What Causes
Nutrient Deficiencies in Dogs?

If dogs will eat almost anything, why then, would they have nutrient deficiencies? Well, maybe that's the point exactly. If left to their own devices, living in the wild, dogs would instinctively know what to eat, to prevent a nutrient deficiency problem. Only if they couldn't get enough to eat, or if they were scrounging around in human garbage would malnutrition be an issue.

Since our dogs live with us, they are dependent on us for their source of food. We love our dogs. We want the best for them. We honestly believe we are doing right by them, but sometimes with all the best of intentions, we are not providing optimal nutrition for our dogs.

What is the Definition of Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is the insufficient, excessive or imbalanced consumption of nutrients. A number of different nutrition disorders may arise, depending on which nutrients are under or over abundant in the diet.

( Wikipedia )

  • A nutrient deficiency is the absence or insufficiency of some factor required for normal growth and development.
  • A nutrient deficiency disease is defined as an illness associated with an insufficient supply of one or more essential dietary constituents.

Look for These Symptoms of Malnutrition

  • Body condition - look at the diagram above. Where does your dog fit in?
  • Skin and coat - do you see a dull dry coat, skin problems such as flaking skin, itching, redness, sores?
  • Teeth - do you notice bad breath, red swollen gums, plaque build up on teeth, slimy mouth or missing teeth
  • Poop problems - pooping too frequently, constipation, anal gland problems, diarrhea, extra large poops, foul smelling poops
  • Growing problems - structure and bone problems, torn ligaments, lack of muscle tone
  • Poor immunity - allergies, food intolerances
  • Lack of energy - is your dog getting enough calories and nutrients for his activity level and stage of life?
  • Behavioural problems - such as eating inappropriate objects, eating feces, anxiety, mood swings and unexplained aggression, being unable to learn, and hyperactivity. Something to think about, eh?

A Few Examples of
Nutrient Imbalance Problems

  • A deficiency of iron can cause anemia
  • Too much Vitamin C can cause a calcium imbalance, kidney stones, increased uric acid 
  • Too much Vit B3 ( niacin ) can cause liver damage
  • Too much calcium can cause a phosphorus imbalance
  • Too much polyunsaturated fat ( fish oil ) can cause a Vitamin E imbalance
  • Too much Vitamin D can cause a calcium/phosphorus imbalance

Anyway, I don't want to get carried away with these examples. I just want to let you know what can happen if dogs are not fed a variety of fresh food in a way that is natural for their species.

Why Would a Dog Have Nutrient Deficiencies?

Nutrient deficiencies in dogs rarely happen with dogs fed a commercial store bought dog food. No matter how poor the ingredient quality may be, there are still government regulated requirements ( AAFCO ) for vitamins minerals and some other essential nutrients that are met using a prepared vitamin premix that is added to the food after processing.

Here are some other reasons why a dog may be nutrient deficient.

  • Maybe your dog doesn't get enough to eat and so doesn't get enough nutrients to sustain health
  • Maybe your dog gets too much to eat. Fat dogs can be nutrient deficient too.
  • Maybe your dog has parasites which are living off the nutrients your dog should be getting.
  • Maybe your dog has a dog health problem and can't assimilate food into the proper nutrient components to sustain health
  • Maybe you prepare home made dog food yourself. Heat from cooking destroys nutrients. This can easily cause a vitamin deficiency.
  • Maybe you prepare home made raw dog food at home and don't completely understand the natural balance between meat bones and organs. Feeding too much muscle meat can cause mineral imbalances.

What About Vitamin Mineral Supplementation?

Deciding whether or not to supplement your dog's food is not easy. Over supplementation can destroy nutritional balance and even harm your dog. However, I believe that some supplementation is necessary, since only Mother Nature provides perfect dog nutrition.

Even if extra nutrients are added to food, who says that your dog is able to digest and metabolize those nutrients for proper assimilation? The ability of your dog's body to metabolize nutrients can be affected by...

  • the quality and type of nutrients used
  • age and breed of your dog
  • state of general health
  • medications and drugs

If you have a sick dog, or if your dog has a chronic dog health problem, you might wonder if he has a vitamin deficiency? You might possibly be correct, but how do you find out which vitamin or mineral is lacking? Don't bother! Almost certainly, he can benefit from some targeted whole food supplements that can address the nutrient deficiency problem overall, help restore nutritional balance and speed the healing process.

Plants can provide a wide range of nutrients in a whole food form that is easily digested and assimilated by your dog's body if they are properly prepared and served in small amounts. This would mimic what would be provided by Mother Nature. Wild dogs eat herbivores mostly, and so receive the nutritional benefit of plants without actually eating a large amount of plant matter themselves.

Vitamin Mineral Deficiencies
Can Be Prevented

Nutritional deficiencies are unnecessary and can be prevented when the diet is complete and varied. Feeding a variety of different foods on a rotation basis goes a long way towards preventing problems. Over supplementing is as dangerous as not doing enough. As always, providing excellent dog nutrition through food is not rocket science. When in doubt ask yourself this question.

" Would Mother Nature give my dog this food? "

*** Helpful hint *** pizza crust, ice cream, bread, peanut butter, hot dogs, granola bars and chocolate chip cookies are not on Mother Nature's menu! (wink, wink ! )

Learn more about feeding dogs

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