An eight-month-old male Saint Bernard developed tetanic seizures and hyperthermia during evaluation of the shoulder joints, which revealed bilateral signs of pain and mild muscle wasting. Serum biochemical analysis revealed severe hypocalcemia, hyponatremia, hypochloremia, hyperphosphatemia, vitamin D deficiency and taurine deficiency. Diffuse osteopenia was identified on radiographs of the mandible and long bones, confirming bone demineralization. Further investigation revealed the dog was receiving a homemade diet that was severely deficient in a variety of nutrients.
The dog responded positively to treatment for hypocalcemia, hyperthermia and seizures. The diet was changed to a complete and balanced dog food formulated for growth. Body weight and condition were monitored, and dietary intake was adjusted to achieve optimal body condition during growth. Serial monitoring of serum calcium and taurine concentrations revealed that values were within reference limits, and the dog had no further clinical signs associated with dietary deficiency.
Findings in this puppy highlight the risks associated with feeding an unbalanced homemade diet during growth and the importance of obtaining a thorough dietary history from all patients. For owners who elect to feed a homemade diet, it is critical to have the homemade diet carefully formulated by a veterinary nutritionist to avoid severe nutrient imbalances, especially in young, growing dogs.
Source : D. Hutchinson et al., 2012. Seizures and severe nutrient deficiencies in a puppy fed a homemade diet. JAVMA 241: 477-483. doi: 10.2460/javma.241.4.477