fatty acids in the brain. It plays a vital role in the development of the central nervous system and retinal function.

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Sources of DHA

Common dietary DHA sources include fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and other seafood, eggs, and organ meat. In pet foods, sources of DHA include fish, fish meal and fish oil.

Prior to weaning, puppies get DHA from their mothers. Mothers, both human and canine, transfer DHA from their body tissues to their offspring during pregnancy and lactation.

After weaning, puppies can obtain DHA for continuing neural development through diet.

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Effects of DHA

One Iams study looked at Beagle puppies whose mothers had been fed enhanced or typical dietary DHA from breeding on through weaning. * After weaning, puppies were fed the same diets as their mothers' throughout the remainder of the study (up to 16 weeks of age). To evaluate the effect of diet on trainability, all puppies were taught to associate a symbol with a direction in a t-maze, with correct responses resulting in a food treat.

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Effects of Diet On Trainability

Over 30 days of testing, puppies from the enhanced-DHAgroup consistently out-performed the puppies from the typical-DHA group on the maze test. Results of the study indicated that puppies nourished on high DHA levels were more trainable.

Results: Training Performance Index
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Dietary DHA is critical for optimal neural development in puppies because DHA synthesis in the body is limited. Puppies nourished on diets with enhanced levels of DHA had improved trainability performance.

Our puppy foods are formulated with fishmeal and other high-quality fat sources to

  • Provide high amounts of DHA to support neural development
  • Achieve an optimal 5:1 omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid ratio
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* Data on file. The Iams Company.