Nutrition plays a major role with regards to a pet’s healthy living. However, sometimes the right combination of nutrients required is absent and so supplements should be given. According to PetMd, “Each and every nutrient in your dog’s food has a purpose. Without adequate nutrition, your dog would not be able to maintain muscle tone, build and repair muscles, teeth, and bone, perform normal daily activities with ease or fight-off infection. Proteins provide a source of energy and help with muscle function and growth”. To understand when and why supplements are needed for your pet’s nutrition, Fiona Vaz from NewsOnPets interviewed Dr Rupali Patkar, who is an Associate Physician- Internal Medicine.
1) Which pets (exotic or non- exotic) require supplements along with their food?
Exotic pets, many times require supplements (like b complex, vitamin c) with their food. But small animals like dogs and cats if not given proper nutritionally balanced diet require vitamins and mineral supplements.
2) Which of these are fed for pets: kibble or fresh food?
Actually both. Kibbles are commercial dog foods of various companies (like Royal Canin, vet life, science hills, Pedigree etc) which are available in the market. These foods are according to breed and age of the dogs or basis on the dog’s clinical condition (e.g. skin support diet; renal diets, cardiac diets).
Some pet parents prefer to give home-cooked meal made up of meat (chicken, beef, mutton etc), sometimes vegetables, boiled egg.
Commercial dog food diet is a nutritionally balanced diet whereas it becomes difficult to completely balanced the home-cooked diets. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
3) Which nutrients do dogs/cats often lack?
Essential nutrients are organic and nonorganic compounds that cannot be produced by the body but are needed to support life.
Cats and dogs require about 40 essential nutrients, each in the right form and in the right amount (balanced) to deliver complete nutrition.
List of essential nutrients for dogs and cats:
- Proteins and amino acids:
Cats are not able to down-regulate protein-digesting enzymes and therefore need a protein-rich diet.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and their derivatives.
Proteins include a total of 20 different amino acids, only 11 (cats) or 10 (dogs) of which are essential; that means they cannot be produced by the body so must be provided in the diet.
Methionine is essential within the diet. Cysteine can be synthesised from methionine. However, if cysteine is provided in sufficient quantities, it helps free up methionine for other functions.
Taurine is only essential for cats as, unlike dogs, they cannot synthesise it themselves.
Arginine is important for the synthesis of urea from ammonia. As ammonia is produced from the breakdown of protein, the higher the protein content of the diet the higher the arginine requirement.
Lysine is often the first limiting amino acid in the diet, which means it has the greatest risk of being deficient. If pet food is not carefully formulated. Lysine is sensitive to heat, and during pet food processing it undergoes a chemical reaction with sugar (Maillard reaction), thought to be important for generating flavours and aromas.
Only Phenylalanine is considered to be essential. Tyrosine can be synthesized from phenylalanine
Leucine, isoleucine and valine constitute the class of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)within the essential amino acid family. The body is unable to make them sufficiently quickly, and therefore a dietary source is required.
Other amino acids necessary are Histidine, Tryptophan, Threonine.
The omega-3 and omega-6 groups of PUFAs represent the key essential fatty acids as they are not synthesized in the body..
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) together form the omega-3 family of PUFAs. Adult cat and dog, there is insufficient evidence to support an absolute minimum requirement of omega-3 PUFAs in the diet.
Linoleic acid (LA) which is an omega 6 fatty acid is required by both dogs and cats.
Arachidonic acid an essential nutrient in the diet of cats.
Cats and dogs can synthesise their own blood glucose from amino acids. Carbohydrate, therefore, is not an essential macronutrient.
Cats cannot produce vitamin A from beta carotene in the diet.
Dogs and cats cannot synthesize vitamin D so it’s necessary to provide it in the diet.
In dogs, some niacin is synthesized from tryptophan, an essential amino acid, but not enough to meet full daily requirements. Cats have a very limited capacity to do this and therefore niacin must be supplied within the diet.
In cats, a dietary source is required for biotin.
Cats and dogs require a dietary source is required for folic acid and cobalamine.
Copper may also be added to pet food in the form of mineral salts.
Iodine is by far the heaviest mineral that is essential for cats and dogs.
