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Is your pet’s illness linked to a vitamin or mineral deficiency?

Updated: Mar 5

Part 2 of a 2-part blog series


What if you could resolve your animal’s health issue by ensuring that they’re getting the nutrients they need?



There are two categories of nutrients - macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fats. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy development, disease prevention and wellness.


In this blog post series, we’re going to be focussing on the micronutrients - vitamins and minerals, and how many ailments in animals can result from micronutrient deficiencies.


In this Part 2, we’ll explore vitamins and their role in health illness.


In Part 1, we explored minerals and their relationship with illness.


Vitamins and their relationship with illness


If the diet is missing vitamins, or the vitamins are delivered in a way that aren't bio-available (they aren't capable of being properly absorbed or used), disease can result due to vitamin deficiency.


What are vitamins?


Vitamins are organic molecules that are necessary to support many of the body’s metabolic processes. They are essential for normal metabolism, growth, development, maintenance and reproduction.


They are split into two categories - fat soluble and water soluble.


Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are absorbed when fats are eaten. Any excess is primarily stored in the liver. Because of the way fat soluble vitamins are stored, excesses can result in toxicity, and a deficiency can take a while to occur. An excess can result in toxicity.


Water soluble vitamins (B-complex and C). Apart from B12, the body is unable to store water soluble vitamins. This means that a deficiency can result much faster in comparison to a fat soluble vitamin deficiency.


Most vitamins cannot be synthesised by the body and so it is essential that they are included in balanced amounts in the diet.


Vitamins and minerals work synergistically, and an imbalance in one can affect the body’s ability to utilise other nutrients in the diet. For example, without vitamins A and D, calcium and magnesium can’t be utilised correctly by the body, which can result in a deficiency.


Vitamin imbalance and illness


An imbalance of vitamins in an animal’s diet (deficiency or excess) can result in mineral imbalance (see part 1 for more on minerals). Without an adequate and balanced source of vitamins in an animal’s diet, health issues can result, such as:


  • conditions due to a lack of vitamin A, such as eye issues like pinkeye/conjunctivitis and runny eyes, worm infestations, harsh dry coat, skin lesions, hair loss, skeletal abnormalities, hyperesthesia, neurological disorders


  • conditions due to a lack of B vitamins, such as digestive issues, heart disease, cataracts, nervousness, skin issues, stunted growth, fatigue, foetal development issues, fatty liver, weight loss, tachycardia, seizures, mood disorders and increased cancer risk (best results will be obtained by providing the individual vitamin B that is needed rather than giving the full complex)


  • conditions due to a lack of vitamin C, such as digestive issues, loose teeth, bleeding gums, joint pain, collagen loss in the bones and connective tissues


  • conditions due to a lack of vitamin D, such as bone deformities/disease, a harsh dry coat, feline oral resorptive lesions


  • conditions due to a lack of vitamin E, such as reduction of antibodies, sterility, skin issues, musculoskeletal conditions, reproductive issues, neurological disorders, eye disorders, feline pansteatitis (usually occurs when cats are fed a high fish diet)


  • conditions due to a lack of vitamin K, such as blood disorders, connective tissue disorders and gastric ulcers


This isn’t to say that vitamin imbalance is the sole cause of your animal’s health issue, but ensuring they’re getting the vitamins they need in their diet, in the right balance, can go a long way to helping them prevent and heal from disease.


Ways to balance vitamins in your animal’s diet


One of the best ways to ensure that your animal is getting the vitamins they need is by feeding them a fresh and varied diet that consists of whole foods they were designed to eat. Feeding foods that contain naturally occurring vitamins is superior to feeding foods with synthetic vitamins or adding synthetic vitamin supplements. Your animal’s body will better assimilate vitamins that are naturally occurring rather than synthetic / artificial.



These food items can provide a rich and bioavailable source of essential vitamins:


  • Meat and poultry provide vitamins B1, B3 and B12.


  • Fish provides vitamins B6, B12, D and K.


  • Organ meats provide vitamins B2, B4, B6 and B12.


  • Eggs provide vitamins B4, B7, A and D.


  • Legumes provide vitamins B3, B4, B5 and B7.


  • Vegetables (especially green) provide vitamins B2, B9, C and K.


  • Grains provide vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 and E.


  • Hemp seed oil and wheatgerm oil are rich in vitamin E.


CAUTION: It’s important to be mindful about what you’re feeding your animal. If you’re already feeding a complete and balanced diet, adding foods that are rich in certain fat soluble vitamins eg A and D can result in an excess, which can cause illness eg an excess of vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, bone resorption and calcification of soft tissues, feline oral resorptive lesions. This can happen for example if you’re feeding kibble and you add fish. The kibble will no doubt have adequate levels of vitamin D, albeit synthetic which won’t support optimal absorption, and adding fish that is rich in vitamin D, could result in an excess and cause illness.


If you’re feeding a homemade diet, it’s vital that your animal’s vitamins needs are met with a variety of foods and / or supplementation.


If you loved learning about vitamins and minerals, you’re going to love the Real Food Nutrition for Pets course. We talk in depth about vitamins and minerals in Module 6. Learn more here.



References:

Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource For Companion Animal Professionals by Linda P Case et al. 3rd edition.

Natural Horse Care: A Practical Guide by Pat Coleby. 2008.


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About Ruth

Ruth Hatten is a Holistic Animal Care Mentor with qualifications in animal naturopathy, pet nutrition and energy healing. She helps animals using holistic principles and natural remedies, including naturopathy, nutrition, plant medicine, energy and spirituality. Ruth believes that animals can thrive when they are supported in this way.​

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