Cellular Methylation: Canine Health

The Importance of Methylation in Canine Health & Disease Prevention

Cellular methylation is an epigenetic mechanism that affects (controls) gene expression in animal cells and is responsible for the body’s most complex and vital processes. In other words, methylation turns genes on and off which directly affects DNA thereby playing a primary role in health and disease prevention. In my article entitled Dis-ease Prevention through Epigenetic Gene Expression, I discussed how DNA gene expression can be directly affected via diet and environment for the prevention of disease and premature aging. Methylation is one such epigenetic mechanism that science is revealing. In addition to gene expression, methylation assists in processing cellular toxins and hormones for adequate cellular detoxification. It also aids in both the manufacture and catabolism (breakdown) of neurotransmitters. It is not difficult to recognize the importance of maintaining adequate cellular methylation in both us and our pets. Epigenetic science may just be THE missing link to the prevention of disease and slowing the aging process.

In another article I had written on the microbiome (The Mystifyingly Astounding Microbiome), I expressed how the nurturing of healthy and flourishing gut microorganisms plays a pivotal role in the cultivation of optimal health and immunity. Accordingly, it should not be surprising that ideal cellular methylation is connected to gut health. Cultivating a microbiome that resembles a rainforest teeming with tens of thousands of symbiotic species coupled with taking active measures to improve cellular methylation are necessary ingredients for the nurturing and maintenance of optimal health and healing, disease prevention, and the prevention of premature cellular aging in our dogs.

Cellular methylation requires two critical components that need to be in adequate supply. These include folate (part of the B vitamin group) and s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Folate can be manufactured by healthy colonic microbiota (microbiome), but not in a sufficient amount; therefore, it needs to be supplied in and through the diet. SAMe is manufactured from the amino acid methionine and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in sufficient amounts provided an adequate amount of methionine-containing protein sources are consumed regularly. SAMe’s role in methylation is to donate its methyl group. It is also essential for the formation of neurotransmitters, a process that requires the assistance of methylation. Thus it can be seen how correct functioning of the cells cannot be understated in this interdependent relationship.

Folate is far more complex. Folate is a metabolic cofactor as well as a dietary nutrient. Folate requires a reduction process via what is known as the folate methylation pathway. This pathway reduces dietary folate (and synthetic folic acid) to 5-MTHF (methylenetetrohydrofolate) for its methyl donation to the DNA methylation process. An undisrupted folate reduction pathway is critical for a consistent flux of available methyl groups. Disruptions within the folate methylation pathway, unfortunately, can and do occur which often leads to a build-up of toxins in the bloodstream and tissues. Disruptors include prescription drugs, environmental and food chemical exposures, veterinary preventative chemicals, synthetic folic acid in commercial dog foods, processed food diets, or genetic mutation, to name a few. Disruption creates a deficiency in methylfolate. This then snowballs into a deficiency of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, leading to a toxic state and the inability to create coenzyme Q10, neurotransmitters, nitric oxide, L-carnitine, cysteine, and taurine. These are critically important to cellular and heart health in the modern canine (and humans!). It is worth mentioning that modern canines are experiencing a rapid increase in the incidences of heart disease, specifically DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy), and cancer. Perhaps there is a relation? That is my theory!

Additional nutrients needed for optimal methylation are zinc, vitamin D3, riboflavin (B2), magnesium, pyridoxine (B6), and methylcobalamin (B12).

Causes for defective methylation include:

  • poor diet (especially processed commercial foods)
  • chemicals (flea/tick/heartworm preventatives, wormers, pesticides, air-born toxins in home and outdoor air, etc)
  • prescription drugs (especially antibiotics, acid blockers, corticosteroids, nitrous oxide, methotrexate, etc)
  • giving niacin supplements or B-complex vitamins (notably synthetics)
  • heavy metals (vaccines especially)
  • anxiety and stress

Conditions associated with methylation disruption:

  • autoimmune disorders
  • cancer
  • heart disease and conditions
  • anxiety
  • hyperactivity
  • chronic viral infections
  • canine OCD
  • thyroid disease
  • canine neuropathy
  • canine cleft palate
  • canine miscarriage
  • neurological disease and conditions

An adequate species-appropriate diet is important, but so too is maintaining a healthy home and environment for your pets free from stressors, chemicals, confinement, lack of vital needs, and the creation of monotony/boredom.

Methylation and gut health are intermutual. Gut health begins with providing a fresh raw food diet and the regular exposure to outside air, sunlight, grass, earth/dirt, sand, and changing environments through walks, hikes, and travel. The diet should be rich in natural sources of folate, methionine, coenzyme Q10, glutathione assistants, cysteine, taurine, and all other required nutrients, cofactors, enzymes, and other species-appropriate food constituents necessary for the maintenance of canine health.

