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Diet Causes Cleft Palates/Congenital Defects

Nutritionally, the most common resultant defect seen is cleft palates. However, it is important to recognize that cleft palates can result from other causes as well, such as genetic, and use of medications during pregnancy. It has been widely observed that certain breeds have higher prevalence of cleft palates. This is generally associated with brachycephalic breeds such as Boston terriers, and French bulldogs. The nutrient usually involved is folic acid, or folate, a B vitamin. Folic acid plays an integral part in DNA replication and translation. If it is not present in adequate levels, the resulting strands of DNA are fragile and break.
Another nutrient that can trigger cleft palates is Vitamin A, and it is not the nutrient itself as much as the quantity present. Excessive levels of Vitamin A are the problem. The most common cause of hypervitaminosis A is liver supplementation to the regular diet. Vitamin A stores in liver tissue, so excessive food sources rich in Vitamin A accumulate the nutrient in the dog’s liver and in the blood stream. This is one example when adding a supplemental food to a dog’s diet does much more harm than good. Generally speaking, the best application of nutrition is to feed a complete and balanced dog food, appropriate for the life stage, and nothing else.

A major contributor to congenital defects is the inappropriate use of drugs during pregnancy. Drugs that one wouldn’t automatically suspect of having such dire side-effects include some antibiotics, deworming or antiparasitic compounds (such as Albon and Flagyl), antifungals given orally, and even some diarrhea treatments.

There are infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, parasites) that can trigger developmental defects. Among these are both types of Canine Parvovirus, the traditionally recognized type 2 manifesting disease as hemorrhagic diarrhea, and type 1, also known as the Minute virus. Canine Adenovirus is another one recognized as teratogenic. As far as parasites, toxoplasmosis is a disease condition that frequently results in defects.

Congenital defects occur in every breed, and every breeder will have some show up in their kennel. This is normal. However, you can minimize this occurrence by feeding a diet specifically formulated for breeding, breeding animals that have been vaccinated regularly, dewormed regularly, are healthy and not administering any drugs during pregnancy unless advised by your veterinarian. Good record keeping can help determine what occurrence of birth defects is within normally expected levels, and what is excessive. It can also help pinpoint any inbreeding issues, genetic predisposition, or inadvisable matings.

2 Responses to “Diet Causes Cleft Palates/Congenital Defects”

  1. 1
    Lee Cullens:

    It seems to me that what too many are overlooking in caring for our domestic animals is the real unbiased scientific basis that is missing in most information pieces.The author Euan Fingal has offered up a free ebook (pdf) to try to help us understand how we might improve our well-being and that of our domestic animals in general, but especially that of our canine companions.  The book brings together ample unbiased natural sciences evidence, and the experiences of many naturally oriented caregivers, to clear a convincing swath through the propaganda surrounding well-being, and the misguided understandings it fosters.To learn more about the book, and to download it, see the journal entry:”Ol’ Shep’s Well-being: A Natural Perspective”http://www.achinook.com/journal/2009/6/18/ol-sheps-well-being-a-natural-perspective.html[strictly noncommercial]Incidentally, the previous Ol’ Shep articles on the site have been superseded by the book, which is much more comprehensive, and more thoroughly researched, referenced, and reviewed. My best to you and yours,Lee C

  2. 2
    wldorchidnv:

    Excellent online free book for learning about dog behaviors. Great guide for raw feeding too. You can throw stuff together when your bitch isn’t pregnant, but I stick to very good puppy food with salmon oil for DHA for brain development when they are pregnant. No chance of toxins with certain organs, fish or chickens. No guess work on if she is gaining too much weight due to too much fat in her diet or if it is pups. I can weigh my dog before she has a litter and estimate how many pups she is going to have with accuracy. I want to know exactly what is going on with my dogs and be able to predict the outcome of my actions. It isn’t going to have a huge adverse effect on their long term health to put them on dog food for a couple of months IMO. This is just my opinion of course. Every breeder out there does their own thing, but I sure don’t want any birth defects in my litters and if they do show up I know it is due to genetics and not diet. Since this is not a short nosed breed like Frenchies you know a cleft palate is due to diet or medication given to a bitch during pregnancy.

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