A Cautionary Tail Of 3 Dogs

I closed out my last week of 2017 presented with 3 eerily similar canine cases that all presented severely sick.  The breeds may have all been different, but outside of breed, all three dogs had striking similarities in their history, presentation, disease predisposing factors, and diagnosis.

History

Each dog was relatively young, between 7-9 years of age, and all three were males.  The owners of each dog claimed regular wellness veterinary care, but none went beyond a discount vaccine clinic and based on records, none had been actually examined in years (there is an abysmal legal loophole in Florida that allows vaccines to be administered to patients by technicians or assistants without an examination as long as a licensed veterinarian is in the building).

Presentation

All three dogs were depressed, weak, dehydrated, and not eating.  Each dog had severe dental disease, a major predisposing factor for what the ultimate diagnosis would ultimately be for all 3 dogs.

Diagnosis

All three dogs were found to have severely elevated kidney values and phosphorous in their bloodwork, a finding which led to a diagnosis of chronic kidney failure.  Based on their numbers and presentation, all three dogs were given a poor to grave prognosis.

The timing of these diagnoses was very difficult for the owners in the week leading up to Christmas and New Year, with each family desperately wishing to keep their pet with them at least through the holiday season.  Thus, each owner despite the odds elected to attempt treatment.

Luckily, in the case of chronic kidney failure, other than the cost, there is little to lose in attempting treatment.  Consisting primarily of aggressive IV fluids,  GI protectants, anti-nausea medication and antibiotics, it is not an invasive course of treatment and only takes 2-3 days to play out to see if the patient will respond.  Ultimately, only one of the three would recover to the extent that he would make it through the holidays and even still, he carries a poor to grave prognosis.

I did not write about this to depressed pet owners, but instead shared my experience as a cautionary story for pet owners to learn from.  The demise of these dogs was likely very preventable.

Had these dogs received proper veterinary care with actual yearly hands on examination by a veterinarian, the dental disease would have pointed out well before it reached such a severe point.  Had the dental disease subsequently been treated in the early stages, a major predisposing factor for chronic kidney failure would have been eliminated.

Regular yearly wellness bloodwork starting at age 5 would have caught kidney disease in its early stages and proactive measures could have been put in place to maintain the longevity of the kidneys and subsequently the longevity of and quality of life of the patent; rather than tragically lose them well shy of their 10th birthday.

A regimen of kidney protective diet (protein, sodium, and phosphorus restriction), GI protectants, and anti-oxidants often extend the lives of chronic kidney disease patients for years.

Chronic kidney failure is only one of countless life shortening diseases that can be managed or even prevented with proper and timely veterinary wellness care.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Should A Dog’s Diet Be Supplemented With Vitamin C?

Most of us are familiar with vitamin C and its health benefits for people.  Vitamin C has been proven to have powerful immune system boosting properties to help to prevent infectious disease and cancer.  Vitamin C is also a biological sponge, that is, it has molecular properties capable of binding to free radicals that form in the body every moment of our existence and eliminating them from the body.

Free radicals are charged ions and compounds that damage tissues and organs via a chemical process called oxidation.  They form as the result of physical stress on the body, mental stress, and as the result of age.  When we take vitamin C and other vitamins known to be “antioxidants,” these compounds effectively bind, neutralize, and facilitate the removal of free radicals, thereby protecting the body from disease and slowing the aging process.

It should necessarily follow that we should administer vitamin C to dogs as well, right?  They are after all, physiologically built very similarly to us and suffer many of the same disease processes, as well as experience the gradual break down of their bodies from father time.  However, when it comes to vitamin C, they are quite different.

The major difference between people and dogs when it comes to vitamin C is that people necessarily depend on outside supplementation of vitamin C either through dietary sources (such as oranges and other fruits) or supplements.  This is because we possess a very poor ability to synthesize our own vitamin C.

Dogs, on the other hand, are physiologically quite capable of synthesizing their own endogenous vitamin C.  Having this ability, under normal circumstances, as long as they are fed as nutritionally well balanced diet, they do not require outside supplementation with vitamin C.

For some of you that are particularly well informed, you may know that vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and, as such, it has little potential to cause toxicity (excesses in water soluble vitamins are easily eliminated by both dogs and people).  If this is what you are thinking, you are correct.  You may also be thinking that if this is the case, what harm would there be to offer your dog a little extra vitamin C?  The answer is that that for an adult dog, other than a mild, self limiting case of loose stools, there really is no harm.

For growing puppies, on the other hand, there is great potential for harm.  Vitamin C has the potential to cause spikes in serum calcium.  In response to this, the body activates a hormone called calcitonin that interferes with the proper development of bone density and proper remodeling of a puppy’s skeletal system as they grow.  This is especially true in large breed puppies.  As such, I generally advise against supplementing a puppy’s diet with vitamin C.

Still, although dogs do effectively synthesize their own vitamin C, there are certain conditions where it is beneficial to prescribe additional supplementation with vitamin C.  Female dogs that suffer from chronic recurring urinary tract infections is one case example that I would  recommend supplementation with vitamin C.  In this case, vitamin C not only directly boosts the immune system both locally and systemically to fight infection, as a water soluble vitamin eliminated primarily via the kidneys, vitamin C also acidifies the urine directly to create a less hospitable environment for bacteria to proliferate.

In the case of any pet under treatment for cancer, I also recommend supplementation with vitamin C.  Cancer in the body creates systemic free radicals that vitamin C helps to eliminate.  Boosting the immune system with vitamin C helps to prevent secondary infection dogs are predisposed to when under treatment with chemotherapy.  Boosting the immune system also aids the dog’s immune system to fight the cancer itself.

As a general rule, vitamin C is not necessary for healthy dogs fed a nutritionally balanced diet.  It is potentially harmful to supplement puppies with vitamin C.  However, there are specific health circumstances where supplementation with vitamin C is beneficial to dogs.  Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian before considering any nutrient supplementation regimen for your dog.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.