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Diffuse osteopenia and myelopathy in a puppy fed a diet composed of an organic premix and raw ground beef

Mark B. Taylor MA, DVM1, David A. Geiger DVM2, Korinn E. Saker DVM, PhD, DACVN3, and Martha M. Larson DVM, MS, DACVR4
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  • 1 Banfield, The Pet Hospital, 175 Shoppers Way, Christiansburg, VA 24060.
  • | 2 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061.
  • | 3 Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606-1428.
  • | 4 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061.

Abstract

Case Description—An 8-month-old Shetland Sheepdog was evaluated because of the sudden onset of signs of neck pain, collapse, and inability to rise. A cursory diet history indicated that the dog had been fed a raw meat–based diet.

Clinical Findings—Initial evaluation of the dog revealed small physical stature, thin body condition, and signs of cranial cervical myelopathy. Radiographically, diffuse osteopenia of all skeletal regions was identified; polyostotic deformities associated with fracture remodeling were observed in weight-bearing bones, along with an apparent floating dental arcade. Hypocalcemia and hypophosphatemia were detected via serum biochemical analyses. The dog's diet was imbalanced in macronutrients and macrominerals.

Treatment and Outcome—The dog received supportive care and treatment of medical complications; neurologic abnormalities improved rapidly without intervention. Dietary changes were implemented during hospitalization, and a long-term feeding regimen was established. Following discharge from the hospital, exercise restriction was continued at home. Serial follow-up evaluations, including quantitative bone density measurements, revealed that dietary changes were effective. After 7 months, the dog was clinically normal.

Clinical Relevance—In the dog of this report, vitamin D–dependent rickets type I and suspected nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism developed following intake of a nutritionally incomplete and unbalanced diet. The raw meat–based, home-prepared diet fed to the dog was not feed-trial tested for any life stage by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, and its gross nutrient imbalance induced severe metabolic, orthopedic, and neurologic abnormalities. Inadvertent malnutrition can be avoided through proper diet assessment and by matching nutrient profiles with patients' nutritional needs.

Contributor Notes

The authors thank Barbara Kafka for technical assistance with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.

Address correspondence to Dr. Taylor.