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The effect of graded concentrations of dietary tryptophan on canine behavior in response to the approach of a familiar or unfamiliar individual

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Tryptophan (Trp) is an indispensable dietary amino acid that supports the modulation of mood and behavior in mammalian species through its role in the serotonergic pathway. This study assessed the behavior patterns of 36 healthy, female adult mixed-breed hound dogs fed a control diet (tryptophan = 0.18% as-fed) or 1 of several experimental diets with graded concentrations of tryptophan (0.05%, 0.1%, and 0.15% of the total diet) supplemented on top of the 0.18% basal level. At baseline, and every 8 weeks throughout the 24-week period, behavioral parameters were evaluated for each dog in response to the approach of an individual familiar to the dogs and another individual who was unfamiliar to the dogs. Differences in behavior scores (activity, P = 0.0197; distance, P = 0.0358; confidence, P < 0.0001; and ear position, P < 0.0001) between the unfamiliar and familiar individuals supported the efficacy of the behavioral ethogram used. No consistent and significant differences in behavior were observed, however, among dogs fed the control diet and those fed an experimental diet with any level of tryptophan supplementation. Future research should consider the tryptophan-to-large-neutral-amino-acid ratio and not just tryptophan concentrations, seek to understand the variation in tryptophan requirements among breeds, and look to utilize additional markers of serotonin status.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2018

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