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J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2012 Jun;96(3):395-402. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2011.01153.x. Epub 2011 May 6.

Composition and use of puppy milk replacers in German Shepherd puppies in the Netherlands.

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Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Enostosis or eosinophilic panosteitis is a common disease in young growing large-breed dogs, such as the German Shepherd, and the risk of developing the disease by 3-4 months of age is increased by a high calcium intake. The aim of the study was to investigate whether German Shepherd puppies raised on milk replacers receive more calcium and/or vitamin D than their requirements in the pre-weaning period and thus are at increased risk of developing skeletal diseases. To this end, we surveyed German Shepherd breeders in the Netherlands about the use of puppy milk replacers (PMR). The metabolizable energy, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D content of the eight most used PMR were compared with that of bitch milk, as reported in the literature. The protein and fat content of most PMR were somewhat lower (range 24.4-33.2 g per 100 g on dmb and 18.3-37.5 g per 100 g on dmb respectively) compared with bitch milk (31.9 and 40.2 g on dmb respectively). The vitamin D content of one of the PMR samples was sevenfold the level recommended by the NRC (Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, National Academy Press, 2006) and threefold the average level of bitch milk. The clinical relevance of this high amount is questionable, as bitch milk contains mainly 25-hydroxy-vitamin D [3843 μg (96.1 IU) per 100 g on dmb] and only limited amounts of vitamin D [524 μg (13.3 IU) per 100 g on dmb], as was determined in this study. Dutch German Shepherd breeders tended to overfeed their puppies. We calculated that misguided use of PMR can increase the risk of excessive calcium, phosphorus and possibly vitamin D intake during a vulnerable period, potentially giving rise to bone and cartilage problems later in life.

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