Should you begin supplementing your dog with the above nutrients? My opinion is NO unless your dog has a verifiable need. Supplementing can upset the homeostatic mechanisms your dog’s body uses to regulate itself for health and disease prevention. You cannot force the body to utilize more of what it needs. Supplements are for deficiencies, for use where the diet consistently lacks, for genetic or cellular mutations, therapeutic needs, and in disease treatment. (NOTE: Whole food supplements do not fall into this category.)

Richest Food Sources

  • Folate: chicken liver, beef liver, chicken feet
  • Methionine: salmon, mackerel, and all meats and eggs
  • Coenzyme Q10: heart, liver
  • Glutathione support (manufactured in body): Foods rich in zinc and copper maintain glutathione levels (beef liver for copper and oysters for zinc); raw eggs, raw unprocessed meat, and avocado maintain levels; asparagus is a leading source of glutathione. Milk thistle and turmeric assist in maintaining glutathione levels.
  • Cysteine (manufactured in the body): meat, fish, and eggs
  • Taurine (manufactured in body): fish, heart, meat, shellfish, eggs

Assisting nutrients:

  • Zinc: oysters, beef
  • Vitamin D: fatty fish, free range eggs
  • Magnesium: bone, fish, oysters, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds
  • Riboflavin: beef, salmon
  • Pyridoxine: meat, fish
  • Cobalamin: liver, kidney, sardines, beef

NOTE: This is not a scientific research article, but a general information article to introduce the importance of DNA methylation.

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist


Welcome to The Holistic Canine

Welcome! The Holistic Canine was created to provide
biologically-accurate and species-appropriate raw feeding, naturopathic, and natural therapy information, educational resources, and personalized services to pet parents who desire to provide their beloved canines with the absolute best of care from the holistic realm. Raw feeding and naturopathic information abounds in published literature and on the world-wide web. Much of that information is pretty darn on-point, while some is missing the mark in big ways. How to sort through the plethora of information almost requires a how-to guide in and of itself. This is where The Holistic Canine comes in. It is my goal to provide the most current scientifically-accurate information from both the world of science research and my own education and experiences as a naturopath, orthomolecular nutritionist, and canine raw food nutritionist.

Science-based information means that it is based on test studies and trials that are either conclusive (factual) or highly reliable or a strongly supported theory regarded as correct. While the former certainly wins for authenticity, factual surety, and/or is near absolute, the latter can actually be based on a completely erroneous perception, concept, or idea that is propagated to push a strongly held viewpoint. Unfortunately, the internet is filled with this type of information along with a plethora of conjecture and speculation. When well-meaning pet parents excitedly or frantically search for needed information and guidance to commence on a new raw feeding and/or naturopathic journey, there is often no easy way to know or determine whether the information that sounds “scientific” is actually based on well-researched and reliable test trials that led to certainty. Providing raw feeding and natural health care information via the internet and books is a essential to furthering a better path to dog care. It is an admirable and vital service to give to the public especially when the motive it to inform and assist for the betterment of overall health and well-being for our pets. And yet, still the advice is not always safe or the best approach. One way we can conclude if “science-based” information is accurate or hypothetically-based is if it is in-line with the harmonious “real-life” functioning of a biological system or if it is inconsistent with that reality.

Here, yet, is another quandary to consider. While “science” is the study of what we can observe and test, it does not mean that scientists and doctors always come up with correct conclusions. Much of science begins with end-points. It is necessary to accurately reverse-engineer an observed end-point to discover the true map or path that led to the end point. Many times, the conclusions are 100% erroneous. Unless we observe from beginning to end with all variables clearly considered, a conclusion leading to an absolute fact cannot truly be discovered. Science must see it “in action.” Scientists and doctors are left with making educated guesses. They can test the validity of their conclusions, but because biological systems are so individualized, and factors leading up to end-points are rarely known to a greater extent, we are left with their hypotheticals or everyone’s best guess. Much of the time, science proves that man’s conclusions are incorrect and we must begin again. We see this in the countless studies that tell us to eat this or that, or this is good for us, or be sure to practice “such-and-such,” or avoid that like the plague, when out of nowhere and often years later we learn those “truths” and warnings were erroneous, some even completely invalid. Such is the system we call “science,” a dynamic and ever growing, ever progressing method of discovering truths.

When it comes to biological systems, they are so complex that we are only just beginning to understand the true paths to health and wellness; especially when it comes to our animals. Ultimately each one of us is left with the responsibility to make crucial decisions for each of our pet’s nutritional and health care needs. Our dogs are completely in the fate of our discretion and understanding. Sometimes our research and strategy proves advantageous, and we celebrate a long life filled with vitality and joy. Then we repeat the same strategy with a our next fur-babies and something goes wrong. It is for this reason I have stepped up to the plate to offer guidance, encouragement, and best of all, real life answers and solutions.

Let’s join together is this wonder-filled and amazing world of furry and not so furry, tongue-lolling, balls of energy and affection which we lovingly call “man’s best friend.” Bring on a long lifetime of wet kisses and hair-filled houses!

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist