Newsletter - October 2012
Tori's done well on Hill's z/d. Her muzzle isn't red and paw chewing has almost stopped cold. Now that she has what seems to be active hepatitis (I know, I know - we can't believe she has yet another problem either), chances are that she's going to need more protein in her diet, and since I'd prefer to feed fresh food anyway, we started giving her rabbit meat as a trial. So far, so good, but Tori has other ideas. She pulled a tomato off the vine and ate the entire thing before we could reach her. She found a piece of bread and ate that as well. Obviously she needs to re-read the chapter in Optimal Nutrition that discusses allergies because the message didn't sink in. No foods ever consumed before can be eaten during a food challenge or elimination diet! None. Not one bite. Honestly, Tori...just when I thought you were part human, you turned out to be 100% dog.
New eBooklet: Ethical Choices
This booklet discusses genetics in a way that's important to both breeders and pet owners. While the breeder will use the information to make good decisions on behalf of his/her breed, the pet owner should and must understand these things as well. It's the only way to have a respectful conversation and understand what lies behind your dog's genetic problems. Unfortunately, too many people believe their dog was just "unlucky" when s/he come down with an illness, and while that can be true, there's more to the story. Unless and until all dog lovers (breeders and pet owners) become involved in the conversations that matter to health (it's not about the titles the dog wins), dogs lose.
This isn't about asking questions regarding the genetic diseases in a breed because although those are good questions to ask, answers are easily found on the internet these days. More important is understanding why and how breeding decisions are made and how they can reflect on the health of our dogs.
We're very grateful to Susan Vargas PhD for writing this exclusively for us (our group of caring people who are always eager to learn).
Proof: Importance of Individually Appropriate Diets
If you know me at all, you know that I have a passion for catering to the nutrient requirements of an individual dog. Some people think this means that we should feed whichever food the dog does best on, or feed a variety of foods, feed them raw, feed them cooked, etc. But that's not what I mean at all. It's all about getting the nutrient levels right - for a dog in particular. By definition, looking at the "average" requirement of dogs means that most will receive too much or too little of a nutrient.
Consider that the caloric requirements of dogs can vary by as much as 50% even when we have two dogs of the same size with the same activity level. Obviously, the calorie burner needs more food to maintain healthy body weight, so it's easy to suggest that we simply feed more of whichever food we've chosen. But that makes no sense because even though this dog needs more calories, s/he doesn't need more vitamins and minerals than the couch-potato sibling, yet more food translates to more nutrients as well. Conversely, the easy-keeper needing far fewer calories than s/he would if they read the books, can be undernourished (even if the dog is fat).
If this sounds like I'm complicating things just to keep you on your toes, I can assure you there's valid reason for my concern. An abstract from the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine concludes that " Dietary Copper and zinc at current levels in commercially available dry dog food can influence hepatic copper and can be a risk factor for the development of copper-associated hepatitis in Labrador Retrievers with a genetic susceptibility to copper" This is proof of the importance of genetics, and feeding correctly for those genetics, but it goes further. Think about what can happen when we feed a dog (let's call him a mixed-breed) a diet that provides so much calcium that he ends up being deficient in zinc (it can happen to any dog via any feeding method) and how that can affect skin, immune system, etc. The dog starts to itch, so we change the diet, bathe him more often, see the vet who checks for mites, sends you back home with prednisone...see where I'm going with this? And getting back to copper, the fact that excess calcium makes zinc less available to the body means that copper availability is higher (zinc helps to bind copper) - exactly what you wouldn't want for any number of reasons - some of them being genetic.What about the dog that's eating a home-made diet (raw or cooked - pick one) that provides too much or insufficient iodine? Can you say thyroid problems? And since that can bring on all kinds of other problems like poor skin condition, itchies, poor haircoat and much more, you may think you're seeing an allergic reaction. So, more vet visits, medications et al. Wait, I'm not done, and this is a big one - nutritional causes of disease aren't always recognized as such. So do we wait until something breaks, or do we act proactively and make the diet as right as possible in the first place? I vote for the latter, and that doesn't mean feeding everything but the kitchen sink on a rotational basis while hoping it all works out in the end.
The bottom line is that every dog has nutrient requirements specific to him or her. The abstract above is only the tip of the iceberg and looks at one breed and one mineral. Multiply that by the number of dogs I work with and their own problems, and you begin to see what I see - individual diets are key, and genetics are always something to consider.
Learn more on my blog:
"In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag: ~ W.H. Auden