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Newsletter - January 2014

 Toronto was hit by a record-breaking ice storm. Days on end without power made some folks grumpy, but for the most part the city went through it (some people still are) with humor, perseverance, and outreach to each other. There was beauty in the midst of this crazy weather. I've never seen so much ice, or tree branches looking like they were covered in diamonds. A really stunning sight.

Tori walked gingerly whenever she was in the backyard. Being 15 pounds has an advantage because her light weight didn't break the ice, so she was fairly sure-footed. On the other hand, the high winds made her hair fly around and she looked like she might take off with the next gust. You would think that with all the noise of breaking tree branches, the howl of the wind, the sky lighting up as generators blew all around us, this dog would rush back inside. Nope. She strolled around leisurely as if on vacation. Ah, but if a leaf gets stuck to her rear end, she becomes a freak show that can't get away from it fast enough.

Balancing The Gut

While a balanced diet is important, a balanced gut is too. Balanced gut...sounds strange doesn't it? In fact, I'm not sure that we really know what it means since the study of gut bacteria is fairly new in the grand scheme of things. But I do have my own theory and it's proving to be helpful, so I want to share it with you. My theory is that we can feed certain foods and/or food groups that tweak the gut bacteria in the dog's favor. The challenge is in the fact that we can't know the state of the gut bacteria or even the population of it in a specific dog at a specific time, so I've put together a few general rules that seem to be working.

The gut is host to a lot of different bacteria; some good, some not so good, and the balance between the two is what keeps us healthy. When this balance is disturbed, problems can begin to crop up. The dog that always had great stool starts to have sloppy ones, energy level can be less, weight loss, rumbling noises coming from the GI tract...basically a decline in the dog becomes obvious. Now, before continuing I want to point out that any change in your dog should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian. The issues I've given as examples can be due to a number of diseases rather than an imbalance in the gut, and assuming otherwise can be dangerous. 

The underlying factor in GI diseases can be, and usually is genetic. Gut bacteria is strongly related to genetics. Trying to tip the scale in the dog's favor can sometimes be done via diet though. And the opposite is true as well. Diet-induced dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) of the intestinal microbiota (microorganisms) has an effect on immunity and disease. You might want to read that again because, yes, I said that it can be diet-induced. Certain foods help to feed particular 'families" of bacteria. For instance, high-fat diets decrease Bifidobacteria spp. while calorie-restricted diets decrease Clostridium coccoides, Lactobacillus spp, and bifidobactera spp. There are many other examples.

Whether or not gut dysbiosis can be rectified permanently, or not is unknown. From what I've seen it takes some diligence to be sure. Each case is different, but my clients' dogs have responded well to some of these diet tweaks:

1. Unless the dog is too thin, or weak, or has any condition that contraindicates a fast, offer bone broth (no meat scraps, skin, or bone in it) only for 24 hours. This assumes the dog tolerates the meat source that the bones are from. Otherwise, skip this step.

2. Use banana as a carbohydrate source. They must be very ripe. Skins should have some dark spots on them, and the tips should never be green.

3. All vegetable matter should be cooked, and the most effective veggies have been carrots, sweet potato and cauliflower during the first few months of dietary changes.

4. Novel protein source (no cheating! - not even for treats) that is low in fat. Dietary fat may be increased slowly after the dog has proven him/herself to be tolerant after several months of healing. 

5. Home-made yogurt: making it at a temperature of 100-110 degrees for 24 hours at minimum will make it almost lactose-free. Many dogs that can not tolerate lactose do very well on home-made yogurt, but it must not be rushed. The longer it "cooks" the more lactose is digested by the friendly bacteria being produced. Still, some dogs don't tolerate it even then, but for those that do, this is an excellent adjunct to the diet and can be part of the protein fed. I will be providing a recipe for home-made yogurt, and expand on what type to start with in the next newsletter.

6. Lactobacillus Acidophilus supplement. This bacteria should be in good supply because it's an important part of canine gut health. The following is not an emotionally easy read, but it does show what you will want to consider: Dominance of Lactobacillus Acidophilus in the facultative jejunal lactobacillus microbiota of fistulated Beagles

The diet is built up as the dog tolerates, and balanced of course, but always with a focus on trying to balance the gut as well. 

Quick Reads

There's been little time to write blog entries, but here are two links with information I hope you'll find interesting, and the one blog post I managed to squeeze in:

Smelly, itchy dogs: Can it be a yeast infection?

Animal Endoscopy

Blood Pressure in Dogs and Cats

We wish you and your pets the very best and brightest 2014!

Monica, Morley, and Tori

"Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen" ~ Orhan Pamuk



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