Improper diet can be devastating to your dog’s health. Overfeeding, undernourishment and nutritional imbalance can all lead to a wide variety of illnesses. Fortunately, according to the Journal of Nutrition, most pet foods on the market are regulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition. Provided your dog doesn’t have food allergies or sensitivities, and that you feed him the correct amount of food and give him plenty of exercise, many of these conditions are avoidable.
Obesity is characterized by excess body fat beyond what is appropriate for a dog’s breed, gender, age, size and bone structure. According to PetWave.com, it’s estimated that between 25 to 45 percent of dogs in the United States are obese. While obesity itself is considered to be a disease that has adverse effects on a dog’s health, including shortened lifespan and stress on the bones and joints, it can also be the root cause of a number of other diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease. While obesity can have non-nutritional causes, such as hypothyroidism, it’s most commonly caused by feeding more calories than your dog expends.
Allergies and Skin Disorders
Your dog’s diet has a big impact on his skin and coat. Food allergies can cause excessive itching and even hair loss that can only be stopped by identifying the allergen and eliminating it from the diet. Other skin disorders, such as seborrhea, scaly skin, greasy skin and thinning fur, can be caused by either malnutrition or an improper balance of nutrients in the diet, according to the Journal of Nutrition.
An improper diet can also be detrimental to your dog’s digestive health. Signs of a gastrointestinal disease include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and flatulence. GI disorders can be caused by food allergies, but they can also be caused by improper feeding, such as not providing the right amount of fiber or feeding too much fat to your dog. However, digestive problems can also be caused by other factors, including stress, infection or parasites, so it’s important to have him checked out by your vet if he’s exhibiting gastrointestinal problems.
Endocrine and Autoimmune Disorders
According to pet nutrition author Caroline D. Levin, RN, there is a strong link between a dog’s diet and the development of both endocrine disorders, such as Cushing’s disease, and autoimmune disorders such as Addison’s disease. According to Levin, processed grains and chemicals used in some commercial pet foods cause irritation to some dogs, in turn causing their bodies to produce excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to tumors, overactive adrenal glands, and an overactive immune system. Signs to look for include excess appetite and thirst, incontinence, insomnia, confusion and even seizures. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, your vet can run tests and prescribe an appropriate course of treatment.