WELLINGTON, March 16 (Xinhua) -- A New Zealand study showing the evidence of the benefits of a high-meat diet for dogs was welcomed by the government Thursday as a potential boost for petfood exports.
Research by scientists at Massey University and the government's AgResearch institute found a high-meat diet was easier for dogs to digest and enabled them to absorb more nutrients.
It also resulted in higher levels of bacteria associated with protein and fat digestion, which demonstrated a dog's gut was biologically designed to digest a diet high in meat, rather than "human-like" fare served up by many dog owners.
The study also showed there might have been too much reliance on research into the diets of humans or other animals in the past when it came to the best diet for dogs.
"We already know dogs have no nutritional need for carbohydrates in their diet, so this study looked at the role different bacteria play in a dog's digestion system to help us work toward a clearer picture of what the optimum diet for dogs is," said study co-leader Dr Emma Bermingham of AgResearch.
"Understanding how bacteria work in the gut is vital because of its links to digestion, diseases such as obesity, and even how it affects mood and behavior," Bermingham said in a statement.
Study co-leader Associate Professor David Thomas, of Massey University, said science had previously looked at studies on nutrient digestion in humans, mice and rats and assumed the same was true for dogs in terms of digestion and what was good and bad bacteria in the gut.
"This study shows this may not the case and much more needs to be done to understand the digestive system of dogs and the long-term health consequences of feeding different diets," Thomas said in the statement.
Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith said the research was set to boost New Zealand's premium petfood exports.
"This research is a significant contribution to the international canine nutrition field and it positions New Zealand scientists as leaders in this area," Goldsmith said in a statement.
"Petfood is emerging as a real growth opportunity for the New Zealand economy. Globally, pet owners spent 72 billion U.S. dollars on petfood in 2012 and demand for quality ingredients and products have never been higher," he said.
"While New Zealand's disease-free status, fresh raw materials and free-range meats give us a strong competitive advantage in the global market, it is innovation that will drive further industry growth."