How nutrient deficiency, toxicity, and lifestyle are making veterinary patients more dependent on the pharmacy medical model.

We have reached a pivotal period in the history of our planet. During this time, we are clearly failing to provide a platform of “health” for our pets and veterinary patients (and ourselves) with our current lifestyle choices and agricultural practices. In order to create a paradigm shift, we need to understand how and why we got to this point. Only then can we address the question of “what to do” to improve patient nutrition and health.


First of all, let’s look more closely at what nutrients are and why our bodies need them in order to thrive.

A nutrient is a substance in food that provides structural/functional components or energy to the body. An essential nutrient is one the body cannot manufacture in adequate amounts; it must be consumed in the diet. Essential nutrients act as cofactors in many metabolic pathways, and include vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids (humans have nine essential amino acids; dogs have ten; cats have 11).

Essential vitamins that are often deficient in animal patients include A, D, E, K, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cyanocobalamin). Choline, a vitamin-like factor, is needed as well. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble and stored in the body’s fatty tissue. The other vitamins are water-soluble; any excess is excreted in the urine (hence they need to be replenished in the diet) with the exception of vitamin B12, which can be stored in the liver for years.

Macro-minerals that may be deficient in animal patients include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulphur. Micro-minerals that can be deficient include iron, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, iodine, molybdenum, cobalt, fluorine, chromium, and boron.


#1: Nutrient depletion in soil and from farming practices

Many of today’s health challenges are in part due to nutrient deficiencies. Non-sustainable commercial monoculture farming practices have resulted in foods grown on nutrient depleted soils.1 The result is food deficient in essential nutrients. It is estimated that there has been a 70% loss of nutrients in the soil since 1965.2

Additionally, animal farming practices contribute to vitamin D deficiency. Herbivores synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. Carnivores (dogs and cats) get their vitamin D from the protein sources in their diet (the animals they are eating). When herbivores are raised in conditions where they are indoors, they are vitamin D deficient, which leads to a deficiency in animals consuming their meat.

PROBLEM #2: Deficiencies in essential amino acids

Dogs require valine, leucine, isoleucine, arginine, histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and threonine. Cats need all these plus taurine. Taurine and arginine are naturally found in animal proteins, so feeding a meat and organ meat based diet provides adequate quantities to cats.3 Proper digestion and absorption of a species-appropriate protein diet would provide these essential amino acids; however, many animals have poor digestion and absorption, leading to deficiencies.

We have all heard that excess protein is bad for cats and can contribute to kidney failure. In actuality, protein is a critically important nutrient, comprising half of every cell’s membrane. More important than the volume of protein in a diet is the biological value of the protein. High biological value (HBV) proteins are those that are readily absorbed and utilized efficiently by the body. HBV proteins come from meats and contain the essential amino acids.

The only way protein can pass through the kidneys into the urine, contributing to renal damage, is if there is excessive sugar in the diet. The sugar undergoes glycosylation (it surrounds and becomes chemically attached to the protein), and this damaging structure is excreted in the urine. The damage therefore comes from the carbohydrates, not the protein. Interestingly, almost all commercial processed cat and dog foods contain between 40% and 60% sugar. The prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) has been estimated to be 0.5% to 1% in dogs and 1% to 3% in cats, but it increases with age, especially in cats, with reported prevalence of 80% in the geriatric cat population.4

PROBLEM #3: Using the wrong essential fatty acids

Polyunsaturated fats, parent Omega-6 (linoleic acid) and parent Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid), also called parent essential oils (PEOs), are the only essential fats the body can’t make. All other fatty acids are derivatives of these, and the body can make them in the quantity needed. Muscle and organ meats contain ample amounts of the required long-chain fatty acids. Cats do not have the delta 6 desaturase enzyme needed to convert linoleic acid (Omega-6) or alpha linolenic acid (Omega-3) to their metabolites gamma-linolenic acid and stearidonic acid respectively. The importance of feeding grass-fed/grass-finished meat to our cats and dogs cannot be over emphasized. Aside from the reduced levels of pesticides and GMOs, grass-fed animals contain plenty of parent Omega-3 oils.5

These PEOs are fundamental in that they constitute one-fourth to one-third the entire lipid (fat) portion of all 100 trillion cell membranes — plus all cellular mitochondria.6

PROBLEM #4: Toxic and “dead” water

Water is the second most critical nutrient (oxygen being the first). But all water is not equal in today’s world. Since 1942, there have been over 85,000 synthetic toxins developed and released into the water supply. Many of these toxins are carcinogenic. The ideal water to drink, cook with, or give to pets should be highly filtered through a system capable of removing heavy metals and glyphosate; structured (denser and more organized, allowing faster absorption and more bio-availability); and have the proper minerals and living “energy”.

