Introduction to Metabolic Disorders of Dogs

ByAndrew J. Allen, DVM, PhD, DACVIM-LAIM
Reviewed/Revised Jun 2018

Metabolism refers to all processes in the body that break down and convert ingested substances to provide the energy and nutrients needed to sustain life. Foods, liquids, and drugs all generally undergo metabolic processes within the body. Many foods are complex materials that need to be broken down into simpler substances, which in turn become “building blocks” for the body to use as needed. For example, protein is broken down into amino acids, which are used in several metabolic reactions. Enzymes made by the body are needed for many metabolic processes to occur. Whenever the function of an enzyme is affected, a metabolic disorder can develop. Metabolic disorders are important because they affect energy production or damage tissues. They may be genetic (inherited) or acquired. Acquired metabolic disorders are more common and significant.


Metabolic Storage Disorders

Metabolic storage disorders usually result from the body’s inability to break down some substance because of partial or complete lack of a certain enzyme. The substance can build up to a toxic level, or the body is unable to produce a substance that it needs. Although storage diseases are often widespread throughout the body, most clinical signs are due to the effects on the central nervous system. Metabolic storage disorders can be either genetic or acquired.

Genetic (inherited) storage diseases are named according to the specific metabolic byproduct that builds up in the body. Certain breeds are more prone to certain storage diseases than others ( see Table: Breeds of Dogs Prone to Genetic Storage Diseases). Puppies typically appear normal at birth, and clinical signs begin within a few weeks to months. These diseases are progressive and usually fatal. Specific treatments do not exist.

Acquired storage diseases can be caused by eating plants that contain inhibitors of specific enzymes.

For More Information

Also see professional content regarding metabolic disorders.

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