Influence of Diet on Genetics
It is probable that many factors in the environment all play their own role in determining whether genetic susceptibility to specific diseases ever develop into actual problems, and one of these factors is the diet an individual has.
Genetic defects affect the way the body process’s nutrients, as they have the ability to block and prevent the body being able to access and assimilate the whole range of nutrients it needs. In some cases, where treatment for genetic disorders is carried out without further investigation, further ‘knock-on’ affects can happen also; i.e. treatment for copper storage disease consisting of the drug Penicillamine which binds copper, also binds zinc, thus resulting, over a period of time, in zinc deficiency.
It is difficult, and can even be dangerous to some dogs health for all to be given identical diets,or to believe that one diet can, or does, fit all.
A study done in the U.K. demonstrates this as it highlights that there is statistical variation between dogs and their needs, based on their individual genetics. With a group of 7 dogs of the same breed, sex and age, it showed that 1 in those 7 will need about 25% more calories than the average, and 1 in those 7 will need about 25% fewer calories than the average – thus it is right that dogs be treated as individuals with individual needs where diet is concerned.
More than 200 congenital or genetic disorders have been reported in dogs and some of these have an effect on the way the body is able to process nutrients. Differences can be seen perhaps more clearly in the obvious differences between different breeds in dietary needs; i.e. many pet dogs are fine and show no ill effects when eating meat which has been frozen for long periods, however, in this same situation, sled dogs in the Antarctic developed scurvy, a condition which was rectified upon giving them extra supplements of vitamins to prevent the decrease of plasmaconcentrations of vitamin c in their diet so obviously needed in higher amounts by their bodies due to the genetic disposition and way they have been bred for the work which they do.
If we can treat our dogs as individuals and give them the diet most suited to them as an individual, this is going to play a large role in their general overall health, as a large part of the immune system is in the gut and digestive system. A strong immune system will play a large role in determining health and susceptibility to disease.
Vitamin C therapy is another area where many dogs show improvement in health. Wendell Belfield DVM studied the effects of vitamin C therapy, pioneering the successful use of Megascorbic Prophylaxis and Megascorbic Therapy: A New Orthomolecular Modality in Veterinary Medicine for cats and dogs and believes that a number of pet diseases are actually not genetic, but due to a diet deficiency in vitamin c.
Some of these diseases include scurvy, hip & elbow dysplasia, canine and feline Distemper, joint issues and arthritis, viral diseases, ‘London’ flu, Rhinotracheitis, Paralytic nictitating membranes, Acute bronchitis, Jaundice, Pregnancy and Whelping, Allergies, Dermatitis, Respiratory Conditions, Epilepsy, Urinary Tract, Spinal Degeneration and Ligament and Joint Laxity.