Tuesday, 12 April 2016

One Simple Step to a Healthier Dog

A healthy weight has been shown to increase a dog's life expectancy by an average of approximately 2 years! Two years may not sound like a lot, but if you think about it, that is the difference between your dog living to 12 years old instead of 10, or 14 instead of 12. I think most would agree that is pretty significant! Not only does keeping your dog a healthy weight increase their longevity it also goes a long ways to preventing many other health conditions as well. Obesity has been shown to increase the risk of insulin resistance, can lead to thyroid imbalance, it has been shown to cause negative effects on the kidneys and increase urinary incontinence. Obesity can have a profound effect of the respiratory system, it is an important risk factor for tracheal collapse in small dogs and has been shown to increase the effects of heatstroke in dogs. Obesity is also a major risk factor for orthopedic conditions in dogs. Studies have shown body weight to be a predisposing factor in humeral condylar fracture, cranial cruciate ligament rupture and intervertebral disc disease.

It really is a simple thing, that can go a really long ways to keeping your dog happy, healthy and living longer. So why aren't more people keeping their dogs at an ideal weight? An estimated 52% of dogs are overweight or obese. I think a lot of people don't see that their dogs are overweight. We are so used to seeing pudgy dogs, that it is the norm. The best way to tell if your dog is a healthy weight is to get your hands on them. You should be able to feel your dogs ribs with the PALM of your hand without pressing. What should you be feeling with the palm of your hand? If you make a fist with your one hand and rub the palm of your hand over your closed fist that is similar to what you should feel on your dogs ribcage. To ensure your dog is not too thin, there should not be a noticeable dip in between the two hip bones on your dogs lower back.

So what can you do if your dog is overweight? I suggest decreasing their daily food intake by about 10% until you feel they are at an ideal weight (ribs easily felt with your palm). Once they are at an ideal weight add 5% back to their diet and keep a close eye on them. The reason you don't add all 10% back to the diet is you are now feeding a little less dog and they will not require as many calories as before.

Overweight puppies are very, very common. While puppies do require quite a bit of extra food while they are growing, the same ideal weight does apply to them. You definitely should be able to feel ribs on a growing puppy and you may need to adjust the amount they are being fed almost daily to ensure they stay an ideal weight through growth spurts. Overweight puppies are at an incrased risk for developing hip dysplasia, panosteitis and several other very painful and limiting orthopedic conditions.

We all want our pets to live long, healthy lives and this may be one of the most important factors in achieving that. A healthy weight applies to all dogs, no matter what food they eat, their breed, activity level, lifestyle or structure.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Let's talk about poop! (What to look for to make sure your raw food diet is a good one)

I know everyone is super excited to read a blog about poop! But in all seriousness this is very important information for anyone feeding a raw food diet. As you can guess I am a huge advocate of raw food diets, I truly believe it is the best thing you can feed your pet, IF you are doing it right. It is easy to miss essential parts of a raw food diet, that unfortunately make raw feeding a nutritional disaster. I am not trying to scare you, but it is important to get it right or you will end up with a pet that has nutrition deficiencies. Taking a look at your dogs bowel movements is an easy place to start and can give you a lot of information about how good your raw food diet really is.

One of the most common things I hear from raw feeders is that their dogs poop is white and crumbly. While this is super easy to clean up, it is not a good thing. This is a solid indication that your dog is getting too much bone! The problem with too much bone is that number one, they are going to be getting too much calcium, which can interfere with the uptake of other important nutrients. The other problem with too much bone is that your dog is not likely getting enough MEAT. Dogs must have lean meat in their diet! Much of the nutrients that a raw food diet is supposed to provide comes from lean muscle meat. Dogs also need high levels of protein in order to maintain proper organ function, protein in large is provided by lean meat in the diet. So if your dog is having white, crumbly stools, decrease the amount of meaty bones and add more lean meat to the diet. If you are feeding a commercially prepared diet, make sure that there is no more than 50% carcass and/or necks in the blend. Carcasses and necks are often used in commercial raw food diets and are a great source of many nutrients but should only be about half of what is in a food to leave room for lean meat and organs.

Another common one I hear is that dog's stools are rather large and smelly, much like what you would see when feeding kibble. This is caused by too much fat. While fat is a very important source of energy and a building block for cells, too much can cause many issues such as pancreatitis, increased cell permeability and unhealthy weight gain to name a few. According to Steve Brown's nutritional database for an ancestral diet, calories from fat should be about half of the diet. It is important to note that one gram of fat is equal to 9 calories vs one gram of protein being equal to 4 calories. So when you are looking at an analysis of a raw food, the percentage of fat should be 1/2 to 2/3 the percentage of protein. If you have a higher percentage of fat than protein, your dog is getting WAY too many calories from fat. It is also important to note that fat does not provide vitamins and minerals, so if your dog is getting the majority of their calories from fat you are risking nutrition deficiency. If you don't have an analysis to reference for what you are feeding, a good rule of thumb is to be using meats that are 85% lean, this will provide a good balance of fat and lean muscle meat.

If your dog has dark, loose stool it is often caused by too much organ meat. Organs are an absolutely essential part of a raw food diet as they provide many vital nutrients. Typically the most nutrient dense organs that are common in a raw food diet are liver, kidney and spleen. These should not exceed 10% of the overall diet or you can cause hypervitaminosis (which is just a fancy way of saying that the dog is getting too many vitamins) this will cause digestive upset and an imbalance of nutrients. This symptom is typically less likely to be ignored as the other two as it is very apparent that something is wrong with the diet when dogs are getting too much organ meat.

The above are guidelines to help you identify where your raw food diet may be lacking or where it may have too much of something. Pay attention to these things, the reason we all feed a raw food diet is that we want what is best for our pets. Not all raw food diets are created equal and while it is not rocket science to feed a dog, you do have to ensure that you are providing the right components in the right amounts.

Kristi Malone

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Do dogs need carbohydrates?

Do dogs need carbohydrates? The short answer is no, they do not. The NRC states “the fact that dogs and cats do not require carbohydrates in the diets is usually immaterial because the nutrient content of most commercial foods includes at least a moderate level of this nutrient.” It's the equivalent of saying that humans do not require tree bark in their diet, however if it is prepared properly and fortified you could survive with a portion of your diet consisting of tree bark. We don't want our dogs to just survive off what they eat, we want them to thrive!

Dogs are carnivores, there is plenty of proof that they are descendants and very close relatives to wolves. Everything about them makes them a carnivore, designed to thrive off the nutrients provided by consuming animal fats, protein, bones and organs. Vegetable and plant matter need time to sit and ferment in the digestive system in order for their nutrients to be absorbed. Dogs have a very short digestive tract which food passes quickly through, this does not allow the proper digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. (Compare a dog's GI tract at 2 feet to a omnivore at 20 to 40 feet, or a herbivore at about 100 feet). They also do not produce the necessary amount of amylase to begin the break down of carbohydrate in the saliva which places great burden on the pancreas to produce large amounts amylase to break down carbohydrates. There is a reason feeding carbohydrates results in large, smelly stools. Listen to what your dog's body is telling you!

Lets start using some common sense when we feed our animals and utilize the system that they have, rather than fighting it by finding ways to feed them foods they were never designed to eat. 

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