For many reasons, dog owners are increasingly experimenting with non-traditional diets for their dogs. Homemade diets allow this flexibility. Well balanced homemade dog food is not easy to achieve. This is especially true for dog owners seeking a vegan alternative. The following medical case from the teaching hospital at Ohio State University is an example.
The owners of a 2-year old English Bull dog were referred to the teaching hospital for severe coughing and breathing problems. The university doctors found the dog was in congestive heart failure due to an enlarged heart. An ultrasound study revealed that the heart enlargement was a type called dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM. DCM is a condition where the heart muscle becomes very thin and enlarges in size to compensate for the lack of pumping strength caused by the thinning muscle. In cats, this was a very common heart disease caused by the deficiency of an amino acid called taurine. Taurine supplementation in cat food has made the condition virtually disappear.
The taurine requirement for dogs is much lower than in cats and is easily met by meat protein in normal diets. DCM is rare in dogs. The owners of the Bulldog were questioned by the doctors about the dog’s diet. It turns out the dog had severe food allergies and the owners had turned to the internet for alternative diets. They had been feeding the dog a combination of lentils, brown rice and potatoes to control the allergic skin problem.
Due to the lack of meat in the diet, the doctors at the university tested the dog’s blood for taurine levels. The dog had 2nmol/ml. Normal for taurine blood levels is 60-120nmol/ml. The dog had a taurine deficiency. After supplementation with taurine, the dog made a complete recovery. The heart muscle returned to normal size and increased to normal thickness. The dog was also put on a balanced hypoallergenic diet for its skin condition.
This story has a happy ending. Many do not. Veterinarians are seeing more and more cases of nutritional deficiency not witnessed in decades. That is because more and more dog owners are seeking homemade alternatives Homemade diets must be completely balanced. This is not easy. And it is especially difficult for vegan diets. Unlike meat, vegetable proteins are not complete in amino acids. Without extensive knowledge of nutrition it is very difficult to create a well-balanced vegan diet.
Homemade diets let dog owners control the quality of their dog’s food. But it is important to seek help from those offering well planned recipes and proper supplementation.
~Dr Ken Tudor
THE DOG DIETITIAN