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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.

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