Top 5 diet-related health issues in dogs

Top 5 diet related health concerns in dogs

Dogs in Australia and around the world are facing more and more health problems. Cancer, diabetes, pancreatitis, and kidney diseases are examples of these nasty yet common diseases in dogs. But did you know that many of these health issues are diet-related? And they often can be improved or even prevented with the right diet?  This World Health Day, we have curated a list of the top 5 most common diet-related health issues in dogs and provided tips on how they can be prevented by your pupper’s diet.

1. Obesity

It is estimated that almost 1 out of 2 dogs in Australia are overweight or obese. That’s right, 50% of dogs in Australia have excessive body weight usually due to over-feeding.

Different dog breeds have different body shapes and sizes, so it can be tricky to know exactly what pupper’s ideal weight is. A rule of thumb is to check your dog’s body shape, which is usually a better indicator than the number of the scale. Your dog is at their ideal body shape if:

  1. You can see your dog’s waist from above and feel their ribs with some fat covering when gently touching their sides.
  2. Their belly tucks up and in from the side.

Obesity puts the health of your dogs at serious risk, as your dog’s natural functions and processes are altered. The activities of many organ-systems are affected including respiratory and digestive organs, and joints and bones. If it is not treated early, it can lead to other health issues like heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure.

Obesity affects dogs of all breeds and ages but occurs mostly in dogs between 5 and 10 years of age. Dogs that stay indoors are at a higher risk of obesity. There are also some breeds that are more prone to over-eating than others (Labradors and Beagles we’re looking at you!).

Dietary tips to prevent obesity

  • Calculate your dog’s calorie intake and stick to it. How much energy they need depends on factors such as their age, body shape, activity level, and weight.
  • Implement portion-control so that you have a precise way of making sure they receive their required calories, and no more, every day
  • Avoid giving pupper high-calorie treats and limit the frequency of treat feeding

2. Skin and coat conditions

Your dog’s skin is the largest organ in your dog’s body, and because of this their skin and coat is an overall reflection of their health condition. If your dog is consuming low quality of food, or is lacking certain nutrients, their skin and coat is often the first place you’ll notice the effect.

The skin consists of flat cells that are closely packed. If these nutrients are not supplied in the adequate amounts, the cell membranes will get weaker, giving access to viruses and bacteria, while providing an escape route for water. On the other hand, your dog’s coat is made up of protein. And so, if your dog does not have good quality protein in his diet, or does not have enough of it, it is likely that the hair will dry off, become weak, and brittle.

You can tell if pupper has an unhealthy skin and coat if it appears:

  • Dull, dry or greasy coat, with flaky skin
  • Clumpy hair loss, large amounts of shedding
  • Itchy, red skin

The first two signs can be caused by nutritional imbalances or deficiency. Itchy, red skin can also be caused by food allergies.

Dietary tips to prevent skin and coat issuesMake sure you feed your dog with properly balanced diets from natural ingredients that contain protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins (A, B-complex, E) and mineral (zinc). 

Essential fatty acids in particular omega 3 is extremely important for a healthy, nourished coat. Omega 3 is most bio-available from natural sources such as seafood (sardines and fish oil) and plant foods (flaxseed, spirulina and coconut). 

Rotational feeding can help prevent dogs from developing food allergies. It’s better to vary the protein they are consuming every few days rather to sticking on a single protein.

3. Pancreatitis

There are times when your dog may refuse to eat, or throw up. In most cases, this is a passing phase and can be caused by minor every day events, such as pupper eating something off the street they shouldn’t have. But in some cases, these could be signs of pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is a condition characterised by an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas lies close to your dog’s stomach and helps in the regulation of blood sugar levels, and digestion. Pancreatitis may occur as an acute condition, or as a chronic condition.

Studies show that 28-40% of dogs with diabetes also show clinical signs of acute pancreatitis. While it still remains inconclusive which one comes first, more evidence shows diabetes occurs following pancreatitis.

Symptoms may vary but common ones include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. If your dog exhibits any of those symptoms for more than a day, or there is a recurrence of any of the symptoms, you should see a vet.

Reasons remain unclear but some potential risk factors can include obesity and drugs or medication. This is why overweight dogs are more prone to pancreatitis. On the other hand, it may also be the side effect of a medication or surgery. Hypercalcemia (vitamin D toxicity) can also be another risk factor.

How to reduce the risk of pancreatitis through diet

  • Avoid feeding pupper  high-GI foods. These cause blood sugar spikes, which increase demand for the pancreas to release insulin. Instead opt for feeding  pupper  low-GI carbohydrates, such as ancient grains and vegetables 
  • Add omega-3s to your dog’s diet. Omega-3 is pancreoprotective, in other words, it can have a protective effect on their pancreas
  • Avoid high-fat foods, which may include food scraps. Although fat is not typically dangerous and is a crucial part of your dog’s diet, a fat diet can tick over an already unwell pancreas

4. Dental issues

According to AVA, 4 out of 5 dogs in Australia develop gum disease by the age of 3. Despite different prevalence across countries, gum disease is the top two or three most common disease in dogs. Some common signs of dental disease include red, inflamed gums, discoloured teeth and bad breath.

What’s most concerning about dental issues is that it’s not just the teeth that are affected. Poor dental health and can also directly lead to other health conditions when not treated, related to heart, liver and kidney.

Similarly to human dental problems, tartar is the major cause of dental problems in dogs. Tartar erodes the gum and exposes the root of the teeth. Bacterial flora then grows, and subsequently, causes ill effects in your dog’s body. The longer the tartar progresses, the more likely pupper is to develop gum disease.

How to reduce the risk of dental disease through diet

  • Think twice to feed your dog kibble. Though it is often promoted as helping to clean your dog’s teeth, kibble tends to have the opposite effect. Kibble is starchy and high in refined carbs. When your dog chews it, the carbs get broken down into sugar, which encourages the growth of bad bacteria. The bacteria then produce acids that cause decay of the teeth.
  • Brush your dog’s teeth regularly to prevent the buildup of tartar. An experiment showed this is much more effective than feeding kibble or giving pupper dental chews.

5. Gut issues

Your dog’s gut has three main jobs in the body: digest its food, absorb nutrients and prevent any toxins from entering its bloodstream. These three functions are extremely important to the foundation of your dog’s health, and without a healthy digestive tract, your dog becomes highly susceptible to disease.

What pupper eats each day directly effects it’s gut permeability. Essentially, “you are what you eat” holds true, and their diet either increases or decreases their gut permeability, thus directly impacting how they can absorb nutrients in their food. Leaky gut syndrome occurs when the gut is so permeable, bacteria and viruses can pass through the gut lining and into pupper’s body.

The good bacteria is your dog’s gut is also critically important, and has important jobs such as breaking down fibre and toxins. Out of balance gut bacteria has been linked to diseases such an auto-immune responses, dermatitis, pancreatisis and IBD.

Farting, burping, vomiting and stinky poos are all sign of a potential gut imbalance.

How to maintain your dog’s healthy gut with their diet

  • If your dog displays signs of potential gut imbalance, they will need to slowly build their gut resilience through a careful balance of pre- and probiotic, nutrient-dense whole-foods that are easily digestible, soothing and cleansing to the gut and the liver before building the complexity of the diet. Note that fussiness can be a subtle sign of a bacterial imbalance or vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Create a fresh diet for your dog long term diet that includes a wide range of superfood ingredients that are easily digest and absorb for optimal health

In a nutshell, your dog’s health tomorrow starts with your choice of food today. Get your Starter Box today and nourish your puppers with a 100% wholefoods, balanced diet for optimal health.