Dogs need a healthy diet just like humans.  Like people, dogs need a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.  Dogs who don’t get all of these in their diets, can have nutritional deficiencies.  Nutritional deficiencies can lead to health problems in your dog.  The trouble with dogs is that noticing these deficiencies can be much trickier.  

Causes Of Canine Nutritional Deficiencies

There are a few things that can lead to nutritional deficiencies in dogs.  One of them is either not enough food or too much food.  Usually dog foods will have a chart on the size of the bag that will tell you how much food your dog should eat for how much they weigh.  These charts are not always accurate.  They do not take into effect the breed or metabolism of the dog.  Once your dog has gone through their puppy stage, they should not gain any more weight.  So if you start to notice weight fluctuations in your dog either up or down, you may need to readjust how much your dog is eating.  

Another cause of deficiencies is the food they are eating is not nutritionally dense.  Dog food that is mass produced commercially can have a lot of extra additives that aren’t doing your dog any favors.  Lots of foods can have added allergens that may cause your dog digestive distress.  These allergens are corn, soy, wheat, white flour, unspecified meats, corn syrup, and salt.  Your dog needs a healthy source of carbohydrates in their food.  These healthy carbs will be their energy source.  Foods that have corn as their first ingredient are usually not nutritionally dense.  Better options would be peas or garbanzo beans.  Grains are hard for dogs to digest, so be wary of how many are in your dog’s food.  Dogs also need high quality protein in their food.  Protein is essential for your dog to build and maintain muscle.  It also helps nourish their bones, organs, and immune system.  Foods that don’t have a high quality protein may lead your dog to miss that in their diet.  Omega 3 fatty acids should also be something you look for in your dog’s food.  Many commercial foods instead of having omega 3 fatty acids have omega 6 fatty acids.  Omega 6 fatty acids cause inflammation, while omega 3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation.  

There are medical conditions that can lead to nutritional deficiencies.  If your dog is vomiting or having diarrhea chronically this can be a sign they are not getting nutrients absorbed effectively.  Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can cause absorption troubles.  Intestinal tumors, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and irritable bowel disease can also lead to nutritional deficiencies.  Parasites are another cause.  


Signs & Symptoms Of Nutritional Deficiencies

The first indicators of nutritional deficiencies usually are vomiting and diarrhea.  Your dog may also show signs of bad breath, body odor, dandruff, dull coat, excessive shedding, flatulence, fur loss, unusual bowel movements, increased allergies, obesity, skin disorders, weight loss, stunted growth, bowed limbs, or frequent infections.  


Risk Factors

Some medical conditions your dog may have can worsen because of nutritional deficiencies.  One of these is congestive heart failure.  Growth disorders like bone growth or joint disease can worsen from nutritional deficiencies.  Kidney disease can worsen with excess sodium, potassium, phosphorus, or lack of hydration in the diet.  Obesity can worsen. Pancreatitis can worsen with excess fats in the dog’s diet. 


Diagnosis & Treatment

A veterinarian can diagnose your dog with nutritional deficiencies.  They will usually start with a full physical examination.  Other tests they may want to run is a urinalysis, biochemical profile, and a complete blood count.  Fecal analysis, and possibly a fecal float test may be done.  Skin samples may be included if your dog is having symptoms of skin changes.  

After the tests have been done, treatment will depend on what is causing your dog’s nutritional deficiency.  If your dog has an underlying condition your vet will start with treating these.  This could be deworm medication, if your dog has worms or parasites.  Your vet will also look at your dog’s daily diet.  They will help you make sure the food you are feeding your dog is appropriate for the breed and size of your dog.  They will also help you decide how much food your dog should be getting.  A change in food may be needed depending on the calories and the nutritional value of the food.  Your dog’s activity level may also go into play.  Depending on if your dog is too active or not active enough you may need to add in a walk or two a day to help your dog lose weight.  Supplements may also be prescribed on rare occasions.  A round of probiotics can also help get your dog’s gut microbiome on track and reset.  

Most of the time nutritional deficiencies can be reversed and treated fully.  In cases where the nutritional deficiency is a side effect of a long term condition, treatment will be lifelong for your pet.  Usually you can supplement, or find a highly nutritionally dense food that works for your dog to help combat any deficiencies they may have.  

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READ MORE:  Dog Health Checklist