Nutritional Deficiencies

Vitamins and minerals play a key role in the healthy development of muscles, tissues, bones, joints and organs. In the book Alternative and Complementary Veterinary Medicine: Principles and Practise, Dr. Wendell Belfield, states that hip dysplasia maybe related to an animals inability or difficulty in synthesising enough collagen to assist in maintaining joint stability which maybe caused by insufficient vitamin C in the pets diet.

An animal fed a low-quality, poorly digestible diet high in carbohydrates, lacking enzymes, vitamins and minerals will likely have a poorly functioning immune system. The immune system is the body's defence system and it needs a healthy, nutritious diet to be able to protect the body from allergens, parasites and infections. Parasites are opportunists and proliferate in the body of a weak host. If the host is malnourished and the immune system is weak and unable to defend itself, the parasites will take advantage of the body's inadequate defences and reproduce rapidly. An allergic response may occur in the animal in response to the presence of the parasites. A healthy, strong immune system presents an inhospitable living environment for parasites.

The health of the cardiovascular system is dependent on a complete diet. Its nutritional requirements change on a regular basis and during the lifetime of the animal. The only way to ensure that the cardiovascular system is receiving the nutrition it needs is to provide a diversity of fresh whole foods throughout the animals life. Amino acids are especially important as they provide the protein building blocks required for the development and repair of smooth muscle in the heart.

An animals natural diet is the most effective way to avoid conditions like leaky gut syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Leaky gut syndrome occurs when food compounds abnormally permeate the intestinal barrier and enter the bloodstream. The immune system responds by attacking the food leading to severe food allergies. Poor diet, excessive use of antibiotics, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections can lead to leaky gut syndrome.

Gingivitis and mouth infections rarely occur in animals fed a balanced, raw food diet with plenty of raw meaty bones which work to clean teeth and keep gums healthy. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums usually caused by a bacterial infection. If left untreated, the bacteria can enter the blood stream and infect other parts of the body leading to serious infections such as a kidney infection.

The skin is an organ that must continually regenerate itself and to do so it requires a variety of nutrients to remain healthy. Dry, flaky skin, hair loss and inflammation are all signs of a lack of nutrients in the diet. To remain healthy the skin requires antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E), minerals, proteins and EFA's. The quality of protein in the animal's diet is also vital for healthy skin. Low grade protein and fillers found in commercial pet food are difficult for an animal to digest and metabolise and are most likely eliminated in the body's waste. The skin also helps with elimination of waste which are not effectively eliminated through the urinary and digestive tracts. A skin disorder may actually indicate a serious underlying disease like kidney failure or liver disease.

An animal fed a commercial pet food all of its life may develop kidney disease. One contributing factor is the high level of phosphorus in many commercial brands of pet food. Some brands have five to nine times more than the required amount. Over time the kidneys are unable to remove the excess phosphorus into urine which leads to a build up of phosphorus in the kidneys. This may cause degeneration of the kidney tissue or leading to kidney stones. When fed a natural, species appropriate raw diet an animal receives the correct balance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet.

Kidney stones are the result of a poor diet or when the body is unable to effectively metabolise minerals like calcium or magnesium. Excess minerals must be eliminated from the body however they can bind together to form stones when the body is unable to remove them. Balanced nutrition is important in the effective treatment and prevention of urinary stones. Many stones dissolve when urine pH levels are corrected through a change in diet, others require surgical removal. A natural diet helps to maintain the correct pH levels of urine whereas commercial pet food raises pH to more alkaline levels.

Pancreatitis is another condition that may be attributed to an animal fed a highly processed commercial diet which is lacking in natural enzymes. Enzymes are natures way of assisting in the breakdown of food to aid digestion. When an animal receives insufficient enzymes in its diet to breakdown food the pancreas (which is one producer of enzymes) must work harder to produce them. Over time the pancreas becomes inflamed leading to pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is extremely painful and can lead to death. A natural diet is rich in enzymes and ensures the ongoing health of organs like the pancreas.

The above sections identify some of the more common health conditions that an animal may experience when it is fed a poor quality, low nutrient diet. Read through the other sections of this website for more information on how nutrition affects the health of your pet and contact us to book a consult.


Levy de Bairacli, 1992, The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat.

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