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Diet: Nutrition considerations for Wobblers syndrome

Updated: Nov 20, 2023


Wobblers syndrome - a nutritional approach


A nutritional approach to treating a 10 yr old Weimaraner diagnosed with Cervical Spondylomyolopathy (CSM) – Wobblers. The owner had the dog on a home cooked diet (steamed veggies, minced meat and pasta) and had noticed in the previous month that the dog had trouble crouching down to eat his dinner. The dog was also getting one big raw beef bone a week.


The current nutrition

Like many diseases there are likely genetic factors at play, however, as Wobblers syndrome is a disease involving bones and joints, dietary factors can play a huge role in its development and severity. Puppies fed for maximum growth will grow too fast, the body becoming too big and heavy for the soft bones and joints to support, as a result the joints don’t form well. In large breeds such as the Weimaraner the developing head becomes very heavy for the soft developing vertebrae of the neck to support. If the overly rich calcium diet is maintained, development of the spinal canal is hindered as the resorption of calcium is blocked as the body attempts to balance blood calcium with excessive amounts of the hormone calcitonin. Without appropriate development of the spinal canal there simply isn’t enough room for development of a healthy spinal cord[1].


Client/Owner concerns

The recent worsening of the dogs’ physical condition, i.e. trouble crouching for dinner, suggests his current diet is not meeting his nutritional needs. Transitioning him from a home cooked diet of steamed vegetables, minced meat and pasta onto a raw, balanced, species appropriate diet would provide him with a much more nutritionally balanced diet and rectify the nutritional deficiencies which have developed.


Management of the condition, nutritionally.

A species appropriate diet for a dog comprises 20% muscle meat, 40% meaty bones, 10% Offal and 20% plant matter and 10% supplements. Transitioning a pet to a species appropriate raw diet would normally take around 12 days, however, if the dog is already on a raw mince based diet the transition period would be based around providing balance, the acceptance of additional foods.


A. Meat protein: Expanding on the mince is recommended with a variety of protein sources such as lamb, pork, venison etc to give a balance of nutrients. Providing different textures is also recommended with meaty chunks or a recreational bone with significant meat portion to enable to dog to exercise their jaw and teeth. Beef necks, Lamb shanks, Goat knuckles etc all provide a meaty bone option with a high proportion of meat to satisfy the dietary component required.


B. Meaty bones: In addition to receiving a weekly recreational beef bone, digestible bone should be fed to ensure the appropriate mineral requirements are being met. Chicken frames are a great option to start with as chicken appears to be lacking in the current diet and frames are a soft, easily managed bone for a large dog new to digestible bones. Like meat, the meaty bones should come from a variety of sources to ensure a balance of nutrients is provided[2].


C. Organs: a selection of offal meats such as liver, kidney, brains and green tripe are essential components of any balanced diet; Raw Liver is a good first offal meat packed with valuable B12 whilst raw green tripe is naturally high in enzymes and probiotic bacteria whilst being low in fat making it an ideal dietary choice. Initially the offal could be minced or finely chopped and blended with mince meat if palatability needs to be increased, ideally working towards providing ‘chunks’ will add convenience.


D. Plant matter: Fruits and vegetables provide much needed fibre to the diet, when fed raw and suitably crushed they provide a whole host of other valuable nutrients which are otherwise destroyed by cooking. Identifying the current vegetable’s being fed and the appropriate ‘processing’ required will form a good foundation for the new diet with many likely suitable for being fed raw and crushed to maximise nutritional value. Adding variety will further enhance the nutritional composition of the diet with items such as Spinach providing Vitamin C and other much needed antioxidants, enzymes and other nutrients to the diet[3]. Items like carrots and pumpkin are good options for the large, energy hungry dog and can be easily blended with a mince mix or other vegetables.


E. Supplements: With the pet nicely transitioned onto a raw diet other additives may be provided to further enhance the nutrient profile of the diet and address any deficiencies that have built up for the pet.

  1. Bone broth: a nutritionally dense supplement that can safely be added to any dogs’ diet on a regular basis and is a great way to provide the body with collagen and other essential nutrients. Bone broth is also a great source of glycosaminoglycans including the commonly known Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Hyaluronic acid which are regularly promoted as arthritis supplements. The great advantage with bone broth is that they are in a natural form which is resistant to digestion, instead of breaking down in the intestines they are absorbed intact and act like hormones, stimulating fibroblasts to lay down collagen in the connective tissues and joints, naturally supporting dogs as they age and helping to ward off debilitating arthritis[4].

  2. Eggs are an excellent source of the highest quality protein available suitable for dogs of all ages containing all of the vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids dogs need for good healthy which makes them an ideal addition to a balanced diet[2].

  3. A good quality, cold pressed flaxseed oil adds valuable omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to the diet which are often lacking in the pets fed a commercial product. EFA’s are key to maintaining and supporting all aspects of our pets’ health as they are components of cell membranes, supporting the flow of molecules into and out of cells as well as supporting enzyme and membrane receptor function[5]. An appropriate Vitamin E source should also be provided to protect the pet against the oil becoming rancid in their body [2].

  4. Brewer’s yeast, as a rich source of vitamins B-complex, antioxidants and assorted minerals, and is a useful dietary supplement for pets not sensitive to yeast[6].

  5. Kelp, among the many minerals found in kelp there are iodine and selenium, both of which are lacking in New Zealand soils and can be provided in the diet safely, without fear of toxicity, by the inclusion of kelp [2].

  6. Natural, unsweetened Greek yoghurt: can be a useful addition to the diet providing a highly digestible protein , vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients[2] including lactic acid bacteria such as bifido bacteria, a known probiotic which promotes digestion and bowel health[7].


With the dog successfully transitioned to a raw balanced diet, incorporating a variety of species appropriate foods, it’s useful to ensure the owner can maintain the diet long term. A meat patty ‘recipe’ incorporating the meat, offal, plant matter and supplements whilst providing the owner guidance as to interchangeable items to further add variety and cope with seasonal availability is provided. Pets on a raw diet don’t tend to have weight issues; discussing changing energy requirements as the dogs’ lifestyle changes enables the owner to adjust meal sizes appropriately whilst maintaining balance.


Sources

[1] Billinghurst, I. 1998. Grow your pups with bones. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing. [2] Billinghurst, I. 1993. Give Your Dog a Bone. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing [3] Healthline. 2020. Spinach 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Retrieved November 25th, 2020, from Healthline web site: www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/spinach [4] Scott, D. 2020. Bone Broth For Dogs? Here's Why It's A Great Idea. Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Dogs naturally magazine web site: https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/reasons-your-dog-love-bone-broth/ [5] Patel, A. 2017. Essential Fatty Acids In Veterinary Dermatology: Do They Have A Place? Retrieved May 10th, 2020, from veterinarypractice.com: www.veterinary-practice.com/article/essential-fatty-acids-in-veterinary-dermatology-do-they-have-a-place [6] Elfenbein, H. 2017. Brewer's Yeast for Dogs: Understanding the Benefits and Risks. Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Pet MD web site: https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/brewers-yeast-dogs-understanding-benefits-and-risks [7]West, H. n.d.. Lactose Intolerance 101 - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved October 10th, 2020, from Healthline web site: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lactose-intolerance-101

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