Diets for the Lafora Dog

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How might dietary choice affect a Lafora dog?

The simple answer is: we just don’t know. So far there has been no research into suitable diets for Lafora dogs. There is a lot of information and advice available about epilepsy and diet, much of it conflicting, and you can read more here. We recommend that you read that section in conjunction with this page which summarizes the information gleaned so far specific to Lafora dogs, in order that Lafora owners can see the range of options open to them. Please note, diet is a matter of choice for individual owners, with veterinary advice. PLEASE do not consider changing your dog’s diet without first understanding what a canine’s diet should and should not include. For dogs on anti-epilepsy drugs, diet changes MUST be discussed with your vet. Diet, drugs, canine metabolism and the potential interactions must all be understood before changing anything in your dog’s regime. It may also be worth considering having a consultation with a veterinary nutritionist, if you can find one. 

Lafora is a genetic condition which means dogs cannot metabolise carbohydrates In the Lafora dog, instead of being converted into sugar and starch to provide a source of energy for the body, some at least are converted into starch like platelets within the brain and central nervous system (see what is canine lafora).  In addition, as Lafora is a neurological condition, Dr Clare Rusbridge recommends that a diet high in anti-oxidants, known to support healthy brain function, may also be advantageous.

It makes sense therefore that a diet which is low in carbohydrates, and high in anti-oxidants may be recommended for the Lafora dog. All living organisms require at least some carbohydrates to remain healthy. Indeed it is virtually impossible to have a diet that has no carbohydrates at all in it – grains including rice and wheat contain high levels of carbohydrate, but so does every vegetable and fruit, Meat contains virtually no carbohydrates,  but they do contain a high level of saturated fats. Fish may well be a viable alternative, but it is impossible as yet to have a definitive approach.

Many commercial dog foods, even those of the highest quality, contain high proportions of grain, which is, by definition, a starchy substance. Therefore you may want to avoid those brands where grains make up the biggest % of ingredients.  

Dr Dodds’home cooked diets, which have been designed with such care and attention to the needs of the epileptic dog, are worth considering, particularly if the dog is affected by liver or pancreas problems, but it is undoubtedly a labour of love to do so (see diet and health in epileptic dogs for details).

Some dog owners swear by the raw diet, but opinion is strongly divided as to their suitability for epileptic dogs, let alone Lafora dogs (read more here).

Dr. Dodds recommends a grain-free food for canine epileptics that have 30-35% protein and 8-12% fat with the reduced fat grain-free foods preferred. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any kibble available commercially in the UK that conforms to these guidelines, but you may wish to consider the choices of other Lafora dog owners, conscious of the link between starch and Lafora symptoms:

  •  James Wellbeloved Ocean Fish and Vegetable Kibble (available from PetsatHome and independent retailers) is a good compromise (21% protein, 10% fat, no cereal, fish meal, pea starch, potato flakes, tomato, linseed, fish and olive oil, sugar beet pulp,). James Wellbeloved also offer Lamb and Turkey cereal free versions.
  • Arden Grange Arden Grange’s veterinary nutritionist, Ness Bird, is happy to offer individual advice and can be contacted on ness@ardengrange.com. Arden Grange products are available through online retailers e or via vets.  She suggests two options:
    • Partners Wet Food, chicken and veg or tripe and veg varieties  70% meat, no wheat, soya or dairy.  (70% protein, 11% fat).
    • Prestige  Does contain rice and maize only around 30% compared to typical 50-60% in other brands. (30% protein, 21% fat, also contains fish oil, glucosamine etc.)
    • Origen http://www.orijenpetfoods.co.uk/ , claims to be biologically appropriate and was Winner of the Glycemic Research Institute (Washington DC) prize for petfood of the year. There are various formulations depending on the age of the dog. ’ Senior’ contains 70% meat, 30% fruit and vegetables (and 0% grain), but the formula analysis shows a minimum of 40% protein and a minimum of 15% fat.  No mention of maximum percentage.

Based on this, if feeding Partners or Origen, it may be worth feeding along with raw or lightly cooked vegetables in order to reduce the total proportion of protein within the diet, as some owners report a problem with weight gain (see Daisy’s Diet below)

The Origen site contains an excellent ‘library’ section with more detailed background on canine nutrition, particularly the ORIJEN_White_Paper(09) pdf.

  • Burns Pet Nutrition provide a range of specialist natural diets created by a Veterinary Surgeon, and also provide an excellent booklet ‘A Guide to Natural Health Care’ written by John Burns BVMS MRCVS, which explains their principals re the link between diet and health very clearly.  His opinion is that he does not agree that a grain free diet is necessary and that from the information he has on Lafora, he felt that the glycaemic index of the carbohydrate was the key and that their High Oats variety was the most suitable from their range. High Oats contains 20% Protein , 7.5% Oil , 6.5%  Fibre, plus added vitamins and minerals.
  • Royal Canin suggest their Hypoallergenic Small Dog as the best compromise from their varieties, as this contains hydrolised soya protein, i.e. protein has been partially broken down in order to support rapid digestion: 24% protein, 27.5% carbm 16% fat.

Whatever you choose to do, John Burn’s very sensible advice is that the only way to determine what is going to work best to improve is through a feeding trial:  “8-12 week trial of the diet, cutting out any other foods and all treats and titbits would give you a reasonable indication of which diet is working out for any individual dog”. Another complicating factor may be any food intolerances, which seem to be becoming more common so that it can become a bit of a minefield trying to determine what suits the dog and what doesn’t.

One Owner’s Experience: Daisy’s Diet

We are actively looking for contributions in this area, so if you have a Lafora dog and think you have something to tell us, please do get in touch at laforadogs@btinternet.com.

 

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