Scientist Dr Gerald Pollack revolutionized our understanding of water when he discovered the fourth phase of water he calls the Exclusion Zone or EZ water. In addition to the gas, liquid, and solid phases of water, there is a gel phase that surrounds all the organelles and cells in the body. The body naturally makes EZ water. Exposure to toxins and electromagnetic pollution (EMFs) has been demonstrated to collapse the Exclusion Zone. As it collapses, the cells become sticky (this can be seen under the microscope as rouleaux) and are unable to perform their metabolic functions adequately. A healthy diet and lifestyle supports the expansion of EZ water, allowing cells to perform their metabolic functions more efficiently.7

PROBLEM #5: Increased pesticides and other toxins

Monoculture farming tends to use more pesticides and upsets the natural balance of soils.1 Though many toxins can affect nutrients, I will focus on glyphosate. This chemical is the active ingredient in RoundUp®, but there are many other toxins in the product as well. Glyphosate is both directly and indirectly responsible for a wide range of health issues, man of which are severe and degenerative. It was patented as an antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic against single cell organisms; it was never patented as a weed killer. However, 300 million pounds are poured on US soil every year; 4.5 billion pounds are used annually worldwide. A study concluded in 2007 showed glyphosate was found in 75% of rain and air samples in much of the US; today, that number may be significantly higher.

Glyphosate is significantly impacting pets. Studies show significantly more glyphosate in pet food than in human food.8 Research has also found that dogs have urine glyphosate levels that are 32 times higher (16 ppb, parts per billion) than in humans (0.5 ppb).9,10

In another study, dogs that ate raw food had virtually no detectable levels of glyphosate; those that ate canned food had more, and those that ate dry kibble had the highest levels. Glyphosate is found in urine, blood, and breast milk of feed animals and humans.

The amino acids methionine and glycine are also adversely impacted by glyphosate. This toxin can substitute for glycine during protein synthesis, resulting in abnormal protein folding.11 Other impacts include mineral balance disruption gut imbalances. Glycine substitution leads to mitochondrial stress and oxidative damage.

Cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes are a particular class of enzymes that are essential for the detoxification of drugs and environmental chemicals. Glyphosate’s inhibition of these enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics. Glyphosate disrupts the activities of multiple CYP enzymes. Effects of compromised CYP enzymes include the impairment of:

Cholesterol regulation and steroid hormone synthesis

Cell membrane synthesis

Normal cell metabolic function

Receptor binding and nuclear penetration

Vitamin D3 production

Detoxification of xenobiotics

Bile synthesis, flow, and fat metabolism.

Of the ten essential amino acids dogs need, three are made by the shikimate pathway. Glyphosate is known to interfere with this pathway, which exists only in plants, fungi, algae, some protozoans, archaea, and bacteria.12 These organisms use the shikimate pathway for making the essential aromatic amino acids, phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan.13 Tryptophan depletion also results in decreased serotonin and melatonin production. It is not surprising that sleep disorders and mental problems in humans have risen exponentially in the past 20 years (since the introduction of glyphosate in agriculture), and we are seeing a dramatic rise of personality disorders in animals.

Other biologically active molecules, including melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, thyroid hormone, coenzyme Q10, folate, vitamin K, and vitamin E, depend on the shikimate pathway metabolites as precursors for many vital functions.

Though dogs and cats (as well as humans) don’t have the shikimate pathway, it is clear we rely on the organisms who do to provide many essential products and functions.

Glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other foodborne chemical residues and environmental toxins.14 It is known to drive heavy metals deeper into the brain and other nerve tissue, and interferes with detoxification pathways.

Glyphosate isn’t just on the outside of plants; it is absorbed into the plants. Glyphosate contamination inside plants cannot be removed by washing, and it isn’t broken down or made less destructive by cooking or baking.

Degradation products of glyphosate are just as harmful. Aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) is a weak organic acid with a phosphonic acid group. It is one of the primary degradation products of glyphosate. AMPA has toxicity which is comparable to that of glyphosate and is therefore considered to be of similar toxicological concern as glyphosate itself.

PROBLEM #6: Damage to the gut microbiome

There are three critical components to supporting a healthy gut microbiome:

1. Improving the diversity of organisms (studies in humans have shown there should be 20,000 to 30,000 different bacterial species in the gut).

2. Maintaining keystone strains, bacteria that are critical for maintaining function and balance in the general microbial population.

