iLD Ask A Vet: Is My Dog Sick, Or Could It Be His Diet?

August 28, 2013

PM_APBTHas your dog’s diet every contributed to his illness?  Unfortunately, during my years of veterinary clinical practice, I’ve seen this many times. Learn my perspective on the i Love Dogs (iLD) Ask A Vet page  in the article: What Supplement is Best for a Dog Fighting Cancer?

My wife and I have a 4-month-old American Pit Bull Terrier that doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of energy at times. Could it be his diet? His breed?

He has a gluten allergy and the previous owners had been feeding him a Costco brand gluten-free adult dog food.

I have since purchased some food that is better suited to his age; however, I am currently out of the country and my wife has yet to initiate the diet change.

He sleeps often and doesn’t seem to enjoy walks much — often he has to get “dragged” along.

Any ideas?

– Jacob

Hi Jacob,

Thank you for your question. The food our pets eat and water they drink are certainly one of the primary keys to their overall wellness.

A diet-related issue could indeed be affecting your dog’s energy levels. At the same time, it could be an underlying illness that is taking away the energy that he otherwise would have available for normal day-to-day puppy activities. However, it is important to note that a 4-month-old puppy is still in the process of maturing, so we have to keep in mind that frequent resting and napping are normal events.

With any concerns about your dog’s energy, it is best that you have a conversation with your veterinarian during a consultation and physical examination of your dog, as diseases ranging from mild to serious could be involved. Many puppies have bacterial, viral or parasitic infections that can affect the digestive tract (stomach and intestines), and cause decreased energy and abnormal digestive tract function (such as decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea). Additionally, a conformational problem affecting the comfort and functional capacity of his joints could be responsible for his refusal to walk and need to be “dragged along.”

I am curious how it was determined that your dog has a gluten allergy. Was this simply due to a change from one dog food to another that is labelled grain-free?

Just so you are aware, grains are not necessarily bad for dogs. In fact, science has recently proven that dogs have evolved to be able to digest grains; however, many of the grains that go into pet foods are poorer quality as compared to those that humans eat. Grains that are used in pet foods are considered to be feed grade (instead of human grade), and have higher allowable levels of toxins (mold-based toxins like aflatoxin and vomitoxin). These toxins can sicken your pet on a short-term or long-term basis, and potentially even cause cancer.

If you feed your dog a diet that has human-grade, whole grains like those you would eat yourself (in an appropriate quantity, of course, combined with the real-meat protein, vegetables, fruits and other beneficial substances), then you will likely not be causing harm to your dog.

You should consider a commercially available or home-prepared diet that includes ingredients that are very similar to the format that nature creates. Many kibbles available on the market are highly processed and high-heat cooked, and focused on owner convenience rather than on what is truly the healthiest option for a dog.

If you want to go the route of feeding your dog a home-prepared diet, your veterinarian can help you pursue a nutritional consultation with the UC Davis Nutrition Support Service. This will create a nutritionally complete and balanced diet that you can use as a template to make your dog’s food at home.

Good luck,

Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA

PHOTO: NetDiva

Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).
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Copyright of this article (2013) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

TheOldBroad August 29, 2013 at 3:45 PM

The person who asked the question didn’t mention if they had taken the puppy to the vet. He didn’t mention that this had been discussed with the puppy’s vet which kinda surprises me because it sounds like they really want to take good care of the puppy. Were the previous owners questioned regarding how the gluten allergy was determined? (Sounds like you had the same question.) I

t also wasn’t mentioned how much they’re feeding the puppy. I once looked in on a nursing queen with 4 kittens when the foster mother was out of town (I was looking in on the kitties in addition to professional cat-sitters.) When I saw how listless they all were and how little the kitties were being fed – 1/2 to 1 can of Fancy Feast for the whole bunch, the sitters had been following instructions and I made the executive decision to give them another meal. The poor little things were starving! After eating, they all perked up and acted like a mother and four happy kittens.

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