4) What diseases are caused by nutritional deficiencies in cats/dogs?
Protein and amino acid deficiency:
A taurine deficiency can result in feline central retinal degeneration
(FCRD) and subsequent blindness, inadequate immune response, poor
growth, and poor reproductive function including decreased live birth
rate and congenital birth defects (like hydrocephalus).
Methionine deficiency can result in pigment gall stones and DCM in dogs.
In the absence of arginine, cats rapidly develop clinical signs of
ammonia intoxication (hyperammonaemia), which include vomiting,
hypersalivation and nerve problems. This deficiency may prove fatal within hours if left untreated.
Fatty acid deficiency:
Linoleic acid (LA) deficiency causes greasy pruritic skin with keratinization, lust less hair, dandruff and behavioural infertility.
Arachidonic acid (AA) deficiency causes reproductive failure with congenital defects.
Vitamin A deficiency can result in eye problems (dry eyes, conjunctivitis corneal opacities, photophobias, cataracts etc. ), dry skin, reproductive anomalies (abortions, premature births) and greater sensitivity to infections and pulmonary complications.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause bending of long bones, osteomalacia (softening of bones), joint and muscle pains, joint swellings, bone fractures.
A vitamin K deficiency can result in digestive, nasal, skin and cerebral haemorrhaging due to inadequate blood clotting processes. High fish diets can lead to Vitamin K deficiency.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) deficiency can cause beriberi in humans and animals as shown by fatigue, muscle weakness, neurological signs such as torticollis, problems with gait and vision, convulsions, paraparesis and ultimately death. Along with taurine and calcium deficiency, this is the most common nutritional deficiency.
Riboflavin ( Vit B2 ), Pantothenic acid (Vit B5) and pyridoxine ( Vit B6 ) can also lead to convulsions, muscle twitching, eye problems, sudden collapse.
Niacin (Vit B3) can cause mouth ulceration, ptyalism with thick blood-stained saliva described as a black tongue.
Cobalamine (Vit B12) can cause megaloblastic anaemia. This deficiency has been reported secondary to inflammatory bowel disease and bacterial overgrowth.
Folic acid (Vit B9) can lead to anaemia and cleft palates.
Biotin (Vit H or B7) can cause alopecia, hyperkeratosis, and loss of hair pigments.
Choline deficiency causes fatty liver, hypocholesterolemia (low levels of cholesterol ).
Mineral deficiency :
Calcium and phosphorus deficiency can result in slow growth, decreased bone densities and bone deformities, osteoporosis.
Magnesium deficiency can result in the appearance of nervous problems including hyperextension of the joints, paralysis, hypertension and loss of appetite.
Iron deficiency can result in poor growth, pale mucous membranes, diarrhoea and anaemia.
Zinc deficiency can result in poor growth and skin lesions on areas of wear such as footpads.
A deficiency of manganese can result in shortening and bowing of the front legs during growth. In adult dogs, lameness, enlarged joints and poor locomotion have also been reported. Manganese deficiency can also have profound effects during reproduction including delayed estrus, poor conception rates, stillbirths and low birth rates.
Copper deficiency can result in anaemia, loss of hair pigmentation and hyperextension of the lower limb.
Iron deficiency includes goitre, hair loss, dry coat and weight gain due to altered thyroid gland activity.
- Nutrient requirements are available from two main references: The annually published AAFCO (Associations of American Feed Control Officials) and Nutrient requirements of dogs and cats from the NRC (National research council). Protein and a Mineral deficiency :
Amino acid deficiency:
AAFCO: establishes model animal feed laws, regulations and ingredient definitions.
Clinical Nutritional Excess:
Beyond calcium and Vit D excess and related orthopaedic or renal consequences the main nutrient excesses of clinical significance are vitamin A and methionine.
Hypervitaminosis A can occur clinically when kittens are fed on all liver diet leading to abnormalities like
Osteocartilagenous hyperplasia of the first three cervical vertebrae. These changes restrict movement.
Methionine excess can result in hemolytic anaemia with methemoglobinemia with Heinz body formation. The risk appears to be associated with purified amino acid supplementation.