3. Repairing intestinal permeability, “leaky gut”, which is the underpinning of all chronic disease.

Feedlot animals and contained fowl are fed corn diets. Currently, up to 92% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered (GE), as are 94% of soybeans and 94% of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products.15

Consuming animals fed these diets results in the ingestion of GMOs and resulting damage to the gut lining and microbiome. When glyphosate is consumed, the balance of the gut microbiome is disturbed. The gut microbiota’s ability to synthesize vitamins, detoxify xenobiotics (foreign substances or chemicals which the body does not recognize), participate in immune system balancing, and maintain gastrointestinal tract health is disrupted.

PROBLEM #7: Lack of hormetic stressors

Hormetic stressors are intermittent stressors that humans and animals have evolved with, aiding in their ability to adapt and survive.16 Though not directly considered a nutrient, hormesis is critically important for producing internal antioxidants and triggering important metabolic functions. Hormetic stressors include fasting, high intensity exercise, and exposure to extreme temperatures.

The hormetic event causes the release of cellular signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms that mediate hormetic responses, which typically involve enzymes such as kinases and deacetylases and transcription factors such as Nrf-2 and NF-kappaB. As a result, cells increase their production of cytoprotective and restorative proteins including growth factors, phase 2 and antioxidant enzymes like glutathione, and protein chaperones. Fasting activates autophagy, a process in which the body utilizes the dead and dying cells for energy and repair.

PROBLEM #8: Lack of adequate movement

Movement is an essential factor for good health. Our ancestors spent most of the daylight hours outside, engaging in heavy manual labor. High intensity activities not only aided lymphatic movement, but acted as hormetic stressors. Likewise, our pets’ ancestors lived outside and had to work hard to catch their food and fight off other predators. Today, we and our companion animals are faced with a sedentary lifestyle and too little time outside, with no direct work required to access food.

PROBLEM #9: Integrative therapies often missing in medical/veterinary school curricula

Before 1910, the human medical system included many therapies we consider complementary today. Practitioners viewed the body as a “whole” and focused on the root cause of disease.

The landmark Flexner Report of 1910, commissioned by the Carnegie foundation, transformed the nature and process of medical education in America, resulting in the elimination of proprietary schools and the establishment of the biomedical model as the gold standard of medical training.17 American medicine profited immeasurably from the scientific advances this system allowed, particularly the pharmaceutical (pharmacy) industry, but the hyper-rational system of German science created an imbalance in the art and science of medicine.

The Flexner Report resulted in the elimination of any school that didn’t follow the pharmaceutical-based medical approach. Funding was predicated on following the mantra. Not graduating from an “accredited” institution meant no jobs, and within a short time, all alternative colleges were out of business.

PROBLEM #10: Persistent high sympathetic tone

A high sympathetic tone is valuable when running from danger or fighting the enemy. However, staying in a state of high sympathetic tone is detrimental to the immune system and overall health. Parasympathetic tone is needed for the body to rest, digest and detoxify. Though being in a parasympathetic state is not a “nutrient”, there is definitely a deficiency of it in the world today, both in ourselves and the animals who share our home environments with us.


Exciting changes are happening in the veterinary (and human) medical models. A resurgence of complementary and holistic medicine is occurring, and it is being driven by consumers! Veterinarians and their support staff are the most dedicated health providers in the world. No one wants to practice “broken care” where pets relapse, or worse, suffer from health conditions for which there is nothing else to offer. Integrative medicine offers an expanded “tool kit” and is the key to healthcare and true healing. The power to heal begins with knowledge, and succeeds when action is taken!



3Shmalberg, J. The protein paradigm:assessing dietary protein in health and disease. 2015;Nov/Dec: 69-75.



6Peskin, BS, Rowen RJ. PEO Solution. Kindle Edition. 2015. 7



10 Samsel A, Seneff S. Glyphosate pathways to modern diseases V: Amino acid analogue of glycine in diverse proteins. Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry. 2016;16:9-46.

12Herrmann KM, Weaver LM. The shikimate pathway. Annu Rev Plant Physiol Plant Mol Biol. 1999;50:473-503.

13Tzin V, Galili G. The Biosynthetic Pathways for Shikimate and Aromatic Amino Acids in Arabidopsis thaliana. Arabidopsis Book. 2010;8.

14Samsel A, Seneff S. Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy. 2013; 15(4):1416-1463.


16Mattson MP. Hormesis defined. Ageing Res Rev. 2008;7(1):1-7.

17Duffy TP. The Flexner Report — 100 years later. Yale J Biol Med. 2011;84(3):269-276.




Dr. Siegel is an avid speaker and an innovator in integrative veterinary medicine. Her practice, Pasco Veterinary Medical Center, offers the widest array of alternative therapies and detoxification services in the country. She developed her own raw pet food company and supplements Passionate about education, she has on line programs for pet parents and veterinarians to teach integrative vet medicine. She is launching S’Paws Family Wellness in 2021, detox centers for pets and their parents.


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