Nutrition and Your Dog’s Behavior: Part 1

Dog Behavior


Nutrition plays a major role in, not only a dog’s physical health, but his mental health as well.  Anytime a client’s dog  is suffering with a serious behavior issue, I first address the dog’s nutrition. In this new series of blogs we will be discussing how important nutrition is for keeping your dog healthy mentally and physically, and how you can improve your dog’s health if he’s already suffering from particular illnesses. Please note that before you change your dog’s medication regimen please consult with your veterinarian first.

Dogs can suffer from many different ailments such as obesity, gastrointestinal issues, allergies, arthritis and behavior issues. All of these ailments result from inflammation in the cells. I’m not going to get too scientific in this blog but there are some important facts you need to understand.

We have trillions of cells and almost each contains a copy of our genome. Understanding the genome is critical to preventing, treating and managing illnesses. Dogs have approximately 21,000 genes in their genome. Researchers from the University of Chicago found that humans and domestic dogs share an extensive parallel genomic evolution, particularly in genes associated with digestion and metabolism, neurological processes and diseases such as cancer. This means that both species can benefit from much of the same new scientific information regarding the best way to eat for optimum cellular health.

Nutrigenomics is the science of how diet affects the epigenome, (the structural layer that rounds our DNA and the proteins they are attached to), and gene expressions, (the process of turning genes on or off inside a cell, which in turn alters our genetic predisposition toward health or disease). To learn more about Epigenome and gene expressions do a quick web search.

Most genes are the same or similar in everyone, but a small number are different. It is that tiny difference that determines our unique genetic characteristics called our genotype. Genetics and environmental factors influence the epigenome and play a large role in determining whether genes will express for health or disease. Genetics, hormones, stress and agents such as drugs, chemicals and toxins all effect us, and nutrition plays a part in how each effects our body. By feeding your dog nutritional ingredients that send desirable signals to his epigenome and promote healthy gene expression, you can manage environmental influences to help him live a life of optimum health, rather than one plagued with chronic illness.

When lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition send unhealthy messages to the epigenome, it can take years before an outward problem manifests. Many owners find that their dog goes to bed healthy but wakes up one day with symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, behavioral changes or excessive scratching. This is the result of long-term inflammation triggered by a combination of factors that are strongly influenced by environmental assaults on the epigenome. When these results become too much for the body to handle it finally reaches a tipping point and a disease state appears.

There are two types of inflammation. Acute cellular inflammation is a temporary state of inflammation that arises for a specific purpose and then goes away once its job is done. Chronic cellular inflammation is a sustained inflammatory condition that leads to a variety of diseases. Chronic inflammation can cause many conditions such as allergies, cancer, autoimmune disease, cognitive issues, heart disease, arthritis, obesity, skin and coat disorders and urinary tract disorders.

Throughout our blog series we will be discussing functional foods and how they work for your dog’s health. We will talk specifically about nutritional ingredients that alter gene expression in a manner that can help prevent, manage and even reverse a variety of chronic illnesses. In the meantime, I encourage you to make a list of the health issues your dog suffers from as well as knowing the ingredients in the dog food you are feeding on a regular basis.

Information adapted from Canine Nutrigenomics – The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health by W. Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure.