In dogs, decreasing telomere length is a biomarker for cellular aging. On a systemic level, aging affects the locomotor system in particular, leading to restricted joint mobility. As aging is thought to be related to oxidative stress, it may be counteracted by a diet enriched with antioxidants, mitochondrial cofactors and omega-3 fatty acids. This randomized, blinded and placebo-controlled study examined the influence of an accordingly enriched diet compared to a control diet on 36 young and 38 old shepherd dogs. At the outset, after 3 and after 6 months, mean and minimum telomere lengths were measured. Furthermore, minimum and maximum joint angles and range of motion of the shoulder, elbow, carpal, hip, stifle and tarsal joints were measured by computer-assisted gait analysis. A positive influence of the enriched diet on old dogs could be verified for minimum telomere length and all three parameters of the shoulder joint on the side with the higher vertical ground reaction force after 6 months. In the other joints there were less significant differences; in some cases they indicated a contrary influence of the enriched diet on young dogs, probably due to its reduced protein content. The greater effect of the enriched diet on minimum than on mean telomere length may be due to the higher preference of telomerase for short telomeres. The greater effect on shoulder joint mobility is explained by the greater influence of musculature and connective tissue in this joint. For elderly dogs it is advisable to feed these nutritional supplements.
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