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Does diet contribute to abnormal dog behaviour?
  1. John P. Verstegen, DVM, MSc, PhD, DiplECAR
  1. College of Veterinary Medicine, University of
    Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA e-mail:

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SINCE the early 20th century, dietary factors have been suspected of exacerbating, if not causing, cognitive and behaviour problems among people with identified behavioural and developmental disorders (Atkins 1986). Although any such association has often been dismissed, the hypothesis continues to be discussed, in both people and animals, and is regularly retested (Bussing and others 2002). Diet can affect behaviour indirectly through, among other possibilities, gastrointestinal homeostasis and regulation, but diet can also cause direct actions at the level of neuroendocrine regulation of behaviour. Neurotransmitters are important for memory, learning and behaviour. Such neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, serotonin (5-HT), dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, or the amino acids GABA and glutamate, are synthesised essentially within the brain; however, dietary precursors can influence both turnover rate and function, even when no clear deficiencies exist (Anderson and Johnston 1983).

The two main neurotransmitters associated with behaviour are serotonin and dopamine. Studies suggest that the brain's tryptophan-serotonin metabolism can affect behaviour and eventually be linked to clinical signs in people as well as in animals (Warren and Singh 1996, Chugani and others 1999, Namerow and others 2003, Packer and others 2016). Serotonin keeps balance …

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