Other health problems

Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. May 18, 2017
Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs

See files for Dogs

Do you feed your pet properly? This is one of the questions that you should ask yourself on a regular basis. A dog's diet is one of the factors that has a bigger influence on their health. As such, you should always make sure that the food you give them meets their nutritional requirements. Failure to do so could see your dog suffer from various health problems.

Nutritional deficiencies are sometimes not caused by dietary issues, but by internal problems that prevent correct intestinal absorption. Therefore, any symptoms of a nutritional deficiency should be taken very seriously.

In this Animal Wised article we will show you how to detect nutritional deficiencies in dogs.

You may also be interested in: Symptoms of Cataracts in Cats
  1. General symptoms
  2. Symptoms of carbohydrate deficiency
  3. Symptoms of protein deficiency
  4. Symptoms of lipid deficiencies
  5. Symptoms of vitamin deficiency
  6. Symptoms of mineral deficiency
  7. What to do if my dog has a nutritional deficiency?

General symptoms

Nowadays you can find high quality balanced dog feed on the market, which are an excellent way of providing your pets with all the nutrients they need. However, low quality feeds and the preparation of homemade meals without nutritional supervision continues to be a problem. This is the reason why some dogs suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

A dog whose body has all the required nutrients, which are given in the correct proportions, is a healthy dog. On the other hand, a dog's health can become compromised when it has a nutritional deficit.

The general symptoms of nutritional deficiencies are those that suggest the dog is not well, whilst not telling you anything about the specific nutrient that is lacking:

  • Changes in thirst and urine production
  • Changes in the appearance and consistency of feces
  • Dull coat
  • Sad look
  • Eating disorders
  • Sudden changes in body weight
  • Skin disorders
  • Behavioral changes
Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs - General symptoms

Symptoms of carbohydrate deficiency

Carbohydrates are macronutrients whose main role is to provide energy. As such, a dog which is not given enough carbohydrates will at first appear weak and tired in general. If this deficiency isn't corrected, the lethargy will progressively increase.

If the body does not have enough carbohydrates, it starts using fats as an energy source. Fats used for energy leave a metabolic waste known as ketone bodies.

The clearest sign that there is a problem with carbohydrates (whether a deficiency or diabetes) is when the dog's breath smells of acetone.

Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs - Symptoms of carbohydrate deficiency

Symptoms of protein deficiency

Proteins have a structural function, serving to repair, maintain and build new tissues and small structures necessary for the body's correct functioning (the antibodies found in the immune system are formed by protein).

A dog affected by a protein deficiency will mainly show the following symptoms:

  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Developmental disorders
  • Infertility
  • Repeated infectious diseases owing to an immune deficiency
  • Changes in skin and fur
Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs - Symptoms of protein deficiency

Symptoms of lipid deficiencies

Lipids or fats are absolutely necessary for forming cell membranes, protecting organs and transporting fat-soluble vitamins.

Harmful fats are also not recommended for dogs, who should only consume essential fatty acids, also known as healthy fats.

Lipid deficiency is shown through the following symptoms:

  • Dry coat
  • Flaking and seborrhoea
  • Susceptibility to infectious diseases
  • Weight loss
Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs - Symptoms of lipid deficiencies

Symptoms of vitamin deficiency

Vitamins are micronutrients, meaning that the dog's body needs them in small proportions. However, they are essential because they play a role in numerous chemical reactions.

A vitamin deficiency will show some symptoms or others depending on the functions of the vitamin which is lacking. However, the following symptoms are all signs of a deficit of this micronutrient:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Dermatitis
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Changes in tongue color
  • Alterations in their fur
  • Clotting problems
  • Neurological signs
Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs - Symptoms of vitamin deficiency

Symptoms of mineral deficiency

Minerals, just like vitamins, are micro nutrients, and the deficit symptoms will depend on the particular function performed by the mineral that is lacking.

Despite this, there are some main signs suggesting a deficit of this type of micronutrient. They are the following:

  • Growth disorders
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Anemia
  • Repeated infectious diseases
  • Restlessness
  • Weakness
  • Dry skin and loss of fur
Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs - Symptoms of mineral deficiency

What to do if my dog has a nutritional deficiency?

As with many other disorders, it is essential to go to the vet as soon as possible.

A nutritional deficit is not anything banal. As we have seen, the lack of some nutrients can even cause neurological disorders.

The vet must first assess the dog's state of health and determine whether any of the alterations caused by nutritional deficit require drug treatment. It will also be important to identify what particular nutritional deficit that you are dealing with: this can be determined simply by looking at the clinical symptoms, or you can ask for lab tests.

Finally, it is important to get professional advice about the best diet for your pet, and which foods it should be given to meet these particular nutritional needs.

Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs - What to do if my dog has a nutritional deficiency?

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

Write a comment
Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
Renee Kummerer
I am concerned about the grain free foods that I have fed my dogs for years. My German hunt terrier seems to have a heart murmur and possible heart problems. she is around 9. They are saying lack of taurine in the food is the problem. would adding it to their foods help?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Renee,

Taurine is necessary for many reasons in a dog's diet. It is known to help with heart problems and it is a necessary nutrient in their diet. It should be present in commercial dog food, even in the grain-free option. However, you will need to speak to the veterinarian again to know how much to provide and in what way. We shouldn't give our dogs supplements without consultation.
Our Timber Shepherd(otherwise super healthy) has recurring broken claws that are painful for weeks, then fall off. Our other shepherd on the same diet has no such problem. Any ideas about how to help him? They eat a raw food barf diet and sardines for omegas. Thank you
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Maaji,

There is quite a lot of debate on both sides of the BARF diet. Without getting into that debate here, anecdotally it seems to work for some and not for others. All dogs have specific dietary needs, but (as with humans) these can differ. Getting all the nutrients we need is sometimes inhibited by certain heath conditions, levels/types of gut flora and much more.

The first thing you need to do is take them to the vet to see if there is no underlying pathology which is leading to these symptoms. It may not be dietary related at all. Fungal disease, parasites, immunodeficiency problems or others could be the cause.

If it is, then you will need to change their diet, this is also something which should be discussed with your vet. One idea is to try feeding them on a high quality and AVMA approved commercial feed. If their well-being improves (although this may take time) and you want to go back to a BARF diet, find out what nutrients are in the feed which have been missing and replicate them in the raw diet. It is not necessarily something which is going to be easy. Whatever the issue, the vet's is a must.

Thanks for the comment and picture, we wish you all the best!
my 5 month old puppy keeps trying to eat twigs stones soil leaves etc. does this mean she is lacking in vitamins and minerals. I'm worried about proper development of limbs especialy as she's a dachshund I'm concerned about bone strength.
Administrador AnimalWised

Our article below might be able to provide some insight:

1 of 8
Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies in Dogs