Isotope recycling in lactating dogs (Canis familiaris)

M Scantlebury, W Hynds, D Booles, J R Speakman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Isotope-based techniques for the measurement of water turnover, energy expenditure, and milk intake often assume that there is no recycling of isotopes once they have left the labeled animal. In experiments involving lactating females or their suckling offspring, there are several possible routes of isotope recycling. These include the consumption of labeled milk by offspring, the ingestion of labeled excreta, and the rebreathing of exhaled labeled CO2 or water vapor by both mother and offspring. Isotope recycling might be especially important during lactation because the offspring are in close contact with each other and their mother for prolonged periods. We show here in 24- to 30-day-old domestic dog Canis familiaris puppies that there was no detectable transfer of O-18 or H-2 from labeled to unlabeled pups in two litters (16 pups, 8 labeled, 8 unlabeled) that were weaned early and independent of their mother. However, there was a significant transfer of both isotopes from labeled to unlabeled pups and from labeled pups to their mothers in nine equivalent nursing litters of the same age (27 labeled, 26 unlabeled pups). The increases in enrichment of isotopes in unlabeled offspring were greater than the increases in enrichment of the mothers. This indicates that maternal ingestion of offspring excreta and subsequent transfer of isotope in milk is not the sole pathway of recycling. Additional routes must also be important, such as exchange of isotope between pups on saliva-coated nipples and perhaps direct ingestion of excreta by unweaned young. Recycling is unlikely to be an important factor when determining maternal, metabolic rate during peak lactation in domestic dogs. However, experiments that are designed to assess the energy demands of pups and isotope-based estimates of water turnover in offspring may need to take into account any effects of isotope recycling. In a theoretical example, removing the effects of recycling increased the measured energy expenditure in pups by up to 7% and increased the calculated elimination rates of both isotopes by up to 11.1% in (18)oxygen and 10.9% in (2)hydrogen.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology-Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • transfer
  • nutrition
  • lactation
  • energy expenditure
  • doubly labeled water
  • milk intake


Dive into the research topics of 'Isotope recycling in lactating dogs (Canis familiaris)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this