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


Naturopathic Care for Canines

Beneficial Holistic Health Care Strategies

Naturopathic health care is a distinct health care strategy with a heavy emphasis on disease prevention and the cultivation of optimal health. Natural and non-evasive methods along with therapeutic modalities and substances are employed to encourage the inherent self-healing process that is programmed into the DNA of every biological being.  The breaking of the basic biochemical laws, more often than not, results in sickness, pain, and physical degeneration. Naturopathy encourages and promotes adhering to those laws for the prevention of illness and dis-ease conditions. While it does not always exclude medically supervised drug use, it rather considers it as a last resort and not a first. Naturopathic medicine includes both modern and traditional scientific methods, most of which are empirically based. The naturopathic approach to canine health care has the benefit of an extensive array of preventative and therapeutic methods and modalities and is in no way limited to the conventional pharmaceutical and surgical veterinary approach.

There are six principles that are the foundation stone upon which stands the practice of naturopathy:

  1. Vis Medicatrix Naturae (The Healing Power of Nature)
    There is the recognition in naturopathy of the inherent DNA-programmed self-healing process in every biological being that is both ordered and intelligent. The naturopathic practitioner undertakes to identify the cause for a condition or dis-ease, acts to remove impediments to allow for healing and recovery, and assists and supplements this inherent self-healing process.
  2. Tolle Causam (Identify and Treat the Causes)
    The naturopathic practitioner pursues to first identify and then remove the underlying causes of conditions and dis-ease rather than suppressing symptoms and thereby halting the cure in-progress.
  3. Primum Non Nocere (First Do No Harm)
    A strict adherence to the following guidelines ensures the naturopathic practitioner avoids harming the patient: 1) Utilize only those methods, modalities, and medicinal substances that prevent or greatly minimize the risk for dangerous side effects. This is attained by utilizing the least force necessary; 2) Avoid whenever possible the dangerous suppression of symptoms; and 3) Acknowledge, respect, and utilize the biological being’s self-healing process.
  4. Docere (The Doctor is a Teacher)
    The naturopathic practitioner is first and foremost a teacher. They serve to educate their clients and to encourage self-responsibility for their own health and the health of their animals. 
  5. Treat the Whole Person/Animal
    The naturopathic practitioner takes into consideration each client’s individual physical, mental, emotional (spiritual), genetic, environmental, social, and additional factors to ensure healing and that the cultivation of optimal health is not hindered.
  6. Prevention
    Naturopathy emphasizes disease prevention by assessing risk factors, genetics, and predisposition to disease. Following assessment, the practitioner formulates appropriate interventions in order to partner alongside their clients with the single goal of preventing illness and dis-ease.

When considering and planning a health care strategy for your canine, the inclusion of naturopathy into the stratagem broadens the potential for dis-ease prevention and the possibility for full recovery from illness and health crises should they occur. Naturopathy employs the usage of:

  • Nutrition: Species-appropriate fresh whole food is vital for providing life-sustaining nourishment to your dog’s body AND as therapeutic medicine. “Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food.” -Hippocrates
  • Herbs: Herbs are nourishing foods that provide nutrients along with medicinal constituents, healing phytochemicals, and powerful essences.
  • Plant Essences: Plant essences, or Bach Flower Remedies, contain the electromagnetic energy of various flowers that, when taken into the body, intermingles with the physical and energetic body systems offering physical, mental, and emotional healing.
  • Essential Oils: Concentrated oils of plants containing the fragrances and potent healing components. These offer numerous therapeutic properties for the body, mind, and emotions.
  • Sunshine: The sun is our main source of energy for health and healing. The sun provides photons, light, energy, and warmth all of which are required for life.
  • Fresh air: Fresh, clean, pure air is essential for health and healing. Air during the early hours just prior to dawn offer the highest oxygen-saturation. Allowing your dog to take advantage of pre-dawn air is therapeutic on numerous levels.
  • Earth Grounding: Grounding allows your dog to receive a negative charge from the earth floor via the paws and body (when in contact with the ground such as when lying on grass, sand, and soil) to combat ROS*, reduce inflammation, and many other positive benefits. Grounding is essential to prevent cancer and in cancer therapy.
  • Exercise: Exercise is essential for cardiovascular health, strong muscles and bones, endurance, lymphatic massage, and oxygenating the body systems.
  • Pure water: Water is essential for hydrating cells and tissues, cleansing, and internal balance.
  • Positive mindset: Rearing a happy dog encourages the cultivation of optimal physical and mental health and healing. By providing your canine with activities they love, it encourages a moderate and composed temperament and mental poise.
  • Homeopathy: Powerful medicines that must be recommended/prescribed by a licensed and/or certified homeopath.
  • Acupressure: A therapy to free up and reestablish the basic flow of energy to benefit healing, and for the maintenance of harmonious energy flow throughout the body.
  • Acupuncture: Through the insertion of fine needles into specific acupuncture points, acupuncture stimulates pain relief, the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals, improves blood flow, increases tissue oxygenation, removes toxins, and relaxes muscles. This therapy must be provided by a licensed acupuncturist.
  • Massage therapy: Massage stimulates blood flow, relaxes muscles, improves energy circulation, releases “feel-good” hormones, stimulates healing, provides pain relief, and is a great bonding activity.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Reiki therapy are other natural therapy options.

More often than not, disease conditions are a result of imbalance within the body, mind, and/or emotions. Naturopathy serves to restore balance thereby reducing the reliance on conventional medicine and philosophies. The Holistic Canine specializes in nutrition, nutrition therapy, and natural remedies and therapies for puppies through senior adults. Naturopathy is safe, prevents and reduces the frequency of acute health crises, often results in faster recovery from illness, is a long-term solution to chronic disease without the worry of uncomfortable and/or fatal drug side effects, slows the progression of degenerative disease, cultivates balance, and eases the body, mind, and emotions of pain and stress. And the best part? It is far less stressful on your canine than having to make frequent trips to the veterinary office.

Understand, however, that while naturopathy is often a valuable and efficacious treatment strategy, it is never a replacement for licensed veterinary care, especially in the case of an emergency. A veterinarian is trained to diagnose and save your dog’s life in the event of trauma or if a life-threatening condition occurs. Always take your pet to the veterinarian if you suspect a life threatening consequence may result. Never delay! Naturopathy is a passive treatment strategy. In emergency situations, naturopathy is a supplemental ONLY option to work along with emergency after-care from a licensed veterinarian.

For more information on nutrition and natural therapy, go to our contact page and request valuable information!

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

*ROS reactive oxygen species